Fiona Kee, Australia Institute of Business and Technology

Fiona Kee is the co-founder of the Australia Institute of Business and Technology (AIBT), a private vocational educational provider specialising in training to domestic and international students.

Singaporean by nationality with Chinese heritage, Fiona first came to Brisbane to study accountancy at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Post-graduation, she worked for several large corporations where she learnt some of her most valuable business lessons, setting her up for life as a business owner. Today she is humble about the rapid growth of AIBT, which was launched in 2014.

“We started as a small training organisation offering hospitality and business courses, and then realised we needed to broaden our focus to recruit more international students,” Fiona explains.

“Our curriculum comprises nearly 90 study programs in various disciplines including business, commerce, hospitality, electrical and mechanical trades, nursing, and information technology.”

The company has branches in Ghana and Singapore, with plans to expand into Asia. Currently AIBT’s Head of Compliance, Fiona was named Multicultural Person of the Year at the 2018 Lord Mayor’s Multicultural Awards for Business.

How did you get the idea to start your business?

We founded AIBT after seeing a gap in the market to bring international students to Australia for quality education. I entered the workforce very young and, having previously worked as a tutor at QUT, have a natural instinct to coach and train people. I think this passion helped me to establish the business.

What type of business do you have?

AIBT is a registered vocational education provider, running as a corporation.

How many employees do you have?

We have 180 employees, with 26 based outside of Australia.

How did you raise capital to finance your venture?

We are very proud of the fact that we didn’t have to go to the bank to establish this venture. I learnt from previous professional roles that ‘cash is king’, and in that regard, we can be quite conservative. I used profits from investing in property as a means for financing the start of our small business.

What is your professional background?

I have a background in accounting and law. In my professional career, I worked at Macquarie Bank, but I always continued my involvement in tutoring and mentoring.

Where is your business located?

Our business headquarters is in Upper Mt Gravatt, but we have multiple divisions and branches in Ghana and Singapore. In total we have seven campuses, hosting more than 4000 international students.

What value do you place in business plans?

I place great importance on planning and ensuring we have a strong vision. In this industry, you need long-term plans because of the volatility in the market. We attract international students from 60 different countries and visa regulations mean we must be prepared for changes.

What is the biggest challenge in running this type of business?

In the first one-to-two years, our biggest challenge was the lack of awareness from people not familiar with our business. Now our biggest challenge is the volatility of the student visa market, we manage that risk through diversification of the business.

How do you market your business?

One marketing strategy we trialled recently was hosting  a global two-day conference in Singapore, attended by regulators and other industry professionals. We found this to be a great success.

What has been the best financial investment you’ve made in your business?

Our biggest investment is always in our people. We spend a significant amount each year on professional development, as we want to ensure we have the best people and the best teachers.

Where do you see your business in a year’s time? Five years’ time?

Our plan  is to grow our foothold in Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia via strategic partnerships with universities and vocational institutions. We are leaders in creating career outcomes via vocational education which are at (or above) par with higher education.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in business? 

That, in business, it’s you plus all of the people around you supporting you. You’re never on your own.

How do you manage risk?

By knowing our industry and understanding the volatility of the market.

What three things should someone consider before starting a business?

Planning, vision and resources. It’s important to have a clear plan and vision for the business. Your vision might change along the way, but you have to be clear about where you’re going. Resources are also very important, as you need to plan and grow your team with the right capabilities.


AIBT at a glance



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Date posted:
Last updated: 24 October 2019