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.
Having explored the challenging dynamics of fostering inclusion in fintech in part one, here we continue this mini-series with an equally-as-fascinating line-up of industry experts.
Inclusion tied to business success
Leading our conversation is Dr Liz Wilson, behavioural scientist and founder of Include Inc., a solution with a strong focus on improving team climate to drive performance.
With the full application of her industry expertise, here Wilson discusses the challenges of fostering inclusion in fintech. In this, she identifies getting senior stakeholders to buy into active and visible sponsorship and leadership of inclusion as a primary challenge.
Developing why this is the challenge that it is, Wilson cites a variety of barriers to this being achieved.
Firstly, she states that “Inclusion objectives aren’t built into the organisation’s business objectives. Listing inclusion as part of the ‘values’ is not enough,” adding that “It must be a business priority tied to business success measures.”
Of the other challenges in fostering inclusion she identifies the lack of accountability among senior stakeholders for achieving inclusion objectives for the organisation; adding that “it’s assumed it’s HR’s problem to deal with.”
In mitigation of this, Wilson advises that inclusion objectives “need to be cascaded from the organisation’s objectives into the performance expectations and measures of success for senior stakeholders.”
‘When the CEO cares, so do their direct reports’
“The leadership of inclusion improvement initiatives are often left to employee resource groups (ERGs) that may exist in the organisation,” she adds.
“Instead, there should be a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) council or committee chaired by the CEO with representatives from across the organisation and the ERGs (if they exist) to ensure a strategically aligned approach is taken with clear guidance from the CEO. When the CEO cares, so do their direct reports.”
“The traditional identity-specific siloed approach to addressing inclusion means senior stakeholders that do not identify with that ‘identity’ don’t see the relevance to them.
“Getting buy-in means finding the WIIFM (what’s in it for them). Move away from addressing individual identities (eg. gender, race, LGBTQI+, disability etc) and instead consolidate diversity and inclusion intervention efforts with a focus on the needs of all people, all identities, and all intersectionalities,” concludes Wilson.
She cites the ‘8-Inclusion Needs of All People‘ as an example of this latter point.
Leading on from this, Martha Salinas, who is the chief commercial officer at the global B2B fintech company TreviPay, while also serving as the executive sponsor of the company’s dedicated DEI committee, establishes the importance of ‘top-down inclusive’ initiatives.
“Creating a DEI committee is important to drive cultural awareness through dialogue, training, discovery and impactful initiatives within a company and across its communities,” she affirms.
Yet even with such a committee in place, Salinas also recognises the challenge of ensuring that DEI initiatives are truly inclusive, and not exclusively representative of some groups.
This, as she explains, served as a primary catalyst for the creation and development of the company’s ‘You Belong‘ initiative, which ensures that each of its employees around the world feels part of the TreviPay community.
“Sexual orientation, race, background, disability, gender, nationality and age all make us who we are, and we must embrace everything our employees offer, in the fintech industry and beyond, because everyone belongs,” says Salinas.
“To create this culture, companies must be deliberate about it. It is not enough to set up policies against discrimination and for parity. It is about making every single employee feel they belong.”
The ripple effect of inclusivity
Salinas ensures, as her 26-year tenure at TreviPay demonstrates, that such intentionality and empathy can also “shine through to customers and partners.”
“From a tactical perspective, a business commitment to language diversity, and by extension the product or service combined with cultural empathy, is one way to improve customer experience,” she continues.
“Deep loyalty is formed through positive customer experiences that can be more impactful even than competing on price. Providing customer support in a multitude of languages in a culturally empathetic manner is key to earning customer loyalty or businesses risk losing clients.
“Recent research showed that 75 per cent of customers are more likely to purchase from the same company again when after-sales support is available in their own language,” Salinas adds.
So ultimately, to best foster cross-border inclusion, whether it be across employees or customers, Salinas recommends that “companies must embrace differences, evolve perspectives and unite strengths.”
Outside TreviPay, Salinas is an angel investor and part of Mid-America Angel Investors, focusing on local technology start-ups, and the Women’s Capital Connection, supporting the development of women-owned businesses.
High-risk industries and challenging economic environments
While there’s no doubt that the majority of fintech companies strive to improve financial inclusion, as Daniel Kroytor explains, challenging economies may make achieving this task even harder for startups and high-risk merchants; especially when entering the e-commerce playing field.
Kroytor is the founder and director of TailoredPay, which offers secure payment processing solutions to traditional e-commerce stores as well as businesses operating in high-risk industries.
He pinpoints the main challenge here as the reliance of inclusive fintechs on impact investors.
“While these investors want to make a difference in the world, they still want to see some returns,” explains Kroytor, adding that this can lead to conflict over the current business model, sometimes even moving their business away from the customers they sought to serve.
“Not accepting outside financing means we can take on high-risk clients and democratise entry into the e-commerce marketplace,” he continues. “This gives us a competitive edge when attracting new clients.”
“While seeking venture capital is often necessary when scaling, bootstrapping our business means we can do what’s best for our customers instead of what’s in the best interest of investors. After all, it’s customers who decide whether you stay in business, no matter the extra funds you secure.
“Though it also means I’m taking on all the financial risks, not taking on outside financing means we can offer better pricing, providing even greater value to our clients.
“And because our client list includes many businesses operating in high-risk industries, it’s an opportunity for us to help make the marketplace more accessible. It’s a more rewarding way of doing business while distinguishing our services from our competitors,” concludes Kroytor.