Woman on Laptop

Get your tech skills ready for the future

Woman on LaptopAlthough most of us are complaining that the national wifi is groaning under the strain of millions more working from home, imagine how much worse this lockdown would be without the tech to communicate.

Just pause and think about it for a moment. We were already glued to our phones, but now we depend on them more than ever to keep in touch with friends and family. The internet and our home computers allow us to work remotely. Smart TVs help keep us entertained and up to date on the world outside. Health and fitness trackers feed data into the impact of our one-hour workouts so we can track our progress. Tech is saving us all.

Fintech is a big part of it too. Increased online shopping (and let us all clap our hands for the couriers and posties) especially for groceries, means a rise in online payments. In fact, some sources say that FinTech has experienced an upsurge of 72% in usage during the pandemic. Even on the high street, contactless has become the payment of preference with the upper limit now raised to £45 so that people can avoid using cash and keep the virus at bay.

Turns out the world owes a lot to all those unsung female tech heroines who – back in the day – invented and developed computer science.

Why fintech is the future

While pundits debate what sort of world we’ll be living in when this is all over, there’s one thing we know for certain: fintech will be playing a bigger role than ever.

It’s true that some of the fintechs – like many other businesses – are having a bumpy ride, but when you look at the way our behaviour’s changing you can see how the industry is going to bounce back.

Let’s look at some of the evidence.

Banks were already closing their branches, even though branch banking was still popular with some customers. With less footfall on the high street, those customers are either obliged, or more inclined, to choose online banking and mobile apps. Now that they’ve switched, many of them will stick with digital options for convenience.

In the same way, where some consumers might have been more wary or even not have trusted technology in the past, they will be more likely to embrace it after this crisis. They will be more open to open banking, for example.

Companies too have had to adopt fintech to get themselves through this. Some insurance companies are turning to block chain to verify medical data and, because banks are having to move more quickly to offer digital services, they need fintech consultants to help them upgrade.

Governments are supporting fintechs. The Australian senate has reopened its committee on FinTech and RegTech to support the industry and find new solutions that can be delivered by the government and private sector.

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) is asking the country’s financial services sector to reinforce internal fintech capacity and invest in research and development. While in South Korea, new laws have been passed to regulate and legalise cryptocurrencies.

So if fintech is the future, what can you do to update your skills, networks and know-how so that you’re ready for when this crisis is over?

Develop your skills and knowledge

First, take a look online and you’ll find some excellent, even free, courses from world renowned universities like the Open University (OU) and Harvard.

The OU’s free courses include several on data analysis and interpretation, including Simple coding, which will teach you the basics of Python, and a course on Learn to code for analysis. You will be awarded a ‘certificate of completion’ for these when you finish. Harvard also runs several free online courses in programming, data science and computer science.

If your budget allows, both offer paid courses as well, but there’s plenty to keep you busy if you’d rather not splash out at this point.

On the banking side, things are moving quickly. You’d be wise not just to keep up to date with the news but to follow comment and analysis too. You might consider listening to podcasts of discussions with experts and thought-leaders, or extending your understanding of the sector through reading.

And while many events can’t run anymore, some of the best are going online and providing great opportunities to network and learn. Innovate Finance, for example, had to cancel their conference for UK Fintech Week (20-24 April) but they’re marking the week with a digital programme. And the Financial Alliance for Women are opening sessions in their Ask the Expert series to non-members for the first time.

At any stage of your career, it’s important to network, learn and develop your skills if you want to stay ahead of the curve. At this strange moment in history, it’s just as possible to do all of that as it was before the lockdown – and all because of tech.

Helene PanzarinoAbout the author

Helene Panzarino is an Associate Director at LIBF’s Centre for Digital Banking and Finance. A former banker turned entrepreneur, educator and investment readiness adviser in fintech, she’s helped over 15,000 small to medium enterprises access funding options. She’s listed as a Senior Leader on the Women in Fintech Powerlist 2019.


Online banking businessman using smartphone with credit card Fintech and Blockchain concept

Fintech needs women – 5 reasons why this is the place to be

Online banking businessman using smartphone with credit card Fintech and Blockchain conceptA recent study cited by a leading Fintech publication found that whilst 30% of the fintech workforce is female, only 17% of senior fintech roles are held by women and just over 5% of founders are women.

These statistics are pretty shocking as Fintech is such a dynamic world of discovery and innovation.

The number of women in Fintech are slowly improving but there are systemic flaws, deep-rooted challenges and biases which persist that create barriers to gender diversity and hindering women’s rise to the top.

Having had extensive experience in mission-driven Fintech and experience, I know how it feels to be a female in such a male dominated environment. I am determined to help open doors for the next generation of women and hope to encourage, coach and mentor females who want to pursue a career in Fintech. I now have a platform from which to do this after recently co-founding a new banking app, Novus, so watch this space.

