Andria Evripidou featured

Inspirational Woman: Andria Evripidou | Public Polic & Compliance Lead, Yapily

Andria EvripidouAndria Evripidou is Public Policy and Compliance Lead at Yapily, the leading experts in Open Banking infrastructure.

Andria started her career as an economic consultant before moving on to support the creation of the Payment Systems Regulator – the only regulator in the world focusing on payments infrastructure. She subsequently worked in the payments policy team of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority before moving to Revolut as a senior manager of the Global Expansion and Authorisations team. Andria is passionate about breaking down the barriers to payments and financial innovation by harnessing the potential of Open Banking and Open Finance.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background

I grew up in Cyprus, a small island with a relatively patriarchal culture.

I studied Economics at the University of Cambridge, after which I  moved to the University of Nottingham to do a masters in Econometrics. I then stayed to complete my PhD in Econometrics and Quantitative Economics.

Throughout my education, I realised I was a more practical character and I enjoyed exploring varied markets and business innovation in real life rather than in academic theoretical terms. Especially the financial services landscape, an area plagued with information asymmetries, yet relevant to pretty much every aspect of our day-to-day life.

This led me to pursue a career in FinTech, as it’s an industry I believe has the capacity to completely revolutionise financial services and solve issues consumers have faced for decades through the traditional banking model. To me, it’s a very exciting concept and it’s something I very much want to be a part of.

My early career started as an economic consultant before moving on to support the creation of the Payment Systems Regulator – the only regulator in the world focusing on payments infrastructure. I then worked in the payments policy team of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority before moving to Revolut as a senior manager of the Global Expansion and Authorisations team.

Tell us a bit about your current role

I’m now the Public Policy and Compliance Lead at Yapily, who are the leading experts in Open Banking infrastructure. At Yapily, we’re passionate about creating a fairer, more inclusive financial landscape for all by breaking down the barriers to payments and financial innovation through the power of Open Banking and Open Finance.

It’s very exciting working at Yapily. As a start-up, it’s extremely rewarding to know that I am contributing to the company's rapid growth. Since joining, I’ve had the opportunity to build up the public policy and compliance function of the business, without being hindered by existing processes. I’ve also had the chance to shape the strategy in the company in a way that truly represents the objectives of the business and supports the wider ecosystem, As well as work with great customers who are making a true difference to the payments landscape.

For example, we work with Salad Money who provide small, affordable loans for NHS Staff. Using our infrastructure, Salad Money can create a true picture of an individual’s creditworthiness, allowing them to offer fair and affordable loans exclusively to NHS workers. Salad Money only lends between £500 and £1,000 at an APR of 34.9% when applicants are sponsored by NHS Trusts, ensuring all lending is affordable and fair. And they also provide free financial education to help NHS workers make the best financial decisions in the future. Working with Salad Money means together we can break the toxic debt cycle NHS workers find themselves trapped in each year. Yapily takes its social responsibility very seriously and always welcomes partnerships or clients that have a positive social agenda. It is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about my job here at Yapily.

My day-to-day involves putting on my detective coat as I start the day gathering information and changes in the market. Being an extrovert, I then spend most of my day meeting new people - regulators, trade associations, customers and even competitors - to rapidly respond to the changing market and help drive forward Yapily’s mission to make every company a fintech company. Ultimately enabling them to build better and fairer products that create financial inclusion.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all. I originally wanted to be a doctor, but when I went to a hospital, I soon realised I couldn’t look at blood! So, I became an economist instead.

I always knew that wherever my career path took me, I wanted to be really good at what I did. Even if it was very niche or within a smaller industry. It was when I joined the Payment Systems Regulator that I knew payments regulation was my niche. This was the first time I planned my career.

My curiosity led me to want to understand the regulatory side of payments and why payments infrastructure works the way it does. I worked for the regulators for five years, which shaped my career and gave me invaluable insights as to how the financial plumbing works. I chose to move to a technology company, because it would challenge me to push for the changes I believed were needed to revolutionise an archaic system that doesn’t always put consumer needs first.

