Hear from some of the women shaping UK fintech

Innovate Finance released its Women in FinTech Powerlist last month with a list of 150 women who, its says “have made a real impact over and above their day-to-day role in fintech.” There were 1200 entries.

Charlotte Crosswell, CEO at Innovate Finance, said these women are making a major impact on the fintech talent pipeline. “This is despite continued under-representation in terms of funding female-led firms. It is vital that the sector doesn’t just pay lip service to inclusion and diversity. We must now be geared more towards action and ensuring change actually happens.”

I caught up with some of the women on the list to ask them for their views on the challenge of increasing the number of women in fintech and the risks to the industry if it continues to be dominated by men.

Sophie Theen, head of HR and talent at fintech 11:FS

Theen makes sure that the underlining values of the culture at 11:FS is embedded into its hiring processes, the way we represent ourselves in the candidate market as well as pushing diversity and inclusion initiatives up the agenda.

She was previously a talent management particular within the automotive industry before getting the opportunity to do great things and disrupt traditional HR in Fintech.

What is needed to increase the number of women in fintech?

“The thing is with fintech, it’s a closed ecosystem that is only open to people who are either 150% passionate about banking or finance, otherwise they hardly ever come across the Fintech network. We need to proactively open up this circle, and a lot of companies are already doing brilliantly in their community efforts.

When you think of women in fintech we often think of the women who are already in this circle, or have been in the past. When hiring, we’re all looking for that common connection right? This is where we find ourselves looking for talent in the scarce bubble.

Try spreading your fintech education to the wider market, try creating awareness of this sexy industry in layman’s term, no one wants to listen to credit and API…, take the effort to teach our younger generation about this industry before they even get to the point of choosing their subject in University, and most importantly, get more women to speak up about their achievements in the industry and set an example because no achievements is too small to be proud of. “

What is the risk to the fintech industry if it fails to get more women working in the sector and leading companies?

“We all want a diverse mindset to create better products for our diverse customers don’t we? Of course, diversity shouldn’t just simply be about gender, it’s not. But we’ve got to get ourselves in a position to start with baby steps and that begins with encouraging companies to lead by example and show that this difficult challenge can be tackled, then smaller companies will follow. Hiring more women isn’t enough, encouraging and empowering our women to make equally important decisions that drives the company forward is key.“

Sonal Rattan, co-founder and CTO at eXate

Rattan the co-founded and is chief technology officer at data privacy company eXate, a multiple award-winning. She works with clients on automating controls around information sharing, in light of strict data privacy regulations and data localisation laws.  She was previously head of digital assets and the head of EMEA regtech at HSBC.

What is needed to increase the number of women in fintech?

“In my experience, one of the fundamental deterrents from women taking technology roles is the underlying perception that technologists are not equally valued in the businesses – they are seen as an expense and are the first function to be off-shored to a lower cost (and typically lower quality) location. To add to this, technologists are generally not given a fair seat at the table as a part of the decision-making process with respect to running the business.  If you are a woman, it is even more difficult to get a seat at the table.  A part of my journey is to try and get developers recognised as being a part of the business and not as a back-office function. Until technology roles are given greater value and recognition, it will be less of an area that women will be drawn to.”

What is the risk to the fintech industry if it fails to get more women working in the sector and leading companies?

“A simple reason, the industry would collapse if it were hit with man flu”!!!”

Jokes aside she says, “Women think differently to men and there should be a fair and equal balance because technology affects us all. As such, the risk of failing to get more women into the sector is a lack of balanced input and different ideologies resulting in bias and narrow-mindedness. The whole concept for many working in fintech, apart from servicing a particular need in the financial services industry, is to separate themselves from working in traditional financial services firms as they are often male dominated and filled with internal politics. Fintech is an opportunity to hit the restart button and begin with a clean sheet, and in the forefront is the inclusion and acceptance of all individuals from different backgrounds/experiences, regardless of gender, race, religion, etc.”

Catherine Wines on co-founder and director at WorldRemit

Wines co-founded money transfer company WorldRemit in 2010 to, in he words “ disrupt a $700 billion industry.”

What is needed to increase the number of women in fintech?

To increase the number of women in fintech, it needs to start at school and with parents at home. In the 1950s, around 30% to 50%of programmers were women-in contrast to the 20% in large tech firms today. Part of the reason is messaging: UCLA researchers point to the introduction of the home computer as a ‘boy’s toy’ in the 1980s as a factor that pushed more men than women into computer science. To push back on decades of that mentality, the sector must promote diversity at all stages so that women want to develop their career in fintech. Young women need role models: they need to see women in senior STEM roles if we are going to demystify careers in tech and make them more accessible.”

What is the risk to the fintech industry if it fails to get more women working in the sector and leading companies?

“It is crucial that the industry encourages women to enter fintech as research indicates that lack of gender diversity can stifle productivity and limit returns. Diversity in the fintech sector can unlock innovation by creating an environment where outside of the box thinking is heard and encouraged. This is about all types of inclusivity – gender, age, nationality, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation. At WorldRemit we believe that diversity in the workforce helps to create a better understanding of our customer base as a global company present in nearly 150 countries worldwide. “

Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, founder and CEO at Akoni

In 2014 Meyerowitz Singh set up Akoni, which gives SMEs a platform that provides functionality normally reserved to large corporate treasury departments. Read a previous interview I did with her here.

What is needed to increase the number of women in fintech?

“Both financial services and tech typically low in diversity.  There are typical periods of time from entrepreneurial life, careers and professional life, studies and school where there are ‘markers’ in understanding the reasons women do not participate as fully as men, with and without children/ family responsibilities.  In addition if women have a different attitude to risk, the reasons for this need to be understood.  There needs to be clearer research into these markers to develop a different framework and response.  The increase in women will need a response across various stage of life, not simply once in the tech sector. “

What is the risk to the fintech industry if it fails to get more women working in the sector and leading companies?

“The sector and the way the world operates is changing rapidly and increasingly creative innovation within a robust and risk controlled delivery framework is critical in fintech. This combination is typically delivered through diverse input. Risks in the event of opportunity costs of not doing something have historically been difficult to measure.   RoI research and analytics on diverse management and boards demonstrates increased returns and increased corporate resilience.”

Data Center
Data Management