Home Slider Why Fintechs Need to Make Bigger Strides in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Why Fintechs Need to Make Bigger Strides in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

by internationalbanker

By Teresa Cameron, Chief Financial Officer, Clear Junction

 

 

 

 

Innovation…disruption…transformation…” The fintech (financial technology) industry loves to throw around buzzwords such as these with lofty proclamations of being progressive and forward-thinking to attract investment. While it’s true that many fintech services are dynamic and pioneering, the industry is at risk of stagnating and failing to consider what’s most important: the customer’s needs. Why? Because fintech has a people problem. For an industry that claims to do things differently than its tech peers, fintech is lagging in improving its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Fintechs love to drill into data, the fuel that powers every product development and service launch. But when we look at the data on the people who staff fintechs, they’re still overwhelmingly male, white, able-bodied and neurotypical. That’s why I was disappointed but not surprised at the results of a recent survey from recruitment firm Nigel Frank International, which found that male tech professionals think sexism in the industry is “rare”. In the face of so much evidence to the contrary, the findings show we still have a long way to go to achieve equality:

Fintechs are in for a rude awakening, though. At a time when a drop of 34 percent in fintech funding and investment in 2023 is forcing firms to rethink their priorities and approaches to securing new funding to grow, those firms that strive for diversity in their teams will be the ones to thrive. The data is clear: Companies in the top quartile for board-gender diversity are 27 percent more likely to outperform financially than those in the bottom quartile. The evidence shows that the more diverse an organisation is, the more innovative it becomes, leading to stronger revenue growth.

Today, private-equity and venture-capital (VC) investors are much more circumspect when handing out money. They’re tightening their scrutiny on whom and what they invest in—not just on company financials and products but also on the people and working cultures within those companies. Around 45 percent of investors surveyed by EY stated that gender diversity in the boardroom significantly influenced their decisions to invest in a financial-services company, in contrast to just 16 percent who said it did not influence their decisions.  

Diversity—drawing from a wider well of talent

It’s a no-brainer that when half of the global population is female, fintechs need to do more to represent the customer bases and communities they serve. That means getting more women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers, encouraging their paths to the C-suite and ensuring product and service design considers the needs of users from a wide array of backgrounds.

What hurdles are holding women back from progressing in their careers? And how can the fintech industry dismantle them and maximise the talent available to them? Work-life balance is crucial. In some of my previous roles, when I was juggling work with caring for young children, my employers and colleagues would comment negatively on me leaving at 5 P.M., conveniently forgetting I had started work at 7:30 A.M. to ensure I got everything done. Business decisions would often be made by colleagues in the pub after work—excluding those unable to attend. Attitudes like these have pushed many women out of the workforce.

With COVID accelerating the shift towards the hybrid working model, employers have thankfully become more understanding of the need for flexible working. At Clear Junction, I can work from home two or three days a week, and team members (for example, those returning from maternity leave) are allowed to work hours that are convenient for them—as long as the work gets done, of course. Adapting work schedules to family and personal requirements goes a long way towards getting the best out of people. If you give staff that flexibility, they will pay you back in loyalty and hard work. I’ve done it myself, and I like to give others the same opportunity.

Another big help in improving diversity is having mentoring and support networks in place. I’m a big believer in women championing women. That wasn’t the case when I started my career 25 years ago. There might be one spot open for a promotion, and women often had to compete with other women to get that spot. Now, it’s very different, and women are championing other women, engaging in networking initiatives and sharing knowledge and experiences, which is a huge help in getting more women into senior leadership positions. It gives me hope that my daughter will not have the same challenges I had when she starts working.

Reframe DEI not as an obligation but as an opportunity

Instead of being seen as obligations, efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion can be opportunities to attract the funding and talent that fintechs need to keep innovating. Drawing upon different talent pools, insights and experiences will generate better-formed, fully-rounded products and services. With these in place, those organisations will more successfully meet the needs of customers, who also come from a wide array of backgrounds.

At Clear Junction, 50 percent of our senior management team are women—and it’s not just a tick-the-box exercise. We’re all there based on our own merits, but we happen to be women. We are open to the right people, regardless of where they’re from. Within our London office, there are 10 different languages spoken by people with different perspectives, attitudes and life experiences. I believe having that diversity in our team is a large part of why we’ve become so successful. In fact, we were recently recognised by the Financial Times in its “FT1000 Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies Special Report”, which highlights the fastest-growing enterprises in Europe based on their highest compound annual revenue growth rates. The rankings reflect those entities building sustainable paces of growth and thriving amid an uncertain macroeconomic situation.

On a broader level, I’m heartened by the progress to make fintech more diverse, equal and inclusive, but there is much more work to be done. We need to think boldly and explore beyond well-trodden recruitment paths to plug STEM skill gaps. Aside from improving the gender and racial makeups of fintechs from the ground all the way up to the C-suite, the industry also needs to do more to employ people with disabilities, including neurodiverse individuals. We need fresh sets of eyes and non-conventional minds to tackle and overcome emerging cyber threats and create the trailblazing fintech technologies that will shape the future.

2024 may bring more stable economic conditions, but investors will look at businesses that can show sustainable growth bolstered by productive workforces inspired to contribute to their employers’ successes. Ultimately, fintechs should empower women and under-represented minorities at all stages of their careers—from just starting out to joining the boardroom—with the confidence to make their voices heard and build positive change.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Teresa Cameron is the Finance Director of Clear Junction. She is an experienced finance, treasury and risk-qualified professional with an impressive career spanning over 25 years across diverse sectors. In her current role, Teresa looks after finance globally for all group companies as well as working closely with Clear Junction’s CEO on the company’s growth strategy.

 

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