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Diversity & Inclusion Editor's Choice Fintech Trending

What Role Do Fintech Leaders Play in Fostering an Inclusive Working Environment?

This June at The Fintech Times, we’re focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). No longer just a trending topic but an essential consideration to not only your business operations but in your offering as well, this topic feels more relevant now than ever before.

The fintech industry is known for its innovative, agile reputation, and yet it still faces a significant diversity problem that threatens to halt its growth and stop that innovation moving.

Leading by example is often the best way to see real changes, and the top executives in fintech have the chance to create an industry that we can all be proud of – but they have to make those changes in the first place. We spoke to several members of the sector to understand just how big a role fintech leaders can and will play in the push for diversity.

Vision and values

Nikolay Denisenko, the co-founder and CTO at digital banking app, Brighty App, said:

Nikolay Brighty App
Nikolay Denisenko, co-founder and CTO, Brighty App

“Leadership is crucial in fostering an inclusive environment for any company. It starts with the vision and values that the people in leadership positions share across the organisation, which are then implemented in the company policies, allocated resources and the continuous development of the company and its team. 

“While this can be more difficult to do as a start-up, given that resources are more limited and the teams tend to be smaller, it’s important for leaders to keep diversity, equity and inclusion top of mind in order to ensure both the well-being of their teams, as well as how the company progresses. For example, during the hiring process, our human resources department ensures fair recruitment processes and considers applicants on a merit basis, regardless of where they are from. Being in the fintech space, at Brighty we provide our team with flexible work arrangements, so they can work from any corner of the world. 

“The fintech space as a whole has a role to play in providing inclusive services to the general public, including serving the under-banked population, providing low-cost and alternative banking services, as well as offering educational resources and tools to help individuals understand financial products, budgeting, and investing.

“Overall, companies can play a significant role in addressing societal inequality and fostering a more equitable economic environment.”

Moral imperative
Yael Malek, chief people officer at Bluevine, a digital banking platform, said:
Yael Malek, chief people officer, Bluevine
Yael Malek, chief people officer, Bluevine

“As leaders, we are tasked with both setting an example and guiding our teams toward understanding the significance of inclusive language and actions. By taking moments to educate and illuminate the broader impact of our words and decisions, we can help activate leaders who are equipped to drive change from within.

“We must prioritise inclusive hiring to welcome a more diverse candidate pool. Today, it’s essential to move beyond hiring practices that can inadvertently limit opportunities for capable, underrepresented individuals. We should be challenging ourselves to think creatively and not merely hold to the existing mould, which might seem easier but ultimately stifles diversity efforts and thus decreases the potential for more creativity and innovation, stronger financial outcomes, and overall customer value.

“When we hire, we have a crucial opportunity to represent voices that are not in the room. Working collaboratively is key to identifying candidates we might otherwise overlook. It involves taking a critical look at assessment criteria and processes to ensure they are genuinely inclusive.

“Ultimately, our commitment to DEI is not just a moral imperative but a sound business strategy that drives us toward greater innovation and a deeper understanding of the communities we serve.”

Setting the tone
Katie Barnes,
Katie Barnes, chief human resources officer, BHG Financial

Katie Barnes, chief human resources officer at personal and business loan provider, BHG Financial, said: “Company success and culture begin with strong leadership and the ability to motivate, influence, and lead by example.

“Leadership plays a crucial role in fostering a healthy environment by setting the tone. Our leaders strive to promote inclusivity by actively creating opportunities and showing their employees that great ideas come from all backgrounds and job levels.

“We reinforce DEI through ongoing education and training opportunities, tracking our progress through data, and incorporating leadership competencies that encompass inclusion into performance reviews and ongoing feedback.”

Shaping values

Aysun Ahi,
Aysun Ahi, chief people officer, Openpayd

Aysun Ahi, CPO at Banking-as-a-Service platform, Openpayd, said: “Leadership plays a pivotal role in fostering an inclusive environment. Leaders have the power to shape values and behaviours, embedding DEI into the company’s mission and vision. By setting the tone for the organisation, they can inspire others to champion DEI initiatives. An inclusive environment is unattainable without leaders who embrace and exemplify these values.

“Indeed, DEI should be in the agenda of all business leaders and it’s paramount that they are held accountable to drive it forward. There are a several key measures that should be used to ensure leaders can be held accountable for DEI goals. These are:
  1. Openly setting expectations: leaders must clearly communicate DEI expectations to all employees.
  2. Leading by example: demonstrating commitment through their actions is crucial for inspiring others.
  3. Providing resources and support: ensuring adequate resources and support are available for D&I efforts is essential.
  4. Judging results: evaluate the diversity of the board and executive team, as well as the overall company. Incorporate DEI metrics into performance evaluations to ensure leaders are meeting these goals.
“By integrating these measures, organisations can hold leaders accountable and drive meaningful progress toward an inclusive environment.”
Supporting and uplifting
Maggie Vo
Maggie Vo, managing general partner and chief investment officer at Fuel Venture Capital

Maggie Vo, managing general partner and chief investment officer at Fuel Venture Capital, said: “Leadership plays the largest role in fostering an inclusive environment because decisions come from the top of a firm.

“At Fuel Venture Capital, we have built our team with a culture of inclusion and diversity from the outset by supporting, uplifting, and ensuring there is always a woman at the table. Leaders need to make it a point to form strong networks and communities with other diverse people in finance and in the technology ecosystem to develop mentorship and sponsorship programs to foster the growth and development of future generations of powerful, diverse people. You can hold leaders accountable by encouraging diverse hiring practices and, if you’re a VC firm, actively seeking out companies with a diverse founding team.”
Transparent career paths
Gloria Garcia Cisneros
Gloria Garcia Cisneros, wealth manager, LourdMurray

Gloria Garcia Cisneros, wealth manager at financial services provider, LourdMurray, said:

“Even though there has been an uptick in diversity across companies, the work is not done. To make sure this DEI work isn’t performative, the representation needs to extend past entry-level roles when we look at managers and C-suite roles. This requires transparent career paths, intentional mentorships/ERG groups, and clear professional development/education opportunities.

“When looking at offerings and product creation, it is still common for executives to apologise and say they didn’t know better when making mistakes. Checks and balances need to be put in place to do better. If they care, they will implement. The best way to make sure you create innovative and inclusive products is to have the right seats at the table. Leadership has to recognise the power of diverse thought and include representation at the decision-making table.”

Author

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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