The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is generally an up and coming region with respect to its wider economic development. Specifically, the region has seen a growth and importance in fintech, producing its own unique innovations, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the space. As The Fintech Times in September celebrates the Women in Fintech we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading female leaders in both the Middle East and Africa. One of them is Keren Chavkin, who lives in Israel and is an expert in fintech and specifically in Data and Banking.
Keren is a global operations and business development delivery executive. She is passionate about delivery and data.
Keren has 20 years of proven international record in running operations and products in a multinational environment. including leading teams across global locations to achieve operational excellence and ongoing efficiency.
For the last 2 years she has been the COO at Innovesta and before that worked for 17 years in the global bank HSBC (she made a huge move from big corporate to the startup world). She is passionate about fintech, data and delivery. specialising in really make a difference in the way companies and products work as a business strategic thinker and problem solver.
Ke ren is an enthusiast of innovative technologies and financial services, grasping an exceptional understanding of the fintech ecosystem.
Describe your career journey
During the end of the studies at the university, I began to work at the branch of the global bank HSBC as part of the establishment team of the Israeli branch.
My next most significant step was to lead the architecture of 15 countries in Europe and, in the end, I was an established partner in building and leading the Bank’s global innovation and cyber center in Israel.
As a manager of innovation, I scouted and looked for startups in the financial fields, I found a new world that was exciting, challenging, and tough of start-ups. From that moment I was fascinated and I decided to get the courage, to leave the wonderful conditions and salary of the global banking technology career and to go to be an entrepreneur in a startup company. So today, I am the COO and Director of Israel for an AI start-up company, Innovesta.
As a recognized thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?
During the 20 years of my career journey through financial technology, I worked mainly with men, mostly European. I got used to being different, as a woman, as a foreigner (language and culture). One difficulty I will never forget, and it’s important for me to convey the message forward: Six years ago, I was asked to participate in a conference to lecture to 300 seniors IT from the bank about the innovation lab that I established. The lab was my “baby”, but the thought I would stand alone on the stage, Keren Chavkin from Israel facing all the European men, frightened me so much, so I let my colleague take the lecture instead. On the day of the lecture I sat in the hall, I looked around me, I saw 4 women (including me) and 300 men – At that moment, I promised myself that I would always speak up in order that this case will not come back again. And since then, I have always been answering “yes” for invitations to speak and to be on the front of the stage.
What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?
Two main trends in the region ecosystem: one: New regulatory of banking and technological regulation reflected in similar Outlook in Europe and :two: Develop a trust relationship between the banks and the ecosystem and their integration in the bank’s technology strategy.
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region?
My advice is to take the chance and be brave, from my experience one you have the courage and acting accordingly, somehow you have solutions for all the issues.
In every kind of career, there are always reasons why it is not worthwhile to take a risk and why it is not appropriate for a lot of reasons (such as this is not the right timing, I’ll wait that the children grow up, I’m not suitable, there are better candidates than me) but the as a human being – our life and career changes according to our courage.