A common misconception is that the Fintech is ‘boring’ but it is so far from that. It’s such an exciting and dynamic industry to be a part of and here are my 5 reasons why Fintech is the hottest place to be for women in tech:

The UK economy need Fintech

The Fintech industry was initially born as a sub-set of financial services; however, it has continued to evolve and today, the UK owns a 10% global share of the growing sector. No longer a sub-industry, Fintech is a force on its own and a part of everyday life. In 2020 alone, $4.1bn was poured into the sector in the form of investments, with revenues totalling over £11bn. In addition to this, the UK government recently conducted a review to further bolster its support for the industry.

The variety of options are endless

Whether it’s payments, crypto, digital banking or sustainable finance, there are unlimited avenues to explore within Fintech. Market intelligence platform, CB Insights, recently unveiled the third annual ‘Fintech 250’ – a list of 250 of the top private Fintech companies that are using technology to transform financial services and is well worth looking up for further insight. In the UK alone, there are more than 1100 Fintech companies across these sub-categories, each employing thousands of people.

A fast-growing industry

Both the government and the investment industry are working hard to ensure Fintech is set up for success in the years to come. In 2021, the industry is expected to double its previous rate of growth at the very least, maybe more – and this is what makes Fintech a hot place to be right now. It also means that salaries in Fintech are one of the highest across different sectors! In a post-Brexit and post COVID world, the growth of the sector is almost certain to accelerate with the continued digitisation of consumer behaviour.

You can make a difference to individual lives

71% of UK citizens encounter at least one Fintech process in some way, every day. Simple tasks such as paying online for a product or service means a likely interaction with a Fintech company. No matter where you live in the world, you have to deal with financial systems to live your life. The ability to make an impact on the well-being of individuals and families around the world is inspiring and the opportunities to work on such projects are far greater than you might think and are hugely rewarding.

Females are the future of Fintech

Fintech needs women more than ever right now. The diversity numbers within all major Fintech companies, especially in senior leadership levels, are massively lacking. Traditionally, finance has been a highly male dominated environment and unfortunately, Fintech has inherited that flaw. Although many firms have recognised this and are actively trying to pull their male skewed gender ratio to the middle, this needs to be done on a much bigger scale for the sector to see any real change. There is so much room and scope for females in this industry.

Don’t be afraid to get involved - do your homework and dig out those companies who are keen to embrace new females in tech. Co-founding Novus is giving me the opportunity to just that and really start to redress the balance

About the author

Shruti Rai is the Chief Growth Officer and a Co-Founder at Novus, the new sustainable banking app making it easy to generate positive impact from everyday purchases. With extensive experience in mission-driven fintech, Shruti is a purveyor of enabling financial apps for doing good, improving lives and using her position to steward many more women into finance and tech.

 


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


Building a Bank within a Bank with Marieke Flament, Mettle - She Talks Tech Podcast

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'Building a Bank within a Bank' with Marieke Flament, Mettle

Building a Bank within a Bank with Marieke Flament, Mettle - She Talks Tech Podcast

Today we hear from Marieke Flament - CEO of Mettle, a unique FinTech proposition as the app-based business account for small businesses, backed by NatWest.

She will be discussing her experience on building Mettle, the technology choices and ways of working to ensure focus is always on delivering features customers need and love.

You can find out more about and connect with Marieke on LinkedIn.

LISTEN HERE


‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2020.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 17 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts – and the first three episodes are now live!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.


Fintech featured

Goal setting | Adventures of a Unicorn

FintechFor the uninitiated, for the start-up community “unicorn” status is the holy grail of growth, the sacred £1bn valuation. They are a source of much mystique, and many a bad half-idea is a creaking rocking horse masquerading as the mythical being.

Even worse, the Shoreditch scene has become, for some businesses, a parody of itself.  Too much skateboarding to work with a good idea in theory, not enough actual action or sustainable profitability.  Alas, a lot of horse manure often contained therein.

Dacxi is the 6th disruptive business I have worked with from an early stage, and my 3rd in the blockchain space.  Two tech start-ups I have recently assisted, have recently achieved pre-money valuations of £15m and £5m respectively.  My blog posts will attempt to cut some of the sound business advice from the zeitgeist wannabees’ soundbite sophism.  Certainly, you have to think differently to create a unicorn.

Fintech, and specifically the crypto industry, is a microcosm for a number of broader social phenomena of our times. It is a perfect venn diagram of a number of themes: big data, a sense that the current financial infrastructure is not fit for purpose, the decentralisation and democratisation of wealth, the need for a vastly improved (cheaper, faster & more efficient way) to move value.

