Sophie Flynn

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am co-founder and CFO of Transact365, a global payments services provider established in 2017.

I had a rather unconventional route into fintech. My first passion was football – I signed for Blackburn Rovers Football Club at the age of 10 and continued playing for the team until I was 24. At that time, however, women’s football wasn’t quite as popular and wasn’t getting the same level of funding as it is today.

Alongside football, I always thought my skills would be well-suited to a career in finance. So, when I was 18, I enrolled in an accounting apprenticeship. It proved to be a very rewarding and insightful experience, and while my career in finance gained traction sadly I no longer had enough time to dedicate towards football, so I made the hard decision to hang up my boots. I then qualified as a chartered accountant and started my own business in 2017. As CFO, I direct the financial flows of our business, ensuring we can diligently provide the highest standard of payment services to our merchants worldwide.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Though I didn’t ‘sit down and plan’ my career, I’ve always acted on my gut feelings. Football was my first passion in life, but knowing that the stage of the sports’ resources were limited, I had my passion for business to fall back on. When the moment came in every athlete’s career that they must think about life after sport, I resumed my desire to begin a new professional endeavour in the financial arena.

I’ve always been a hands-on person and knew that I wanted to dive straight into practising finance, rather than pursue a more theoretical route at university. I jumped straight in, completing my AAT followed by my ACA, which I passed in 2016. After some time in auditing, I looked further afield into the fast-growing and innovative world of FinTech, which is when my fellow co-founders and I spotted a gap in the market for a new type of payments platform – shortly after Transact365 was born.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Yes, absolutely. Technology is evolving so fast that demand for high-quality yet simple financial management is now a top priority for businesses. For the businesses we work with, we often found the payment processes for the companies could be disjointed and the market was lacking a centralised payment system. These processes had been in place for some time so, when it comes to overhauling any outdated legacy systems, a lot of due-diligence and testing goes into innovation.

To combat this, alongside my Transact365 co-founders, we decided to create a solution to make this process more simple and unified – installing such an infrastructure was naturally labour intensive, with various ever changing obstacles we needed to overcome. We used the Transact365 model that provided financial security and flexibility to launch Nucleus365, which addressed the lacking control and transparency merchants had over their businesses.

We took Nucleus365  to market in June this year, successfully creating a centralised payment system that offers merchants total visibility across the payment process, ensuring that they can monitor customer behaviour in all markets that they operate in. As with any new business, launching it to market can be daunting but I’m pleased to say it has been very well received by both new and existing merchant clientele.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

As a co-founder of a relatively young business, we are always looking at ways to expand our services. I’m proud to say that we have grown at a considerable rate since entering emerging markets and constantly looking at how we can improve our services globally.

We’ve made huge achievements over the past few years on the Transact365 side – recently achieved 300% year-on-year growth. Our chargeback ratio is 0.004% – something that we’re incredibly proud of as a team. Our ambition as a business is to continue giving merchants a new way of reaching their customers in the best way possible. Running a seamless business operation is more satisfying than I would ever have thought.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I believe it is being hard-working and passionate that can lead to success in any sector. To become both a professional footballer or a fintech founder, you need discipline, dedication, passion, and a hunger to always be the best – the competition in both fields is fierce. These are all character traits I learnt from a very young age on the pitch that I took into the boardroom with me. I am naturally a very competitive person, which I have found to be beneficial for me in my career.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Try not to always follow the status quo. By doing this, you actively challenge and change the industries you enter. We know that women are still underrepresented in the fintech industry, but we can always stand behind our hard work, success, expertise, and trust that gender is irrelevant to job performance. Don’t be afraid to seek help or guidance when needed as you can easily find networks willing to impart knowledge, provide support, or support you on the path to new opportunities..

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

It’s no secret that the fintech industry as a whole is still male-dominated. In fact, women make up only 30 per cent of the fintech sector, and only 1.5 percent of global fintech businesses are founded solely by women.

However, I believe our sector is starting to recognise the immense value of championing female leadership voices and change the existing gender stereotypes and inequality. There have been great support networks: conferences, public events, and online channels such as LinkedIn to get the community connected and bolster mutual help. Media conduits such as news features and podcast interviews are also working effectively to amplify the female voice in fintech. I hope this dynamic continues to gain momentum in the years to come.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Companies should provide practical opportunities and sponsorship for more women to enter the field, such as skill-elevating classes, placement programs, scholarships, and digital events would be great to see. Alongside this should also be fundamentally promoting women from within, to ensure that gender is never a set-back for women in any business field.

Promoting an inclusive working environment from within will lead to better performance and more diverse ideas and decision making; a dynamic that can only benefit our evolving sector.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Awareness is so important to any sector striving for increased inclusivity; that is why I believe that amplifying leading female voices within the payments sector, and financial services at large, is the most effective way to increase diversity. Once women are given a platform to share their experiences in both professional and personal capacities will there be an opportunity to drive female recruitment.

The proliferation of female-led speaking events, conferences, and multi-media such as interviews and podcasts can certainly help in raising awareness, and ultimately exploring a more equal gender landscape in our sector. Although male-dominated, our sector is not adverse to improved inclusivity, so I believe we’ll see an increase in the opportunities mentioned.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Ted Talks do a great job of allowing women to speak to large audiences about their personal experiences in professional sectors, as do podcasts such as Girl Boss Radio and Women Taking The Lead. What our sector would really benefit from though is more female speaker inclusions on traditionally male-contributed podcasts and events, only after this occurs can we place the voices of women as valuable as their male counterparts.

Speaking of networking and events, you’ll find women at conferences or online through platforms like LinkedIn are usually more than happy to offer their experience and guidance to working in the financial sector.

Please feel free to add other questions and answers to the interview piece this is for guide purposes only.

Does your football career give you any skills or experience that you can take into business?

There are key parallels between football and fintech. Not only did I enjoy the competition and ability to improve my playing skills, it gave me the opportunity to meet an inspiring community of professionals, who have provided me with invaluable enlightenment that can be transferable towards success in any sector.

Because of the stiff competition, to become a professional football player and be a co-founder of a fintech company requires devotion, enthusiasm, and a desire to constantly be the best. All of these are character attributes that I developed since my football player age, and have since helped me in my current profession.

Another critical takeaway from my player career is that confidence would flourish from freedom. Players didn’t feel like someone watching their every move, and it’s the same in the corporate world. We give our staff freedom to make decisions on their own without having to ask. Finding the best ways they want to work, you can then get the best out of them.

Sophie-Flynn footballHow heartening is it as an ex-footballer to see the women’s game become so popular, and does it offer any comparisons to the world of finance?

It was amazing to see the buzz around the women’s Euros at Old Trafford. While it was fantastic the games were selling out and the footballers are now getting the attention from the fans and media they deserve, it is a shame it’s taken us so long to get to this point. Only 10 years ago, the women’s game was hardly spoken about, despite the huge amount of talent we had across the country.

On a positive note, however, it does show how quickly gender stereotypes and inequality can change, and that’s something we’re certainly seeing in the fintech sector too. More and more women are entering the industry and making the most of the endless opportunities fintech offers. I’m confident that this will only improve as time goes by.