How much will diversity in fintech change the way you accept payments and manage your money?
It’s a simple question with complex possibilities as the industry evolves but the answer can be found in the main factor driving the industry – you, the business owner.
Financial service providers of all kinds and sizes are racing to bring you the latest solution to address your biggest challenges when managing your company’s finances and do so with next-generation customer experience.
The competition is fierce to get the attention of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and decision makers with the latest bells and whistles, but one key factor in differentiating which payment services provider (PSP) is implementing a true perspective of market needs is diversity in fintech leadership.
Viewpoints from women in fintech
Nadja van der Veer, a legal consultant with expertise in international payments, explains how the importance of diversity in leadership spans beyond fairness and impacts the product output overall customer experience for small businesses.
She says: “Women bring in different perspectives. They consider different aspects of a service offering. Women are often the primary buyer within a household and are therefore often owning the customer’s perspective.
“With a gender-balanced management in fintech companies, they can better mirror diverse customer bases. Bringing in a variety of different perspectives, backgrounds and experience can be key to the company’s success, so gender balance is just one aspect in that key to success.”
The connection between diversity in industry leadership and product output is important, which makes it even more important to support and encourage equal representation from the inside out.
Here are the top five women on my watchlist to keep up with the latest developments in fintech and who are simultaneously pushing for gender diversity in fintech leadership for better financial services products across the globe.
@MghendiMartha – founder, European Women Payments Network (EWPN) and African Women in Fintech and Payments (AWFP)
With years of merchant acquiring, ecommerce and card present experience under her belt, Martha founded the EWPN after being frustrated by the lack of female leadership in the industry.
She says: “Until we realise that we are stronger together instead of handling the challenges in smaller groups, we shall continue to be under represented. We transact cross-border, let’s converse cross-border as well.”
Nadja van der Veer
Legal consultant with expertise in international payments
A member of the EWPN executive board, Nadja is a legal expert in regulation surrounding the financial services industry. She consults merchant acquirers, PSPs and fintech start-ups on how to expand their business internationally while mitigating risk.
Nadja reveals the defining moment that sparked her into action for gender diversity: “I was one of many who thought by working hard, I would move up the chain. But at a certain point, I realised that alone was not enough. I had to stand up for myself, too.
“I love the quote ‘behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful (wo)men who have her back.’ I realised that even more when I was approached by the founder of the EWPN that it was time for me to stand up and be a mentor, a coach, a buddy to support others.”
Nadja says government measures such as the Women in Finance Charter in the UK and regulatory quotas for boards of big companies are evidence that there is still a lot of work to do.
She says: “I believe that there is still room for acknowledgement of the existence of gender parity; we are definitely not there yet.
“In the Netherlands, people are often blinded by what has been achieved in the last decade and feel that – compared to other non-EU countries – women are very much equal.
“This is a misconception and we won’t be able to achieve anything before this is looked at differently. There are more unapparent barriers holding women back, either by their surrounding or by themselves.”
@silviamensdorff – General Manager Europe, ACI on Premise
Silvia has more than 15 years of experience in payments across all areas of the value chain – from consumer payments to transaction banking. She is also an active participant of FemTech Leaders and Women in Payments, and an executive board member of European Women Payments Network.
She says: “Studying chemistry, I was used to a male-dominated environment, so when I started working in payments I initially didn’t give it much thought. About 10 years ago, I attended an industry conference and it suddenly dawned on me that I was the only woman in the room of 250 participants. That was weird.
“From that point on, I became irritated when I sat in front of another ‘manel’ [men-only panel sessions] because women also have valuable viewpoints.
“When ACI’s group president, Carolyn Homberger, started the ACI women’s initiative six years ago, I felt inspired and started to get involved in industry initiatives. I must say things have changed in the last couple of years – more and more women speakers and a lot of attention for diversity. These are exciting times in our industry.”
Silvia agrees a diverse perspective is pivotal for the innovation the fintech industry needs.
She says: “There are many companies who understand and agree with the need for balanced diversity across the industry, not just because society demands it, but because the organisation sees the value of it.
“This respect goes beyond gender to culture and belief – diversity requires respect of each other’s differences – and not just respect – curiosity and a learning mindset to understand each other’s perspectives and to wonder and find the spark of innovation in that.