It has been seemingly unstoppable in its rise.  Numerous entities have come out in favour of blockchain technologies: from Central Banks working on digital currencies, such as our very own Bank of England, leviathan payment firms (Mastercard, Visa, Paypal) to titans of banking including BlackRock, DTCC and the New York Stock Exchange. Some of the world’s largest retail firms, also, have pinned their colours to the flag of crypto, including eBay, Starbucks and Uber.   More interestingly, recent trends have suggested that bitcoin is “decoupling” from traditional financial markets, and a number of substantial hedge funds are taking it seriously as an asset class.  Indeed, industry stalwart Paul Tudor Jones has postulated that it can be used to hedge against inflation.

There are some industry commentators suggesting we are in the “iPhone moment”, in terms of adoption, as it becomes the dominant technology, past the point of no return. Certainly, much like dog years, a week in crypto is the same as a year in any other industry.

I’m not generally a massive fan of platitudes, but I’ve always liked the phrase: “if your dreams and aspirations don’t scare you, then they are not big enough”.  Interestingly google suggests a number of folk who claim all credit for this wholesome advice!

I joined Dacxi in late February 2020, a business with aggressive aspirations: to build a leading retail crypto exchange, which seeks to provide liquidity on its community coin, list on the London Stock Exchange in the next 12 months and create the world’s largest female crypto community.  No small remit, and whilst we regularly make press comment, it felt right to capture some of the joys and frustrations on a detailed basis.

Hopefully this blog will provide a lively account of the roller coaster ride that is an early stage fintech!

In next week’s blog: Starting a new job during COVID and the newly acceptable business behaviour!

Adventures of a unicorn is a business blog documenting the daily life of tech start-up in hypergrowth.  Dacxi is a unique crypto business in the crowd lending space. 

Katharine WoollerAbout the author

Katharine Wooller is managing director, UK and Eire, Dacxi – a digital crypto fintech platform specialising in bringing cryptocurrency to the ‘crowd’.

Katharine Wooller has had a long UK fintech career, as Investment Director at industry leading peer-to-peer lender, and in senior roles at a specialist investment banking SAAS supporting tier one banks, asset managers and hedge funds.  More recently she has held advisory roles for blockchain businesses and is currently MD for a retail crypto exchange. She leads the Women Who Crypto initiative.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


Online banking businessman using smartphone with credit card Fintech and Blockchain concept

How tech companies left the banks behind | Jame DiBiasio

Online banking businessman using smartphone with credit card Fintech and Blockchain concept, Jame DiBiasio

Article provided by Jame DiBiasio, award-winning financial journalist and author of new book Cowries to Crypto

With today’s world warped by Covid-19, it’s easy to forget about the 2008 global financial crisis. But this is the moment when tech overtook banks in setting the terms for how we spend, invest, and save.

In 2008, Western governments bailed out commercial banks and embarked on massive interventions in the currency with programs like “quantitative easing”. It’s no coincidence that the Bitcoin protocol ­– creating the first cryptocurrency defined by software, not by government – went live in early 2009.

Banks however didn’t pay any attention to this. Nor were they interested in developments in Africa: in 2007, a Kenyan telecom company launched the world’s first mobile payments service, called M-Pesa. The debut of Apple’s iPhone was the same year and instantly became the trendy must-have for the smart set, but banks didn’t see how it could be relevant to their actual business.

It’s possible that without the GFC, banks would have cottoned on to these developments a lot faster. The fallout of the crisis, however, saddled banks with reams of new regulation. The City and Wall Street experienced a boom in hiring, but not of bankers or traders: instead, they onboarded hundreds of thousands of experts in compliance, auditing, and risk management.

In other words, banks in Europe and the US were distracted by politics, reputational damage, and red tape. Instead of racing to improve their service to consumers and small businesses, financial institutions coasted on outdated IT and the blindness (or arrogance) of incumbents.

By the time banks noticed Silicon Valley startups were eating their lunch, it was too late. Technology companies, though, knew that mobile phones had the power to put financial services in people’s pockets – and that a great customer experience would put crusty banks in the shade.

Banks were slow to realize how the digital revolution was transforming their business. The first evidence of its threat emerged in China. Here, a pair of giant, incredibly aggressive internet companies, Alibaba and Tencent, had added payments to mobile apps originally designed for gaming, shopping and messaging.

In almost no time, a billion people switched their spending habits to these apps; although users still have to retain deposits with a domestic bank, the data – transactions, user preferences, habits – was horded by the internet companies. The banks had become “dumb pipes”, mere plumbing. The value, and the profits, rushed to the tech players.

The impact in the West hasn’t been as severe. Banks may not be popular, but people trust them with basic safety, and Western banks are far more competitive and entrenched than those in China.