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

The FinTech industry itself has just 30% of women in the workforce - which is a frightening figure. My job is very niche and is typically a man's profession, and while it’s had its setbacks, it’s never made me question my career choice.

In the past, I have been in situations where male leaders have over-explained certain scenarios or initiatives, as if to say I had no knowledge on the topic - a play on the stereotype that women are not as experienced in financial services as men. Even though 99% of the time I have a very clear understanding of the objectives and market trends. It surprises people to know that I can talk for hours on FinTech regulation and compliance - a topic that’s not an easy one to grasp.

This has made me stronger as I have to fight harder than a man to achieve my goals. I’m not one to stand down and I like to make it aware that I am in control of my chosen career path, which is one of the reasons I decided to work at Yapily. We all work towards the same goal and gender never comes into the equation. Everyone welcomes my view, they listen and they trust that my insight is valuable.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has been building the public policy and compliance function at Yapily. Prior to my joining, there was no public policy function so I was very excited to get involved and build this out. I started developing both internal processes and external relationships, and since then I’ve introduced the company to regulators in the UK and EU with whom we now have a close working relationship. I particularly enjoyed the autonomy and ability to build it up, in a way that allows me to work effectively and productively to influence public policy making both now and in the future.

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

Consistency, perseverance and above all, curiosity.

As a woman in FinTech, sometimes I find it takes people in the industry longer to trust my knowledge and capability. To me, ensuring that my work is consistently up to a high standard has been key to building a strong and reliable reputation of expertise.

When starting out - and even now - curiosity was my stepping stone. I was always trying to learn from experts in the field and get as much depth as possible on the technical details to keep myself in the game. To give you an example, when I worked at the Payment Systems Regulator I would try to get into the office early so I could grab a seat right next to our technical specialists so I could learn from them on a daily basis. This was extremely  valuable as it has  shaped my understanding of the industry and the dynamics that determine commercial decisions.

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

You have to find something you're really good at, something that you really enjoy and stick with it. And if you fall out of love with it, it’s fine to try something new.

I recently read that only 25% of women work in the tech industry - a figure that desperately needs to change. Women breed diversity in teams and bring a whole new take on leadership and problem-solving. So, I encourage any women looking to enter the technology scene to go for it. We need more women to continue to drive forward innovation, especially in FinTech, as sadly female leaders are still few and far between. We need to support the young women of today in becoming the FinTech leaders of tomorrow.

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

Unfortunately, there will always be barriers for women in tech. While many companies have drastically diversified their leadership teams, many more are still behind, but it’s something that is definitely slowly evolving.

Companies should admit to not having a diverse team, as denial will not encourage hiring teams to consider women for roles. They should also be selective with their hires right from the get go, and remove any unconscious bias and explore women candidates. They should also look to their current business teams and rather than hiring new male talent to take on new roles, look to promote the women in the team. It’s about building current talent, rather than pushing it to the side and hiring externally

At Yapily, we love having a diverse workforce. We’re already on the move to being 50/50 gender split, with 40% of our workers being female  - our end goal is to offer equal opportunities across the business. Half of our employees are also from across Europe  or from a minority ethnicity of the UK.

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

In my opinion, it takes two to tango. Both genders need to work together to ensure that everyone gets an equal opportunity to progress their careers, no matter the industry.

Companies should focus on recruitment on a nondiscriminatory basis, creating initiatives that raise awareness around behavioural biases that may act as a disadvantage towards women or minority groups. At the same time, I also believe that women should be assertive and not be afraid to speak up to request the tools that they need to support their careers.

At Yapily, women have created their own internal network which we use as a forum to discuss ideas and support each other. We organise drinks regularly and always discuss opportunities we have identified across the company - and wider industry - that could help us in our respective fields.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I strongly suggest finding a mentor as it’s the best way of getting access to a more personalised advisor and someone who can provide advice from real life. There are many mentorship programmes out there, for those who  don’t have someone specific in mind.

