Equity crowdfunding: What Equitise learnt when it met with government
Support in numbers is something I have learnt a great deal about this week when I reflect on my trip to Canberra to meet with various government officials to discuss the current execution timeline of crowd sourced equity funding (CSEF) in Australia.
All in all it was a very positive day for the development of the industry and Equitise looks forward to continuing to work with government officials into the future to expedite the process of CSEF in Australia.
The day kicked off with a 5.30am alarm ringing in my ear, I was on the dual prop flying Kangaroo by 7.40am and landing in Canberra by 8.40am with fellow industry stakeholders by my side James Bond (Chief Economist of the Financial Services Council) and Ben Heap (CEO of AWI Limited).
The first meeting was with Treasury at 9.30am where we met with the team that is driving the review process of researching, analysing and assessing CSEF globally. These guys have also been pulling apart the CAMAC paper over the past four months and considering its recommendations.
After meeting with Treasury it was obvious that they are advocates for the rollout of CSEF in Australia. For those that are wondering, the role Treasury play in the process (apart from forming a position on the current state of play globally) is to essentially draft the regulation impact statement when the federal government decides to take a stance and press forward with expediting the legislation.
It really was a pleasure meeting with the team driving this in Treasury and sharing our collective thoughts as key stakeholders in the process from both an intermediary (Equitise), an investor (Ben Heap/AWI Limited) and an industry representative’s perspective (James Bond). The great news is that it seems the stakeholders and Treasury are very much on the same page with thoughts on the CAMAC proposal and potential paths forward for this exciting new asset class that I am very confident will be developing in Australia sometime next year.
We left Treasury at 10.30am and made our way to the front doors of Parliament House.
Our next meeting was with the senior advisers to Minister of Industry, Ian Macfarlane, where we discussed the “potential” release of an innovation paper, the same paper I was chatting to Malcolm Turnbull about just a couple of weeks ago that summarises ways to improve/innovate our digital economy (including the issues with employee share options – ESOP). I got the strong impression that this will be released any day now and am guessing it has been held up due to other important breaking news – completely fair enough.
It was hugely productive chatting with Minister Macfarlane’s senior advisers and hearing the government’s positive position on CSEF. Without being able to divulge much information about the exact position of industry, it was obvious that CSEF is being embraced internally and is 100% supported by industry.
We wondered across the hallways of Parliament House to meet with the Small Business Minister Bruce Billson and one of his senior advisers to discuss his thoughts on CSEF and its importance to the Australian small and medium-sized enterprise community.
Minister Billson is understandably a huge advocate for this method of alternative financing for businesses across Australia. With more than 30% of the two million SMEs operating across the country not having access to expansion financing for their businesses last financial year, Minister Billson certainly understands first-hand the difficulties faced by fledgling Australian enterprise.
After meeting with Minister Billson it quickly became apparent the support for CSEF was strong in a number of facets of Parliament House.
I guess the question on everyone’s mind is, if there is huge support, why isn’t it moving faster?
Essentially, it is in retrospect. Just not as fast as key stakeholders would hope for.
What we need to understand is that this is a new asset class, it is risky for investors and the government just wants to ensure that they do it properly the first time around. As opposed to having a quick and dirty shot at it, not getting it right and then having to disrupt an emerging industry with another change in policy one year down the track.
A word of advice though, key stakeholders in the CSEF space need to band together to grow the number of voices in this space. As you will likely take away from this blog post, government is well aware and very supportive of CSEF; however, what we are lacking is absolute urgency to get it pushed along faster, but in a positive way.
Chris Gilbert is co-founder at Equitise. This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.