Besides, the first assault on traditional finance hasn’t been from Big Tech companies like Facebook but niche “fintechs” that attack specific bits of a bank’s business. These startups are agile but lack a bank’s scale or customer base, so banks have learned to coopt these.

Big Tech is finally wading into battle, however. The likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google have vast user numbers. Although the public and politicians have grown a lot more wary of these companies, they are embedded in society; this year, with Covid-19, their necessity is apparent for all to see.

And they are now moving into finance. Facebook, wishing to take a page from the Chinese superapps, is attempting to enter payments with its Libra coin project. WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app, is venturing with banks in India. Google is experimenting with lending, starting in Southeast Asia. Amazon is partnering with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to get into insurance.

Banks have belatedly begun to catch up. Those with the greatest resources – the JP Morgans, Goldman Sachs and Citis of the world – are learning to be agile, to share data with strategic partners, and to put their vast compliance infrastructure to work as an advantage against tech companies still learning the regulatory ropes.

Community and regional banks, coops, credit associations and other smaller players, though, face an epic threat from Big Tech. If they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to radically change how they operate. They are now playing on Big Tech’s court.


Cowries to Crypto by Jame DiBiasioCowries to Crypto: The History of Money, Currency and Wealth by Jame DiBiasio and illustrated by Harry Harrison is published by OANDA, a global leader in online multi-asset trading services. It will be available from 1 September on amazon.co.uk, priced at £19.99.


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


Fintech featured

Women in fintech: a personal view on resetting the imbalance

Barbara Rossato, Regional Head of Professional Services, Finantix

FintechThe world of banking has been notoriously male dominated, but the new and flourishing 21st Century world of fintech creates an ideal opportunity for women to work in the banking sector on an equal footing with men.

Yet a 2019 study of the UK fintech sector by EY   found a gender split of 70.5% male and 29.5% female. It also found that just 25% of fintechs had at least one female founder, and only a very disappointing 2% had a female only founder or female co-founders.

So we still have a mountain to climb to reach gender equality in fintech. There isn’t just one route up this mountain and I think we (that’s we in the fintech sector, all of us, men and women), need to take existing paths and create new ones. I think there’s a lot we need to do to encourage girls to take up STEM subjects at school. That’s well documented of course, and in Italy, where I live and work, there are initiatives to encourage girls into STEM topics just as there are in the UK.

It is really important to foster the women who come into an organisation. One aspect of that is to ensure there are plenty of women in senior positions – having someone who ‘looks like me’ at the top is inspiring. At Finantix, we have a female CEO Christine Ciriani, but in this Finantix is rare.

However, board level representation isn’t the only way to encourage and support women in fintech. Mentoring is also very important and it is a key part of many people’s roles at Finantix. I’ve mentored both women and men, and I’ve seen and heard about mentoring in other organisations. Some approaches are less helpful to the mentee than others. For example a teacherly approach, where the mentee listens and the mentor provides information is less productive than a collaborative approach, where the mentee’s aims and aspirations are talked through, possibilities discussed, and strategies worked out. I take the collaborative approach, and I’ve found I’ve learned from my mentees in the past. I see that as very positive for both mentor and mentee.

Once we have women in the organisation we need to ensure they have space to flourish. Perhaps part of that is redefining success – or taking a fresh look at what it means to do a job well. I’ve been used to getting up at 4am to jump on a plane to get to a meeting in another world city, and then return home late at night – with just a day’s notice beforehand.  Anyone, woman or man, can have reasons why that kind of working style isn’t viable for them. But they might have other skills that are just as important and just as useful to the company. We need to open our minds to new possibilities and new definitions of success so that we don’t miss out on real talent.

Getting more women to take up technical roles is important, but there are plenty of roles in fintech that don’t require programming or other technical skills. I have worked for Finantix for almost ten years and have during that time had developer and technical lead roles. Today my role as Regional Head of Professional Services (Europe and Americas) is removed from development, and I work more closely with clients on project management and client relations. Both roles are rewarding, and there are opportunities to do both throughout the fintech sector.

I think what really matters if we are serious about growing the number of women in fintech is to work across the whole range of strategies – and for everyone in an organisation to fully embrace the need to equalise the gender split. This isn’t a ‘woman thing’, it’s an organisational thing.

About the author

Barbara Rossato is Regional Head of Professional Services (Europe and Americas) at fintech firm Finantix, where she has worked for almost 10 years covering various developer and technical lead roles. She is based in Venice, Italy and is currently responsible for the projects and clients management, actively contributing to building the relationship and coaching the project management team.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


woman holding a like a boss mug, career development

Career development - What I wished I'd known | Katharine Wooller

woman holding a like a boss mug, career development

Katharine Wooller has had a long UK fintech career, as Investment Director at industry leading peer-to-peer lender, and in senior roles at a specialist investment banking SAAS supporting tier one banks, asset managers and hedge funds.  More recently she has held advisory roles for blockchain businesses and is currently MD for a retail crypto exchange. She leads the Women Who Crypto initiative. 

