Open Finance South America Spotlight Women in Tech

Women in Fintech; A Mix of Empowerment and Innovation

The fintech industry has been historically male-dominated. Despite the barriers for women gradually being broken down, there is still a long way to go.

A culture of acceptance is crucial in continuing to tackle the biases that have been created in the industry: without employees and members of the community feeling like they can speak freely, new innovative ideas tailored for specific groups may never reach the drawing board. This is something the industry cannot afford, as it is the only way it can progress. 

Sitting down with The Fintech Times, Lía Garayalde, head of comms at Prometeo gives her views on how the fintech industry is evolving in its attitude towards women in high positions, whilst also discussing how open banking has evolved in Latin America (LatAm), looking specifically at how Prometeo is helping its users in the region.

Tell me more about yourself and your company?

My name is Lía Garayalde and I am the head of comms in Prometeo. I have a degree in Communications and I’m specialised in strategic and corporate communications. I’m passionate about what companies, and specifically startups, can accomplish and how far they can get with thoughtful communications strategies. Prometeo is the largest open banking platform in Latin America, we provide a single point of access to information, transactions, and payments across more than 36 financial institutions and over +100 APIs in ten countries of LatAm. Open banking is a new trend for some people in LatAm, so from the comms perspective, we also feel we have to provide good quality content and clear information about what we do, how we can help your company, and also, what we believe in and who we are. Being able to articulate those messages and communicate them is a daily job.

What problem is your company aiming to solve?

In Latin America about half of the population does not have access to any financial product. Financial exclusion, under-banking, and unbanking are problems that affect both people and also all types of companies: large corporations, medium-sized companies, and especially micro-companies.

In Latin America is challenging to move, earn and save money. It’s a very heterogeneous landscape that varies from one country to another, (even from one state to another), and each one of them has its own rules and financial products. So how do we connect those dots? That’s the challenge. At Prometeo we like to picture it as we are building huge highways of financial information that connect those dots. We allow companies to access financial information and be able to operate with it. The goal is to make this information the raw material for innovation in services and products that do not depend strictly on the banking operation.

What does the fintech space look like in LatAm?

LatAm in the past few years, especially since the pandemic started, has become a fertile field for financial and technical development. The market potential for fintech projects and tech startups has increased exponentially, and covid-19 accelerated digital services’ adoption from users. Suddenly, in 2020, we were not able to go to pay our loan, to the ATM, or pay our bills. Those who were outside the “system” were forced to get in it. At the same time, not every bank or financial institution had their digital banking products fully developed, so many fintech had the opportunity to tackle those gaps and provide targeted solutions for that population that felt their bond with their financial management changed completely.

What are the major fintech trends you’re seeing at the moment?

Due to covid-19 and the drastic digital transformation, the pressure for banks to innovate across the world is high. They have recognised how partnering with fintech can modernise their offerings, without building the tech infrastructure themselves. At the same time, banks support compliance and regulatory structure that helps fintech establish appropriate security and regulatory frameworks. Their new products can be brought to the market faster and more efficiently, and they can benefit from a wealth of data. Crypto companies and digital banks are also experimenting high demand of their products.

What will the LatAm industry look like in five years?

I think what we are seeing now in terms of growth and development of financial services provided by fintech is just the beginning. There’s still room for growth and the potential that Latin America has is big. This is a region with 600 million people living in it and almost $6trillion per year.

This opportunity we see today will develop, establish and be secured in the upcoming years. Crypto companies experienced exponential growth in the last few years. It was a global growth but it also impacted in Latin America, this attracted investors and we envision this will continue.

What are the challenges of being a woman in fintech?

As Latin American women, we face different challenges at different levels: cultural, financial, personal and also structural ones. Women founders have to deal with their fintechs raising less investment vs men ran companies. Also, the proportion of male and female founders is disproportionate.

These are all situations that we have to deal with on a daily basis but from my experience, although we are still far from where we want to be, women have made great strides to get into leadership roles and fintech is the combination of two industries that have been historically dominated by men. So there are cultural, personal and structural challenges we have to deal with on a daily basis.

What can the industry do to help overcome these challenges?

As organisations, we have to see our team members as a whole. We have to check on their personal and professional needs, what they like and what they don’t, how much they are paid, who is their support group, what role they have in their families. Our Team and culture teams need to be prepared to form diverse teams, to have a critical eye and be able to stop and think “ok, this is how I want my team to be, these are the type of team members we need”. In my opinion, we need to ensure that organisations are prepared to receive and expect diversity in workgroups. This is how we are able to provide healthy relationships and good working conditions for our employees.

At Prometeo we are very committed to inclusion, gender inclusion specifically, and we believe that small things are the ones that matter. We promote inclusion and an open channel for dialogue: we feel it’s really important that all our team members feel they can express their feelings and thoughts and they will be listened to, no matter what. For example, we have developed a gender guideline with recommendations and specific actions we’ll be executing throughout the year and beyond and that will reinforce what we are already doing. So working and promoting a diverse and inclusive culture is something that each one of the industry stakeholders can do.

How is women’s empowerment changing the fintech landscape?

The financial world has been historically dominated by men and if we take a step back we’ll realise that we manage our finances with a male perspective. There’s a high potential in fintech to develop financial products with a women’s perspective, specifically thought for them. Only by adding in new perspectives, may we be able to change things and empower women.

What’s the role women play in interpersonal relationships? Why is it so successful for businesses in general?

Our emotional skills have taken a huge role in our daily interpersonal relationships. We have
brought to the table new approaches and new ways to do things, by standing on this emotional
skills. These new ways have made a shift on how businesses were traditionally made, or how
decisions were taken. For us women, is really important to communicate our value and share our
voices, but first we need to understand our own value: what we have to say and what we can bring
to the table.

In order to do that, each of us have to create our box of values, principles, ways, etc and live by
them.

What do fintechs need to do to ensure a better future for women in the space?

I think the important thing is to generate instances where we can open the space for all types of
conversations, especially those that may sound uncomfortable but that allow us to reformulate the
biases that exist in the workspace, in turn, creating more open cultures.

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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