The necessity of diversity and inclusion within fintech has become a core element of the industry and is just as integral to the success of its leading players as any other form of innovation. In recognition of its increasing status in the recipe for success, this month, The Fintech Times will pioneer the topic through a month-long investigation into how equality is really being delivered.
The Fintech Times is dedicating the month of April to showcase the fintech industry’s brightest and boldest initiatives aimed at championing equality, diversity and inclusion for all.
This next edition of our series dives into the ground-breaking initiatives being led by industry pioneers across all fractions of the world.
Diversity starts with hiring
As we continue our investigation into diversity success stories, our conversation here is launched by One Inc, the insurance payments processing platform with more than a decade of revolutionary experience in its sails.
The company’s CIO, Elizabeth Hoemeke, has a clear and demonstrated passion for pioneering diversity and inclusion within all facets of the fintech industry.
In their efforts to modernise payments in the insurance industry, Hoemeke led One Inc’s partnership with Visa to introduce tokenisation to the insurance industry, and the company’s integration with the Hi Marley Insurance Cloud, allowing insurers to connect and transfer funds to their customers in a single integrated and frictionless text chain.
With this, there is no doubt about the strong correlation between company success and diversity. Emphasising this point, Hoemeke cites a 2020 report from McKinsey which proves that companies with diverse boards enjoy higher levels of profitability.
While this fact should make investors and leaders support diversity initiatives, Hoemeke confirms that “too often they have not.”
“Change must start with someone refusing to accept anything less than a diverse, initially uncomfortable team of people united by a common purpose – to make products that delight their customers,” she continues.
“And with the right guidance, role modelling and expectations, they will grow to love working together, not being able to imagine anything else.”
So how has One Inc successfully pioneered a diversity and inclusion success story?
As Hoemeke explains, “I have a responsibility to expose my teams to diverse perspectives and celebrate those who have the courage to bring new ideas and spirited debates to the table.”
She confirms achieving diversity as a key priority for the company, something that is reflected in the building of its teams.
“Building diversity starts with hiring, it requires self-awareness and it needs to be intentional,” explains Hoemeke.
“Numerous studies have shown that to be a good leader, you still must be acutely aware of your unconscious biases of hiring people that are ‘like you’. Progress is seeing that same intentionality in your own leaders, which I have seen in mine!”
The power of payments within underserved markets
Continuing the conversation is Pyypl (pronounced ‘people’), the international payment technology company and mobile-led financial services app using blockchain in its core systems.
The company is certainly no stranger to pioneering diversity and inclusion and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in the world to achieve this very important mission.
This includes its 2021 partnership with Visa to together champion financial inclusion across the emerging markets of the Middle East and Africa.
Delving further into the company’s ground-breaking activity in this region is Antti Arponen, Pyypl’s CEO and co-founder.
“Our core product offering is built around a prepaid debit card, empowering users to purchase goods ‘in-store’ and to participate in ‘internet-based e-commerce’,” explains Arponen.
“We also provide remittance services, peer-to-peer fund transfers and have a strong pipeline of other products,” he continues.
’79 per cent of young adults in the MENA region alone are unbanked’
Pyypl provides its users with various different and convenient ways to load funds into their wallets, which can then easily utilise all the products and services available in their market.
Arponen confirms that the company’s mission has always been to offer key financial services, in one app, for Africa and the Middle East’s 800 million smartphone users. He is also alarming aware of how many of this demographic are currently financially underserved.
“According to the Arab Monetary Fund,” he comments, “79 per cent of young adults in the MENA region alone are unbanked.”
In this, the company’s own findings indicate that access to credit can be extremely difficult for those in the region without a bank account. This makes it much harder to pay for basic necessities such as bills, education, and healthcare.
“By offering solutions such as virtual and physical payment cards – not linked to any bank account – we empower millions in Africa and the Middle East with smartphone and internet connections, to access and pay for healthcare services and education,” says Arponen.
“While emerging markets infrastructure is not yet fully developed, mobile money services already connect millions of people unbanked and underbanked in the region – to digital financial services. By the end of 2025, our goal is a market presence in over 20 countries across Africa and the Middle East,” he concludes.
The rise of equal opportunities
Elysia Hegarty, associate director with the Future of Work Institute at Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group, talent solutions specialists serving the UK fintech industry.
With over two decades of experience in human resource management, well-being and employee engagement Hegarty partners with businesses to help develop strategies to attract, engage and retain employees.
She does this through diagnostic assessments, strategy design, workshops and events, while frequently contributing to papers, articles and podcasts on a range of future work topics.
Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group is part of the Cpl Group of brands and businesses – a transformational talent solutions organisation which provides services across the full talent spectrum.
Over the past 30 years, Cpl has grown to include many specialist teams and brands. From recruitment and flexible workforce solutions to advisory, business and service outsourcing, the business works with many of the world’s most respected organisations in Ireland, the UK and Europe.
Acquired by OUTSOURCING Inc., in 2021, the combined organisation has access to a global sourcing and delivery network of 250+ sister companies across 39 countries, spanning six continents.