Here, Katharine tells us what she wished she had known throughout her career journey.

Find Role Models

Admittedly, finding the perfect role models is easier said than done. In some of the businesses I’ve worked the male headcount has been as high as  99 per cent, so always feel free to look for inspiration outside your current network.  Find those you respect, wish to emulate, and source their guidance, either in person or by following the content they put out; never have leaders been so accessible via social media channels.

I also like having a ‘pick and mix’ of inspiration.  For me, I aspire to think outside the box like Anne Boden of Starling Bank, possess the quiet resolve of Theresa May, the positivity for the future of Cynthia V Davis, the spirit of Ginger Rogers.

Build your crowd

Women are, I think, essentially a social creature.  Surround yourself with like-minded women, you’ll likely find they are supportive, nurturing and natural networkers.   Ideally with an active WhatsApp Group, so you can keep in touch, and share the daily highs and the lows.  I believe that your ‘vibe’ attracts your tribe, and a significant number of opportunities are sourced on recommendation before they hit a broader audience.

It therefore pays dividends to be honest about what’s going well, or not, and what you are currently lacking; you may well be pleasantly surprised who you know and importantly, who they know! Crowd-sourcing solutions is a rich and often ignore vein of brilliance.   I host a regular ‘Women who Crypto’ online meet ups, where recent events have attracted 130 attendees, and I never cease to be amazed by the levels of support and inspiration in the content generated. ‘Women Who Crypto’ came from a simple idea that was crystallised from the amount of interest women had in wealth creation through cryptocurrency. By harnessing that thought and carefully structuring the approach, Women Who Crypto has become a great way of building a ‘like-minded’ crowd and a place where new friendships are cultivated..

No career trajectory is linear 

In my personal experience, no single job is ever the game changer, rather that each role brings its own unique set of challenges, learning and opportunity.  The portfolio career is increasingly common, and of course it is highly likely that coronavirus recession will rewrite some of the career planning rules we have hitherto held as self-evident.  Most people, at best, have had a job that didn’t work out, and alas too many spend years in a role they loathe, didn’t match up to expectation or they disagree with the general direction of travel for the business.

Whilst an unfulfilling job can quickly become disheartening, there are many reputable and talented recruitment professionals who will assist you in deciphering what parts of your current role and skillsets are marketable and will help navigate you into more fulfilling territory. Remember, it has often been said that few people entering the jobs market today will have  a job for life.

Define your value set 

It is much easier to navigate roles, bosses and career decisions when you take the time to analyse what motivates and fulfils you.  Too many talented women are stuck in jobs that do not cater for their emotional needs.  Personally, I have found retail business that build wealth, and disruptive agile start-ups the most interesting, and have certainly delivered my best work in these environments.

There is a huge amount of free content online around personal value setting to guide better decision making, which is time well spent.    You may be surprised that it throws up, and will assist you in working with businesses, colleagues, and projects that bring you joy.

In conclusion, fintech, in my experience and opinion is a very welcoming and fast-moving industry.  I am delighted to meet so many talented and motivated women.  One of my favourite quotes, is from the indomitable Charlotte Whitton, who in 1951 was elected the first female mayor of a major city in Canada:  “Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good”.

I am upset to sometimes to see this quote without the latter section: “luckily this is not difficult”.  We have more opportunity that the generations before us, and now is the time to make it count!

Katharine WoollerAbout the author:

Katharine Wooller is managing director, UK and Eire, Dacxi – a digital crypto fintech platform specialising in bringing cryptocurrency to the ‘crowd’.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.

 

 

 

 


Fintech

The need to tackle the FinTech bias

Gemma Young, founder of DiversiTech Hub

FinTech“You are not investable”. That’s the argument I heard as a mum of four kids looking for funding for a Fintech, despite having 17 years of experience in IT banking.

I am not the first person who will be denied funding or a promotion because I don’t fit the stereotype and I will not be the last. Unfortunately, the FinTech industry is suffering from a big problem, bias.

The bias heritage of FinTech 

Albeit a relatively new sector, FinTech has its heritage in two industries: finance and tech. As one of the fastest-growing industries in the UK, it has managed to gather some of the best features in both - deploying AI to simplify what was bureaucratic and impersonal in traditional banking, for instance - but it also inherited the lack of diversity. Tech is slowly making progress in its efforts to rectify the lack of equality, but is nowhere near close to parity. Financial services face similar issues. Although there might be a lack of it, no one disputes it’s importance, 80% of CEOs interviewed by PwC recognize diversity as a key factor in new hires, to enhance business performance and strengthen brand and reputation.

