Joanne DewarHow did you begin your career and how did you get into FinTech?

I started my career by joining the original Price Waterhouse IT development programme for graduates from all disciplines (MITIS), which provided me with invaluable insight into technology. I quickly settled into a business analyst and project management role, where I most enjoyed providing the translation between business need and technical requirement and worked on a succession of technology-enabled transformation programmes. My entry into fintech was serendipitous, having taken a period away from my career to raise my family.

As CEO of GPS, what are some of the major initiatives you are focused on?

We are focused on further geographic expansion of our physical footprint to locally service the increasingly global customer base, having launched our APAC headquarters in Singapore and an office in Sydney, Australia, in 2019 where we continue to support some of the region’s most innovative companies, including Revolut, WeLab Bank and Razer Fintech. We also established our MENA headquarters in Dubai in January, which is set to see some exciting growth over the coming year.

We pride ourselves on the fact that our business is built on reputation and customer satisfaction, and it’s vitally important for us to protect that as we scale. As we support our customers on their growth journeys, we’re making sure our own growth is sustainable in the process.

Additionally, we continue to broaden our partner integrations to increase the breadth of functionality offered, doing the heavy lifting to enable our customers to focus on their own customer propositions.

Finally, we will pay more attention to telling the story of the number of fantastic customer use cases we support – we have been focused on delivery rather than talking about our many achievements to date, which make us the OG processor of fintech.

GPS is powering a number of the most disruptive FinTech companies. Where do you see the next wave of innovation in the payments landscape and the FinTech industry?

GPS has a proud and successful history of supporting cutting-edge companies on their growth journeys, from the agility of a proof-of-concept to a fully scaled global offering. GPS has powered 11 fintech unicorns and counting, many of which started with very small teams, and those customers have stayed with us because of our strong partnerships. We are already supporting solutions that many consider the next wave of fintech innovation – Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), hybrid fiat/crypto programmes, instant issuance virtual cards, to name a few.

Open Banking is only just getting going and I believe that is going to drive the commoditisation of the underlying bank and a move towards traditional banks, recognising the potential of collaboration through the use of their license, to ensure an ongoing role as the landscape evolves and the direct relationship with the customer is put in jeopardy.

The quest from brands of all types to incorporate payments as part of a ‘super app’ is also gathering momentum, which creates a different type of threat to the challenger banks, as in these models, the financial services offering does not necessarily need to be independently profitable.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

Developing a level of comfort in public speaking – I had to reframe my thinking from being concerned that there may be one person in the audience who may know more, to recognising that I have a wealth of knowledge that I could share with the audience.

What do you see as some of the key obstacles women face in the workplace?

There are unfortunately assumptions still being made today about women’s capabilities, predicated on a long history of gender bias, whether unconscious or otherwise.

This is further accentuated when women aspire to leadership roles, since leadership is so often associated with stereotypically masculine traits, including assertiveness and ambition. In this sense, feminine qualities, such as being compassionate or sensitive, are seen as counterintuitive to leadership. If a woman is too assertive, she becomes less likeable, however if she is the opposite, she risks being seen as incompetent – it is no wonder that the glass ceiling still exists!

There are still evolving views in the workplace, communities and family networks that women are the primary carers for the family and the domestic division of labour and management of the home is not always equal. Additionally, men are not always given the same opportunities to equally share childcare due to societal norms and the pressure to be the breadwinner. However, this is slowly improving in the EU as 33% of children under the age of 3 are in childcare during the work week, providing more opportunities for women to remain in employment.

I believe that my role as a CEO and parent has enabled me to understand these challenges in family networks and to give both women and men the same opportunities.

As we look towards the future, what can the FinTech industry as a whole do to further inclusivity and diversity?

By sharing the stories of a multitude of role models who have chosen different career paths, we might inspire people from all walks of life, regardless of age, race, gender or creed, to not limit themselves to certain roles within the industry.

We also need to take a good, hard look at what could be unintentionally limiting the fintech talent pool – are we hiring from within our networks and not based on merit? Are we biased towards certain educational backgrounds or extracurricular activities? What do we mean when we are allowing recruitment decisions based on cultural fit?

Furthering inclusivity and diversity mean exploring and identifying our own prejudices and taking meaningful action.

GPS recently sponsored Findexable’s Fintech Diversity Radar, the world’s first global platform gathering progressive data to understand women’s impact and contribution to the digital economy. We believe that significant improvement can only be made when we are able to measure and benchmark women’s progress in the fintech industry with a lot more precision.

What should leaders in FinTech do to empower women throughout the industry?

It is incredibly important that leaders listen, and listen intently.

Women are less likely to put themselves forward for promotion (according to a recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper, women ‘self-promote’ less than men and downrated their performance on a test by at least 25% compared to men, even though both genders obtained the same average score), less likely to demand a pay rise, and more likely to have imposter syndrome. This means that leaders will need to be more attentive to the less vocal and compensate as appropriate.

The pandemic has forced many changes in expectations that are likely to be permanent and address many of the impediments to women maintaining their careers, in parallel with raising a family. These include working from home, flexibility on hours, sharing responsibilities with partners, and other progressive childcare policies.

We can empower women by normalising requests from male employees to take parental leave and allowing flexible working. It is the countries with the greatest support for male flexibility, such as the Scandinavian countries, which have the greatest proportion of females in leadership positions.

What advice would you like to pass on to other women seeking leadership roles in FinTech?

Don’t try to emulate what you think ‘strong leadership’ looks like. Leadership means leading with authenticity and purpose.

There is no single ‘right answer’ on how to balance career and family. Don’t beat yourself up, feel guilty, or feel judged by the school mums – you are paving the way for great opportunities for your daughters and nieces.

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here