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Digital lender recruits Tesla engineer to board

An aspiring bank has announced appointing a senior engineer from Tesla to its board.

Thomas Vikstrom, a senior engineer from electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, has joined the board of self-proclaimed “neobank” Xinja.

Mr Vikstrom has been with the Elon Musk-led company for nine years, and has previously worked at Ford, Noble Metal Processing, and SSAB HardTech, leading a range of product development and engineering programs.

The incoming board member said “banking, like automotive in the past, is an industry ripe for change” and that he will be “looking beyond what is, and imagining what could be, enabling Xinja to disrupt banking”.

“It’s exciting when a start-up like Xinja muscles its way into an industry and goes up against established players. That’s a big win for all,” Mr Vikstrom said.

The lender’s co-founder and CEO, Eric Wilson, said Mr Vikstrom’s “intellectual discipline and vision will be an outstanding addition to the Xinja board”.

“Thomas is an adaptive leader who possesses a rare combination of strategic and critical thinking,” the CEO added. 

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“He brings to the Xinja board a business acumen and entrepreneurial drive, along with the global experience Xinja needs, to really help us change the banking industry.”

Mr Vikstrom joins chair Lindley Edwards, board director Craig Swanger, and board adviser Brett King, who is also the CEO of US fintech startup Moven and regarded as a futurist.

Xinja was granted a credit licence from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in February, and it is hopeful of receiving an Australian Financial Services Licence as well as a restricted banking licence from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, which would allow it to launch transaction accounts.

While the digital lender is not yet an authorised deposit-taking institution, it said that it would provide mortgages to a small number of customers to test the market, with plans to roll out its home loans more aggressively in the latter half of the calendar year.

In August, financial software provider IRESS announced that Xinja would be the first to use its mortgage sales and origination (MSO) platform in the Australian market.

The partnership provides Xinja with a home loan workflow platform that delivers “fast decisions” for consumers supported by IRESS’ MSO platform, which is used to process one in every four mortgages in the UK, according to the software provider.

IRESS claimed that its MSO platform facilitates the automation of “complex workflows”, allowing lenders to reduce cost and effort while also lowering processing error rates.

The lender had also earlier this year raised $2 million from more than 1,000 investors via equity crowdfunding platform Equitise, in what was claimed to be the first retail equity crowdfunding offer to go live in Australia, enabled by the new Corporations Amendment (Crowdsourced Funding) Act 2017. 

[Related: Xinja outlines challenges with mortgage play]

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