In regards to where FinTechs stand, according to the 2019 edition of the EY UK FinTech Census, only 25% of businesses have at least one female co-founder, and the gender ratio is 70.5% male to 29.5% female employees. Compared to the first edition, from 2017, these numbers have barely changed. The issue is clear.

Bias is everywhere 

Bias isn’t just something that lives in boardrooms, it is now permeating the technology the industry uses. As financial services become increasingly digital, AI is opening doors we never thought possible. FinTechs investing in artificial intelligence are able to eliminate human error in banking procedures and understand and adapt to customer demands in unique ways. This rapid transformation also brought a new concern to the market: could the AI we deploy also be biased? When it involves personal data such as credit and payments history, decisions misguided by AI bias can be especially damaging. A FinTech that preaches diversity and financial inclusion could deny services to minority groups or have systems that favour the privileged without ever realising.

As a McKinsey study points out, AI can help reduce human bias, but it can also bake in and scale the bias we have. Unconscious bias is especially hard to identify once it affects artificial intelligence because leaders can spend their entire careers without ever realising they are making decisions based on them. When it comes to diversity, organisations must first tackle their own unconscious behaviours and patterns.

Take action, don’t just talk about it

Everyone is well versed in talking the talk, but if the sector wants to embrace diversity and inclusion for good, and stop AI from perpetuating decades-old bias, businesses need to walk the walk. The path towards more diversity is easier than you think, and its benefits go far beyond brand recognition. Gender and ethnic diversity in the workplace have proven to be correlated with profitability, especially when it reaches executive roles.

Business leaders in FinTech need to start hiring and promoting minority executives so that junior employees have mentors to encourage them, and supporting STEM programmes to bring new, more diverse talent to FinTechs. Even smaller steps, like showcasing an organisation’s support of inclusion in job opening websites can help encourage diversity in applications for FinTech roles.

Tackling the FinTech diversity bias will be critical not just for the social impact, but for the sustainable growth of the entire sector - and the time to make it a priority and act is now.

Gemma Young About the author

Gemma Young is the founder of DiversiTech Hub, a network of FinTech organisations promoting diversity and inclusion in the FinTech industry. Learn more about the Hub at https://www.diversitech-hub.com/.


02/03/2020: Unthink Tank: Flipping Tradition - International Women's Day Fintech Panel | Yolt

Unthink Tank IWD Fintech panel event

Yolt’s Unthink Tank explores the concept of 'unthinking', inviting leaders and innovators from the tech, disruptor, and creative communities to discuss the issues that impassion and empower them.

In an International Women's Day special, five Fintech experts come together to share their experiences navigating an industry marked by old traditions, and how they’re driving change from within. Drawing from their personal experiences, topics include the products they’re building, the innovation they’re bringing to financial services, and who they aim to empower along the way.

Event details

  • 6:00pm: Join us for food + drinks
  • 6:30pm: Panelists take to the stage
  • 7:15pm: Audience Q&A + networking
  • 8:00pm: Event wrap up

Date & Time: 2nd March 6pm-8pm

Location: Rise, 41 Luke Street, EC2A 4DP, London, United Kingdom

BOOK NOW


Inspirational Woman: Mary Rinaldi | Co-Founder, Simone

Mary RinaldiWith a background in fintech and investment banking, Mary Rinaldi, based between London & NYC, is a brand and product advisor, helping organizations and individuals center their stories and products in user research, analysis and contextual thinking.

She’s worked at UBS, Man Investments and Connu and OppenheimerFunds. In addition, she co-founded Simone in 2018, a company that helps employees, especially women, reclaim their agency at work and build financial, emotional and structural power in their workplace. Having herself recovered from a professional crisis, Mary wanted to help other women going through the same workplace discrimination and realise the importance of a strong, personal and professional network. The Startup matches individuals in bad employment scenarios with professionals able to provide guidance or services. She also is a passionate female mentor, especially to young women in the tech sector and is a regular thought leader offering advice to professional women and those starting out in their careers.

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

I grew up in Portland, Oregon where you would have found me with my nose buried in a book at the top of the Sycamore tree in my family’s front yard, or shooting hoops with my siblings. My upbringing was a combination of self-determination and unbridled imagination. I studied literature and history at university and then found myself in the never-ending energy of New York City. I worked in law, then in product development at an investment firm, picked up and moved to London to work at an investment bank, then left finance and started exploring new directions, remotely advising my friend as she built her start-up. Eventually, I plunged into start-ups and building tech products full-time.

