June 27, 2018 / 10:47 AM / 5 months ago

New digital lender '86400' launches in Australia amid poor big bank PR

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A new digital lender led by a number of banking heavyweights and backed by Australia’s largest independent payments provider Cuscal is set to launch by early next year, as non-bank lenders step up their presence in the country’s scandal-ridden sector.

Pitching itself as an alternative to the big Australian banks, “86400”, pronounced ‘eighty-six four hundred’ symbolizing the number of seconds in a day, said on Wednesday it was already well advanced in talks with regulators to secure a banking license to launch in the first quarter.

The bank will have as chairman Anthony Thomson, who is the co-founder of two disruptive banks in the UK - Metro Bank that was started in 2010 to help break up the dominance of Britain’ biggest banks and Atom Bank, the UK’s first bank for mobile, according to 86400.

Robert Bell, formerly in charge of ANZ Japan, will be its chief executive.

The new bank will offer digital banking services and expects the lack of physical branches or legacy infrastructure to keep costs low and will have a staff of 60.

The latest entrant to the lending space comes as Australia’s financial services sector, the country’s biggest contributor to GDP, remains engulfed in a year-long misconduct investigation.

The Royal Commission, as the inquiry is called, began in February, following a string of scandals involving rate-rigging, money laundering, and unethical conduct in wealth management and insurance.

The banking inquiry has underscored public disquiet with the mainstream banking sector which has fueled an increase in non-bank lenders who are hoping to grab new business.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

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