“Differences that we embrace do not divide us, they unite us and make us stronger and smarter.”
@tothestoics – speaker, writer and influencer on topics covering financial disruption, fintech, regulatory tech (aka regtech), digital/crowd finance @FinTechRevTV
Dara co-founded Fintech Revolution as a channel to serve content about the latest technologies driving modern finance. Her passion for gender balance within the industry grew alongside her industry involvement in its early years.
She says: “I’ve been fascinated by the rise of fintech since the mid-1990s when this little invention called the internet first emerged and began to transform everything from how we communicate, to how we shop to how we invest.
“I was so inspired by the appearance of online brokerage firms that I left Wall Street to launch an internet-based company that would, for the first time, give retail investors access to Wall Street’s roadshow and conference calendar.
“I didn’t think it was fair that only institutional investors had unfettered access to Wall Street’s roadshow calendar – particularly when this information is very useful when trading equities.
“But it was the 2011 passage by the House Financial Services Committee of a bundle of bills Americans know as the JOBS Act, coupled with the energy surrounding venture exchanges to trade secondary privately held shares of game-changing social media companies [such as Facebook and Twitter], that inspired me to drop everything I was doing in order to ensure that fintech and regtech democratise the investment landscape.”
Dara adds: “I think women bring a unique perspective to fintech, which is necessary to ensuring the progression of the industry. In 2012, I hosted a conference called Women Transforming Our Financial Markets, which featured many of the women driving the digital finance revolution. It was eye-opening.
“It was the first Wall Street conference I had attended that was predominantly female. There was a lot more collaboration, interactivity and sharing of ideas.
“A big discussion at the event was centred on how women approach investing differently. I think my good friend and former colleague Lisa Thompson said it best when she said: ‘The difference between men and women when it comes to investing can be summed up in four words: Men gamble. Women shop.’
“Now, just imagine how that differing mentality will impact our financial markets as they evolve through a digitally driven world. It will be epic.”
@GhelaBoskovich – founder, FemTechGlobal
Ghela’s passion for diversity in fintech started FemtechGlobal, a networking community of men and women working toward diversity and inclusion.
She leads fintech and regtech innovation for Rainmaking, the home of Startupbootcamp, and sits on advisory boards for Money20/20, the Merchant Payment Ecosystem, and other initiatives in the financial inclusion and digital identity space.
She is a frequent name on influencer lists and a well-known evangelist for changing the fintech landscape from both a business model and inclusion perspective.
4 things your business needs to do to stay ahead with fintech
My pick of fintech influencers also offered advice and best practices when using fintech for your growing business. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Rely on third-party provider experience
Nadja points out that SMEs should take full advantage of the benefits of today’s new technology.
She says: “Use the experience of third-party providers such as e-commerce and CRM platforms. Only after international expansion and growth would a more tailored and sophisticated approach be of potential benefit and handling certain payment processing options yourself [think, for instance, about payment initiation services in the European Union].
“With all recent regulatory developments around data protection [including GDPR], find a platform that hosts all data collection; keep your own data collection involvement to the minimum.”
2. Use a good payment service provider
For businesses looking to improve their payments process through fintech, Silvia says: “Look for a good payment service provider that is geared toward growing businesses.”
3. Be clear on Open Banking and PSD2
Silvia says: “Understand the impact of PSD2 and Open Banking if your business is pan-European. If you want to add other fintechs to further your integration, understand what stage of development the fintech is in. It needs to be your choice if you want to experiment.
“Payments are a critical part of your business and they need to be smooth, easy and seamless but availability is key.”
4. Brush up on your fintech knowledge at conferences
It’s an exciting time to be a business owner of any size, but for small and growing businesses, fintech influencer Dara says it’s important to pay attention to what is in development to maximise influence and usefulness.
She says: “Because technology evolves so rapidly, it becomes displaced by a better iteration. It’s enough to merely look at new fintech launches or products that have hit the market. You need to try and get a peek of what is in the process of being developed.
“Some of the best insights can be gleaned by attending fintech and venture conferences or by visiting the websites of VC funds that focus on fintech and read up on their portfolio companies.”
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