It’s only now, after three countries and multiple careers, that I finally see the vista that would occasionally peak out above my path in my twenties and thirties. In the past year I co-founded Simone, a company dedicated to helping employees build more equitable relationships with their employers, began consulting as a product management expert, started writing PSST, a newsletter about work, and kicked off mentoring at an incubator for people working at the intersection of art, design and technology, called NEW INC. I have a few other ventures in the works, and it finally feels like I have the right irons in the fire.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, not at all! I knew a few things I really wanted out of life, and they orbited around knowledge and learning in the real world -- meeting different people, living in new cities and countries, and trying new things. I wanted to learn deeply about myself and the world. I began in earnest by moving to New York City with a few hundred dollars and a place to stay for a few months.

My first concern was getting my feet under me financially. With a good academic record, managerial experience, I thought I had a good chance at a well-paying job in an industry I was considering long-term. And I did, I took a good role for a new university graduate at a respected law firm. Not surprisingly for someone who grew up in a financially precarious household, I looked to professions like law and finance as my only options. But secretly I longed to work in creative fields. However, the frequent instability of the types of roles I wanted did not correspond with the constraint of needing to help support my family whilst carving out a career.

After two years working in law, I jumped into investment finance. I had a theory that if I knew more about financial markets, I would figure out how to amass capital, find the logic of the system, and quit worrying about financial security. In my five years of investment product work I learned there was no logic, just a lot of ladder rungs to climb, and golden handcuffs to strain against. It turned out, that wasn’t a payoff I wanted to live with.

So I began experimenting and found rewarding work by designing and building tech products with a team of talented people. I thrived creating a space for teams of designers and engineers to collaborate and work on experiments with people who wanted someone to solve a real problem they faced. With my investment and finance background, I naturally moved to fintech. There I worked hard to put people at the center of the work -- whether customer, partner, or teammate. And with Simone, empowering people to reclaim their agency and build a more equitable relationship with their employer, this work of putting people at the center, had space to grow and flourish. Today, Simone is going through changes, but the work I began there, I continue as a mentor and consultant.

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

Yes, definitely. I’ve had a winding career path, and along the way I’ve taken leaps of faith. Mid-career I moved to London for a role at an investment bank. However after a few weeks, I knew it was the wrong fit. I struggled with investment bank culture. It was daunting to accept that the company was the wrong place for me, and that perhaps I made the wrong move. Sometimes you make a decision that takes you on a path that just stops. I finally threw in the towel at a year. Overcoming that feeling of failure and setback took a lot of faith, and telling the story truthfully -- I experimented, took a big risk, and learned that the life of an investment banker or financier unfortunately, wasn’t for me. A hugely important learning, that if I’d refused to accept could have kept me from a career transformation -- from building investment products to building tech products.

A few years later, I was responsible for a complex redesign of the marketing stack for my company’s investment products. The chance to work across the tech stack and collaborate with a cohort of software engineering specialists -- back-end, services/ops and front-end etc. was really exciting, but not without its challenges. Despite the odds, we built a protocol for successful collaboration between multiple tech and operations teams; it was one of the most beautiful examples of cross-functional teamwork and leadership that I’ve experienced.

That lesson has never left me -- that designing a workspace, a project, or a collaboration around relationship-building marked by generosity, trust, and optimism will produce results beyond your expectations.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Taking back my voice after experiencing gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and then building a service to empower others to do the same. Helping other women reject tropes like being called “difficult,” “unlikable,” or “not technical enough;” combatting bogus PIPs (Performance Improvement Plan) because of rebuffed advances or sexual harassment experiences, and refusing a myriad of other tired reasons women get told for why they’re not “the right fit” has been the most rewarding work.

Often it only takes one voice to validate a person’s experience, help them reclaim their agency at work, and strike out on a new path from a place of strength. When we tap into this energy as we make work and life decisions, our communities become happier, stronger, and more generative. Who knows what kind of companies, projects and ideas this kind of personal power can engender?

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

I care that what I build is an expression of my principles, and I don’t spin to win. I believe that the means are just as important as the ends, maybe more important. In this context, experimentation  becomes an adventure and produces a positive pressure to succeed. When we are trying to heal our customers’ pain and also do no harm, our approach has to be thoughtful and precise.

Perhaps that seems counter-intuitive to entrepreneurship, but following the organizing principle of becoming, that we are all “on the way” and therefore how we make decisions, how we build and how we care for the customer drives both the result and the nature of the result, is really powerful.

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

Remember that technology is not new. Discovering and building new tech has been a function of human communities since the beginning of time. Keep this in mind as you vet companies and their business models, it will help you get to the heart of the matter -- does this company need to exist and can you articulate their value proposition? This exercise might require a little industry and market research, but it will be worth it.

