Australia’s largest bank is doubling down on property as it makes its latest venture capital (VC) move.
On Tuesday, the Commonwealth Bank announced it was partnering with digital real estate platform :Different, taking a minority stake in it via its venture arm x15, as part of a $25 million raise with VC firm Antler.
Started by former Silicon Valley executives Mina Radhakrishnan and Ruwin Perera, :Different facilitates property management for Australian investors and tenants alike.
“We started :Different because we had heard all too many horror stories of property owners and renters having a subpar experience with their property managers,” Radhakrishnan said.
“We knew things had to change, and with people who care, and powerful technology, we could create a better experience for our property owners, their properties and the people who live in them.”
To be rolled out directly to CBA customers through the bank’s app later this year, :Different is described by retail banking executive Angus Sullivan as “an amazing proposition” for property investors.
“This is a substantial pain point for a lot of people, that work of orchestration if you’ve got one, two or three properties, you’re doing a lot of that work yourself,” Sullivan said.
“The ability to outsource that work to someone with the high quality proposition that :Different has, I think that’s very powerful.”
Sullivan added that the bank, which holds more than $450 billion in mortgages, believes momentum in the housing market remains strong, and that investors and other buyers would dive back in when lockdowns ended.
“We do see the opportunity to genuinely innovate around what that home buying ecosystem looks like. I think digital and the acceleration of changes in the way that customers are engaging with us over the last 18 months makes new models possible in a way that they may not have been two years ago,” he said.
It reflects CBA’s new ‘platforms’ approach, as it looks to acquire and partner with distinct services via x15ventures to keep customers within a single ecosystem.
:Different will join other housing businesses in the CBA stable, including conveyancing service Home-in and digital lender uloan.
More broadly, CBA has taken stakes in everything from online shopping via Little Birdie and electricity provider Amber, to telcos More and Tangerine.
“This exposure and immersion with the broader startup community is key to x15ventures’ strategy to build, buy and invest in digital businesses that will reshape banking as we know it,” x15ventures managing director Toby Norton-Smith said.