Front view of diverse business people looking at camera while working together at conference room in a modern office

Article by Nicola Els, Managing Director, Commercial at Fnality

There is power in diversity, especially within ever-evolving industries like fintech.

Encouraging diversity within businesses not only leads to diversity of thought, ideas and solutions, but also allows for better working environments, performance, and creating a work culture where people feel they belong.

The UK is diverse, with an estimated, 13% of the population being of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background, 40% in London, and 15% of the population being neurodivergent, it would seem that companies and organisations should, with ease, be able to become more inclusive; and in some aspect they have. For example, the proportion of women in senior management roles globally rose to 31% in 2021, with 26% of all CEOs and managing directors being women. However, this isn’t the case across categories, specifically in the fintech industry. We have seen some great strides being taken within fintech, with diversity numbers across the industry increasing from 12% in 2011 to 20% in 2021, but in terms of neurodivergence, of those who are autistic, though there is no study in the fintech industry, only 16% are in full-time employment in the UK. In London, though it has the highest number of BAME population working in fintech compared to other regions (21.4%), it still falls short of well representing its 40%.

From a societal standpoint, the industry needs to become more inclusive and diversify its personnel to allow for more people of different backgrounds to take part, but even when taking a purely business approach, there are many benefits to increasing diversity in the work force. Studies have shown that firms with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experience. Similarly, research has shown that certain neurodiverse individuals have unique strengths that can greatly contribute to the workforce, including information processing advantages, higher productivity and work quality as well as keen eyes for detail. In terms of diversity of race and ethnicity in businesses, there have been countless studies and reports highlighting the benefits in driving innovation and revenue.

In this day and age, and within first worlds as well as developing nations, children are digitally native. Being given a smartphone or tablet, or even a computer from a young age has allowed a generation to foster an interest in tech, no matter the gender or ethnicity. However, though we are already leveling the playing field at a grassroot level, it now becomes about how we can encourage older generations to change their mindset, make the effort, and change old-school thinking when it comes to the workplace. This can start at the application stage of a role and should become standard across industries. Certain companies who value equal opportunity and diversity, remove personal information that may reveal a person’s identity in the early stages of a job application; removing names, age, sex along with any other element that may identify them using Artificial Intelligence. This blind recruitment process helps remove bias before interviews are set up. Additionally, certain neurotypical individuals who are high functioning, or prone to confusion, can send recommendations as to how to best interview them in certain companies, whether by changing the questions slightly or changing any other aspect of the interview. These sorts of ideas should be carried forward into the whole application process.

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At a business and organisational level, HR leaders and executives must create an environment that provides the necessary resources to include anyone within their roles.

This can mean allowing for flexible work for both men and women in the organisation to balance childcare and family demands or different abilities to focus, paying for social care expenses as a benefit, or ensuring there is a culture of belonging whereby minorities feel supported and are not overlooked for promotions.

As a nation, we are too lackadaisical in our approach to bringing more diversity in. It’s great to try to include everyone in one breath, but it often makes it difficult to drive real change. If a company is looking to hire more women at a certain position, they should only be interviewing women for that role – going out on a equal basis is good in theory but in the end, it detracts from the original goal. There are potential downsides to this tactic, but it will be a surefire method of making sure certain minorities are focused on and become included. Widening search tactics can lead to further unconscious bias.

Within the wider financial industry, there is a need to provide the tools and systems to also encourage minority entrepreneurship. This means opening up the scope of existing events to ensure neurodivergent individuals, women, and different minorities are given a platform to voice their experience in the field, whether it’s a webinar, workshop or networking opportunity opportunities should be created within existing structures of an industry to make connections that inspire collaboration and support. However, this needs to be done in a manner which doesn’t end up with these minorities being siloed within the workforces i.e. separate events held for only certain minorities.

There are both simple steps and more complex institutional shifts needed to champion minorities in Fintech roles, but all of them start with an understanding that there is a subconscious bias, and that you need to be mindful as a company and as an individual in approaching diversity and inclusion. There are no negative effects to championing a group of underrepresented individuals in this field, and this initiative is often self-perpetuating. People who are championed, often go on to champion others and so on, which is pivotal in creating a more equal society and diversity of thought in the Fintech organisations shaping the financial landscape of tomorrow.

Nicola ElsAbout the author

Nicola has significant experience in a range of technology environments including digital banking, payments, eCommunication & Cognitive Computing. Her expertise includes strategy development, implementation and day-to-day operations of digital technology products and services that impact a company’s bottom line. At Fnality, Nicola is responsible for the definition and execution of strategies to deliver on company objectives by building strong consumer relationships. She takes the lead in creating and reaching measurable growth targets and the delivery of on-going business performance reporting.