‘A sustainable future for both businesses and people’
“At Cpl’s Talent Evolution Group, we have created a series of services that allow for the development of bespoke engagement strategies in support of businesses wanting or needing to; drive human centricity, boost employee engagement, and encourage equal opportunities,” Hegarty explains.
Some examples of these services include; the Future of Work Institute (FOWI) People Value Proposition Model, FOWI Leadership Models and DE&I Models. These services have been utilised by large technology organisations to deliver positive change.
“Working with a large organisation on a three-year programme, our shared goal was to build on the client’s commitment to a sustainable future for both the business and people, building the right skills to promote equal opportunities,” continues Hegarty.
“The challenge that businesses must understand, is that these programmes and DE&I journeys are a long-term commitment for delivering genuine value for business and staff.
“There is a misconception that these services can act as simply a ‘tick box’ exercise for businesses, but we ensure our clients understand the long-term value of this work. This programme was tailored for the client through a series of deep dive sessions and evaluations.
“Our focus on DE&I and human-centric upskilling initiatives led to the drive of succession planning and sustainability, achieving the goal of seeing an increase in female applicants for more senior roles.
“This included mentor training of leaders, mentorship for female leaders, psychometric examination and interactive workshops,” she concludes.
Diversity and inclusion in home ownership
Many homeowners across the US are faced with the challenge of being house-rich and cash-poor. And historically, traditional home financing options have not been able to help solve this problem.
In late 2021, Hometap, the alternative loan provider, published a report that explored the racial and ethnic disparities that exist around awareness of home equity and debt. It found that Latinx and Black homeowners are both more likely to have debt, and less likely to know how much debt they owe or home equity they have than their white counterparts.
The company’s first product, a home equity investment, was established to help as many homeowners access the funding they need as possible — regardless of factors such as FICO score or debt-to-income ratios — to eliminate debt faster and reach other financial goals like making much-needed renovations, funding a child’s education, and more.
Beyond FICO scores
This is facilitated through Hometap’s unique product structure, which has introduced an innovative, debt-free way for homeowners to leverage their home equity.
Speaking with the company’s president and COO, Sarah Dekin, uncovers more about how this unique approach is changing the game for homeowners across the US.
“Our data-driven, proprietary model uses machine learning to analyse hundreds of factors beyond FICO scores and debt-to-income ratios to provide a more accurate assessment of applicants’ financial standing,” Dekin explains.
“This makes investments possible for more homeowners across the country — including small business owners, self-employed individuals, and others that may have been shut out by the more restrictive qualification criteria of conventional financing options.”
To date, the company has helped more than 7,000 homeowners access their home equity without any monthly payments or interest while retaining its commitment to bringing financial literacy efforts to communities.
“Our research revealed additional racial disparities in the understanding of home equity, so we’re focusing on closing this gap through various initiatives as part of our corporate social responsibility programmes,” she says.
“Finally, we’re focused on bringing new, innovative products and services to market that will help homeowners better understand their home equity and solve the house-rich, cash-poor crisis one family at a time.”
Challenges along the way
As Hometap leads innovation within a fairly new product category, Dekin admits that “there were many challenges to overcome.”
Elaborating on this, she explains how gaining consumer trust required the company to not only establish credibility but also to educate homeowners on the ins and outs of home equity investments and raise awareness of HEIs in general.
“We’ve also placed a strong focus on building out a best-in-class experience for our homeowners that’s easy, fast, responsive, and extremely transparent,” she continues.
This includes a dedicated investment manager who guides each homeowner through the investment process, provides personalised support, and answers questions in a timely manner.
To deliver on this goal, the company spent significant time training its sales team and refining its processes. “We’ve also made a major investment in technology to ensure a seamless user experience for homeowners, from our easy-to-use online application to our unique, blended home valuation methodology that offers an accurate, fast, and cost-effective way to determine home value,” adds Dekin.
‘A godsend for our family’
When questioned about the benefits the company is ultimately delivering to its end consumer, Dekin sees benefits deriving from the company’s home equity investments in a number of ways, chief of these being that a Hometap investment enables them to assert control over their financial future, address significant financial needs, and gain peace of mind.
“It also presents a unique, home financing solution without interests or monthly payments when historically, the majority of options involved the burden of debt,” she adds.
“While home equity investments aren’t the right choice for everyone, they provide a new and necessary way for homeowners to tap into their equity.
“It’s been incredibly rewarding for us to see the realisation of our mission to make homeownership less stressful and more accessible through concrete metrics like our industry-leading 4.9 Trustpilot score, as well as firsthand experiences our homeowners share.
“Whether it’s through reviews calling us ‘A godsend for our family’ or the testimonials on our website in which homeowners relate stories of how we helped them deal with the aftermath of a loved one’s death or illness, fund household renovations, or stay in their homes during a period of unexpected difficulty, we’ve made a positive and significant impact on almost eight thousand homeowners,” concludes Dekin.