The Australian market presents significant opportunities for prospective electronic money institutions (EMIs) due to the high degree of digitalisation and technological readiness. Obtaining an EMI licence grants access to a sophisticated banking infrastructure and innovative payment networks essential for successfully operating in this sphere.

Moreover, Australia's stable economic climate encourages investor and consumer confidence in novel financial products. The high Internet and smartphone penetration also creates favourable conditions for the widespread adoption of EMI services.

However, the EMI licensing process in Australia requires meeting stringent regulatory standards, which ensures operators inspire trust and confidence. This boosts the institution's reputation and contributes to a sustainable and transparent financial sector.

In summary, an Australian EMI licence enables business expansion into a technologically mature market primed for electronic money services. Beyond commercial incentives, it represents a milestone towards integration with the global financial system by upholding rigorous industry practices. The long-term benefits outweigh the initial investments required to achieve compliance. Let's carefully analyse all the nuances that should be considered if you are planning to obtain an EMI licence in Australia.

What is AFS licence in Australia?

A financial service licence from the Australian main regulator — ASIC, is obligatory for entities engaged in the following financial services activities:

  • Providing recommendations or guidance to clients regarding financial products.
  • Operating of instruments like shares, bonds, and derivatives on behalf of clients.
  • Enabling markets for financial products by providing liquidity and infrastructure.
  • Managing registered investment vehicles and schemes.
  • Custodial services on assets and securities in safekeeping for clients.
  • Acting as trustee and administering assets on behalf of beneficiaries.
  • Facilitating capital raising for projects and startups.
  • Managing investment portfolios of pension plans.
  • Settling claims and resolving grievances in the financial sector.
  • Oversight of corporate collective investment vehicles.

The AFS licence requirements necessitate assembling a comprehensive application dossier demonstrating regulatory compliance across pertinent domains like business protocols, risk controls, staff competence, and financial crime prevention.

Upon submission afs licence application, ASIC thoroughly vetts the furnished particulars through iterative information requests. Approval timelines vary based on business intricacy and application completeness.

Once licensed, firms must uphold an afs licence obligations and ongoing compliance regime encompassing activity reporting, policy updates reflecting regulatory shifts and submitting to inspections. Hence, Australia AFS licence accreditation represents the commencement of adhering to high standards of compliance and transparency inherent in the Australian financial services market. Maintaining an agile but rigorous governance framework is imperative for licence continuity. AFS licence holders must perpetually honour supervisory obligations to retain privileges to operate on the continent.

Non-cash payment facilities in Australia

NCP mechanisms are integral to a wide list of fintech companies in Australia. NCP method enables cashless transactions through various solutions including debit/credit cards, mobile payments, online wallets, payment gateways and e-commerce platforms.

When establishing a fintech company in Australia, it is vital to comprehend the applicable licensing and regulatory obligations around NCPs to ensure legal compliance and user protection.

Foremost, fintechs dealing in NCPs need an AFS licence from the ASIC. The AFS licence necessitates demonstrating adequate financial resources, competent management, and effective risk management and compliance policies.

Additionally, AML/CTF obligations mandate customer due diligence, transaction monitoring, and reporting of suspicious activities.

Fintechs in Australia must also implement robust data security and privacy policies conforming to Australian and international standards to safeguard customer information.

As regulations evolve, fintechs relying on NCPs must continually monitor legal and policy changes to ensure enduring compliance. Adapting to shifting conditions and maintaining high governance standards builds trust and credibility among clients and stakeholders.

Top fintech companies in Australia leveraging NCP systems must hold an AFS licence while stringently complying with AML/CTF, data protection and other pertinent regulations. Prioritising legal obligations and proactively adapting to regulatory shifts enables sustainable and responsible innovation in the payments' domain.

Qualifying organisations and individuals can operate in Australia without an AFS licence if:

  1. Person/entity (authorised representative) provides a financial service in Australia as an authorised representative of another person (principal) with an AFS licence.
  2. Financial services are provided by a licensee through an intermediary and subject to
    • a brokerage arrangement exists,
    • services for issuing, modifying, or disposing financial products,
    • services for issuing, altering, or disposing the product if the intermediary's offer is accepted.
    • licence encompasses the intermediation proposal.

These exemptions introduce flexibility in financial regulation, permitting certain entities to participate without needing full licences.

AFS licence obligations

Obtaining an AFS licence carries obligations, notably regarding customer disclosures about offered financial products. Strict adherence to disclosure rules is imperative for licence applicants to uphold fairness and transparency.

Licensed companies must furnish clients accurate, complete information on product features including risks, costs, fees, terms, and restrictions. This empowers customers to make informed decisions based on understandable data. Firms must implement policies and procedures ensuring compliance with disclosure standards. This covers staff training, monitoring compliance, and regular policy reviews per legal and market changes. Therefore, transparent disclosures constitute a crucial AFS licensing obligation for maintaining client trust and integrity.

Additionally, applicants must demonstrate adequate organisational structure and risk management capabilities. This guarantees licensed providers' operational resilience and service reliability.

Clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines must feature in the entity's structure to facilitate financial activities' oversight and control. Experienced, skilled personnel should occupy key positions.

Rigorous, responsive risk management systems are also imperative for identifying, evaluating and mitigating market, credit, operational and conduct risks. These should align with internal controls and external regulations. Contingency planning likewise forms part of prudent risk management.

By mandating sound governance and risk management foundations, AFS licensing thresholds strengthen licensees' stability while promoting customer confidence and wider financial sector stability. Meeting these ongoing obligations remains essential for licence holders.

Legal entity structure that meets AFS licensing requirements

When establishing an EMI as a non-resident in Australia, selecting an appropriate legal entity structure that meets licensing requirements is key. Various options exist, each with distinct characteristics.

A proprietary private company (Pty Ltd) represents one of the most common avenues for non-residents. This incorporated structure confers limited liability to owners, aptly protecting their interests.

Alternatively, non-residents could opt for a public company limited structure. This effectively supports larger-scale operations, facilitating raising capital from public investors to enable business expansion.

Operating via an Australian branch of a foreign company also remains viable. This direct market entry mode still mandates strict compliance across regulations like licensing, governance and reporting.

Irrespective of the chosen legal vehicle, rigorous planning is vital when registering an EMI as a non-resident. Ensuring constructive alignment across the entity type, intended scale and complexity of operations, growth strategies and relevant compliance obligations enables a solid market foundation.

Prioritising compliance with Australian laws and licensing requirements helps non-resident EMIs build credibility and trust in the evolving payments landscape.

Purchase of a ready-made company with an EMI licence in Australia

Acquiring a shelf company with an existing Australian EMI licence necessitates methodical progression through key stages:

Stage 1: Preliminary assessment

Conduct due diligence on potential target companies, examining financial health, market reputation, customer base, operational efficiency and other factors.

Stage 2: Legal audit

Undertake a detailed legal audit encompassing licences, contracts, corporate records and documents to uncover any hidden issues or risks.

Stage 3: Financial planning

Having completed the legal audit, negotiate suitable financial terms and pricing arrangements aligned to purchase objectives.

Stage 4: Regulatory approval

Obtain all requisite regulatory permissions associated with acquisition and licence transfer as per applicable laws. This may warrant directly applying for re-registration of the licence under the new ownership.

Stage 5: Transaction completion and rights transfer

Conclude acquisition by executing final agreements and completeness of rights and asset transfers, including documents, data and intellectual property.

Carefully navigating these stages demands a methodical, professionally executed approach towards acquiring an Australian EMI-licensed shelf company. Prioritising due diligence and regulatory compliance provides the foundations for a seamless transaction and continued operations.

Pros and cons of acquiring a company with an AFS licence in Australia

Possible risks

Acquiring an Australian firm holding an EMI licence poses myriad risks, warranting careful evaluation. These encompass regulatory, financial and operational dimensions.

Foremost are potential legal and compliance issues. The target may have unresolved regulatory actions, fines, or even licence revocation risks from ASIC. Past non-compliance could also necessitate expensive remediation to attain full compliance.

Additionally, weak financials, low profitability or inferior management threaten the commercial viability of AFS licenced company acquisitions. Turning such businesses around demands substantial capital infusion and restructuring.

Integration challenges and suboptimal combined operations also represent key risks. Effectively aligning divergent corporate cultures, communication protocols and workflows poses threats if not holistically addressed through the transition process.

While enabling expedited market access, acquiring an Australian EMI licenced company remains a calculated risk. Extensive due diligence across regulatory, financial and operational parameters is imperative to ensure suitability and investment prudence.

Potential benefits

Strategic benefits can, however, abound for buyers able to overcome these risks adeptly.

  • Obtaining an instant regulated market entry conduit helps bypass lengthy licensing procedures and accelerates revenue generation.
  • Inheriting optimised, compliant processes and infrastructure also reduces launch overheads.
  • An existing customer base and brand reputation likewise offers invaluable leverage to scale further.

Therefore, Australian EMI licenced company acquisitions present ambitious financial services players both substantial risks and rewards. Astute risk assessment and mitigation practices remain central to realise upside potential while minimising downside threats through this route.


Obtaining an EMI licence in Australia necessitates meticulous planning and strict adherence to complex regulatory requirements. From assessing market prospects to instituting robust risk management policies, organizations must holistically address multiple key aspects.

Australia's burgeoning demand for innovative financial services makes it an attractive destination for e-money providers seeking expansion. However, sustainable success requires more than just compliance. Firms must also continually adapt products, services, and business models to keep pace with legislation changes and evolving consumer preferences.

While an EMI licence opens worthwhile Australian market access, it represents just the first step. Profound market insights and maintaining operational agility in response to shifting conditions are equally vital.

In enabling globally integrated e-money services while also furthering financial system stability and integrity, Australia’s regulatory framework balances multiple objectives. Our specialists offer consultations on Australian EMI licensing intricacies and associated obligations around governance, risk management and compliance. We welcome inquiries to discuss tailored solutions that further your strategic aspirations on Australian fintech industry.