I also keep on top of industry news so I’m always one step ahead in group discussions, and because I enjoy reading the broader topics it sometimes sparks new ideas. I listen to the FinTech podcast 11FS, as they have a wide range of leaders in the space on the show, and I read FinTech trade publications such as Fintextra and The Fintech Times - or whatever I fancy.

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Woman typing on laptop, flexible working, gender bias

How to overcome bias in tech product development 

Article by Rebecca Danks, Product Owner at Yapily

Woman typing on laptop, flexible working, gender biasIt’s no secret that the technology industry has a diversity problem. This is particularly seen within product and dev teams in fintech - where products developed by small groups of people result in inherent biases that are having a knock-on effect with how customers experience financial products and services.

This grows in importance, as payments are at the centre of the majority of customer experiences, so we have to ensure we don’t alienate these audiences before we even begin.

Biased data leads to biased decisions

We’ve already seen a number of high profile cases where products have proved inherently biased. Last year, Apple came under fire when its Goldman Sachs-backed credit card was found to offer men better rates than women - even when they had equal credit ratings. Further, take the software designed to warn consumers using Nikon’s cameras when the person being photographed is blinking - it tends to be biased against certain races.

Though biased decision-making isn’t unique to AI, the growing scope of its impact on fundamental aspects of our lives makes it very important to ensure all biases are mitigated. However, while hiring more women or ethnic minorities to develop fintech products will contribute towards ensuring some gender and ethnic biases are removed, it isn’t quite that simple.

Most machine learning algorithms are trained using large, annotated datasets. In natural language processing for example, standard algorithms are trained on datasets made up of billions of words. Often, these datasets are compiled from scraping the internet for relevant data which in turn is then annotated by humans. It’s these methods that can unintentionally lead to gender, ethnic and cultural biases in datasets.

Often this results in certain groups being overrepresented or underrepresented compared to others. For example, historically, men had the highest salaries and therefore built the strongest credit lines. So it’s not surprising that any lending decision made by algorithms trained on data sets of historical credit lines would be inherently biased in favour of men. There’s simply more data out there pertaining to men having strong credit histories.

To take another example, Google’s translate tool was found to change phrases referring to women into “he said” or “he wrote” when translating news articles from Spanish to English. This inherent gender bias was also found when the tool translated into languages where words are gendered - with words such as “nurse” automatically being changed to feminine while “doctor” was translated as masculine. The flaw, which has already been remedied by Google, was found to inadvertently replicate gender biases that existed in pre-translated examples on the internet.

Customer-led product development is key

While a lack of diversity, especially with regards to women, can’t be ignored within technology product development, the causes of machine learning biases are much more nuanced. When creating new products, the ultimate goal has to be that they are accessible, can be used by everybody and offer something people actually need. While this requires a diverse workforce, it also requires putting the customer at the heart of all product development.

That’s because even in the most diverse workforce there will be some level of unconscious bias. So it’s important to check in on unconscious bias at all stages of product development and ensure that everyone in the team has had unconscious bias training. Along with this, finding out what your end user actually wants is really important when trying to remove all biases from development; as it helps avoid building products from within an echo chamber.

Once products have been sent to market, it’s equally important that the teams who maintain the service also keep the users front of mind. They need to ensure that any machine learning algorithms are carefully audited so feedback loops don’t occur and biases are stopped from creeping in.

Ultimately, there’s no silver bullet for overcoming biases in fintech product development. But they can be mitigated by having diverse teams who clean historical datasets for training models, while applying common sense to the end decision. By catching these inherent biases during development, we can stop the negative knock-on effects for customers when they experience financial products and services.

Rebecca DanksAbout the author

Rebecca Danks is the Product Owner at Yapily, an enterprise connectivity company. Starting her career in Innovation at Nationwide, Rebecca has been building and developing fintech products for more than four years. During her time at Nationwide, Rebecca shaped and built product concepts to improve the financial wellbeing of millennials. Since joining Yapily, Rebecca’s focus is to deliver product roadmap of new bank integrations, enabling companies and customers worldwide to benefit from open banking.