Evaluate company culture. You’ve got to go beyond a company’s story and their glassdoor reviews and do your best to backchannel what it’s like to work there. The best sources are current employees and former employees. Read between the lines -- if a slew of people of color, LGBTQ people or women leave the company after a short period of time, take note. You want to take a position at a company that values you, because if they don’t, the work you’ll have to do to rebuild your confidence will outweigh anything else they offer.

Vet your would-be manager. The most important person to your career is your manager. So it’s essential to understand how your manager leads, if and how they support their direct reports and how different people who have reported to them have fared under their leadership. Ask questions that test personal authenticity, like what books they love, or how they recharge after a stressful day, or what they would do if they didn’t work in the tech industry -- an ability to answer these kinds of questions can signal that they’re the real deal.

Build your personal brand. You need to be able to tell the story of who you are -- what specific abilities or skills you always bring to the table, so that even when you’re not in the room, your value is undeniable. The skills and approach you’re known should be authentic to you, because external elements, like your manager, C-suite leadership, or your company’s goals can change, so only tailoring your story to them doesn’t work for you long-term. Learning how to build an authentic personal brand and communicate it well is one of the most important steps you can take to turbo-charge your career.

Join communities and professional groups outside your company. Today more than ever, it’s important to establish yourself not just at your current company, but across your industry or practice. It’s also necessary to find like-minded people, a crew you can learn from, develop friendships with and work on projects or side hustles together. In tough times, the support of other professionals, especially women in your field or practice, can help you bounce back quickly and cull key learnings from your experience.

Build relationships with people who inspire you. Inspiration can come in many forms; and building relationships with people who motivate you or who you respect in your workplace, industry, and in various practices is one of the most important ways you can invest in your future.

Remember your career is yours. It is important to make sure that while your company and manager are holding you accountable for meeting goals, you are also holding them accountable to you and your career. If you and your manager agree on a path to promotion, and when you hit milestones and goals, your company repeatedly fails to deliver on their promise, it might be time to consider a different way to achieve your personal career goals.

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

Yes, I do. I think there are barriers to success for women in every industry, although in tech the issue is particularly prominent. Until we overhaul structures that leave women out of full and equal participation in tech, those barriers will continue to block women from success.

However, that doesn’t mean building the kind of life and work experience women want is impossible or something to feel defeated about.

Your experience is your power, your story is your power, so do things you want to do, take on the big challenges, double-down on every opportunity to learn, and when you experience setbacks, figure out what outcome you want from your situation and make strategic decisions to get there. Most importantly, take the time to build relationships and care for people you admire and respect along the way. This cohort you’ll build of supporters, friends, once and future colleagues, employees and bosses is one of the richest communities you’ll find.

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

Companies should do all the things diversity and inclusion experts have suggested -- actively fill the top of the recruitment funnel in a truly representative way; ensure levelling is fair both in title and pay, interrogate any patterns that reinforce inequality during the recruitment process and build internal tools to reverse those patterns; and finally, ensure that at every level in the company women are equally represented, from junior professionals and senior managers to C-suite leaders. If there is a drop off at any level, research what is happening at the company and take decisive, strong action to educate people or to eradicate behavior, and remove those who resist equality from power. Companies that truly care about equality and representation will do this work.

There is currently only 15% 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?

If I had to choose one thing to magically change, I would flip the entrepreneurship investment table on its head, and put investment capital in the hands of WOC and non-binary people. I think putting that power in the hands of those who have been systematically excluded from wealth creation or punished for it, who are kept from exercising their fundamental creativity to solve thorny problems, would dramatically change the nature of the tech industry -- what companies we found, what problems we tackle, and what tech we build or don’t build.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I love podcasts, some favorites: Design Matters with Debbie Millman is fantastic. Debbie is a consummate interviewer and her guests are endlessly interesting and different, they’re the outliers we can learn the most from. I also recommend Call Your Girlfriend, which is not specifically a tech podcast, but one of the hosts, Aminatou Sow,  is a tech consultant and business owner, and she often addresses how to meet the specific challenges of the tech industry. I love books even more than podcasts and there are some really good ones out there. John Maeda’s new book “How to Speak Machine: Laws of Design for the Digital Age” is a thoughtful guide to building good tech in the digital age. Another classic tech product book is “Inspired” by Marty Cagan; he and the SVPG team also write a thoughtful product blog. Both resources provide valuable maps to building truly great tech products. Check out Ellen Pao’s Project Include, a non-profit dedicated to giving everyone a fair chance to succeed in tech -- they are a rich resource for company and culture building best practices. Joining women-only tech communities like Elpha (US) and Ada’s List (UK) is a great way to build knowledge, meet other women in tech, and get support when you need it. Finally, I recommend reading “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” by Carlo Rovelli, it’s the single book I would give every person in the world to read. Understanding our real capacity for generosity, greatness, and change can transform the way we approach building a purposeful life and career.