This October at The Fintech Times we are championing the fantastic females in the fintech industry. Around 30% of the fintech workforce are women, and we want to spotlight those who have not only made it to the top, but those who have overcome hurdles, bulldozing a path for the women to follow.
Here we hear from Brittany Atkins, Karen Barrett, Indy Gregg, Lorraine Waters, Arta Abasina, and Dr. Cecilia Lenk, as they share their advice on managing financial goals and personal expectations.
Brittany Atkins, UK and Ireland Country Lead, Streamtime
“Only in my mid-20s did I realise that I had financial anxiety. For me this manifested itself as uncontrollable emotional outbursts when I had an unexpected or unfair expense to pay, feeling panicked when I wasn’t in control of a financial decision and depressed when I was living on a variable income. In comparison to my peers, I could see that I was over-reacting to these types of financial situations and as a very logical individual, it was difficult to understand how I could be so emotionally impacted by losing a tenner out of my back pocket.
“Our relationship with money and finance is impressed upon at a far younger age than we may expect. It’s before we earn our first salaries or are treated to pocket-money but from what we observe as children. I grew up in a single-parent household where finances were always extremely tight. Though I never went hungry, I would watch my mum cry, weekly, as bills came through the letterbox that she knew she wouldn’t be able to pay. So although by contrast, I was able to afford my bills, I had learned the emotional response of somebody who couldn’t.
“This awareness helped me define some very clear-life goals, which in turn made it easy for me to prioritise investment over saving and spending, seemingly ahead of my peers. I wanted to do more than save for a rainy day, I wanted to be able to weather a financial storm for both myself and my mum. Though I left university desperate to go to drama school, first I took a job in sales and bought my first property at 23 for my mum to live in. I didn’t yet know that I had any kind of financial anxiety but I did know that I needed to feel like she had some financial security while I was preparing to throw mine away.
“The unstable and insecure financial realities of an actor quickly proved too severe on my mental health and property investment was my turn to once again. Once again, childhood experiences of living in rented accommodation and moving yearly when landlords increased the rent has no doubt played a big part in this choice.
“Although money can’t buy you happiness, financial uncertainty certainly brings a lot of unhappiness with it. Financial independence and stability buys peace of mind and I’ll never take it for granted.”
Karen Barrett, Founder and CEO, Unbiased
“Coming through the worst thing imaginable was the main catalyst for launching Unbiased. My son Dominic was born with a serious heart defect and by the time the problem was identified, he was extremely sick. He was rushed to hospital and had his first open-heart surgery at four weeks old and the second at 10 weeks. It was a difficult time and because of the seriousness of his case, I stayed at the hospital for those first two months.
“In the middle of worrying whether he was going to be OK, I was also anxious about practical things such as: Do I have health insurance? Will I be able to go back to work? If so, when? Will I need to stop working permanently, to care for Dominic? How will we manage financially as a family? I was faced with an unexpected situation and found myself completely unprepared.
“We’re so lucky and grateful that Dominic who’s now 12 is very well but it was that experience of feeling unprepared financially, coupled with my interest in tech and career in the financial sector got me thinking. I realised there must be millions of others in the same situation I’d been in and the concept of an easy-to-use, free, online service that can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere and that uses technology to match people with the best, trusted professional advisers, suddenly made total sense.
“Running my own business has allowed me to be a parent on my own terms. For instance, I had a meeting with a government body when my youngest child was three weeks old , so I took him with me. And I’ve had to learn to delegate at work and at home and that ‘good enough is good enough’.
“One of the things we’re trying to do at Unbiased is raise awareness of the financial pressures women can face. If they take time out of the workplace to have children, it’s not uncommon to stop pension payments because they can’t afford them. But with higher rates of divorce, it’s not a given that things are going to end up how they expected, so they may be putting themselves in a very precarious position.
“If I could wave a wand and change one thing, it’d be to persuade more women to start managing their own finances. It’s empowering because when you have financial security, it gives you choices.”
Indy Gregg, Founder and CEO, Wedo
“I don’t really have financial goals. My goals are all about solving problems. I want to help more people. Money is a by-product of creating value for others. We win when we deliver stuff that helps solve problems for people.
“So, I tend to use the money to measure how much people love something or want to use something because that product or service truly improves their life. The only personal expectation I put on myself is to never give up. Life is a bit like a slot machine, you have to keep pulling down that arm over and over again because you know if you keep trying, you’ll eventually have a pay-out.
“I don’t gamble, but when I visualise the idea that every call I hop onto, every time I speak and have someone say no, I just move on to the next one, because I know it’s made me one step closer to a pay-out in terms of getting a deal done, or raising capital, or whatever it is. I don’t believe in luck, I believe you make your luck and when you create things that help other people help either themselves or other people, you’ll win. Just keep trying.”
Lorraine Waters, CDO, Solidatus
“When I left school in the mid-’80’s I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I did know I wanted to work, earn money and become independent and so went to work in banking rather than to University. While I wish I had gone to Uni for the experience and the learning, the truth is that the lack of higher education has not held me back, and getting work experience early actually helped launch my career forward.
“Never be afraid to take the leap into a new role, have confidence in yourself even if you can only do 50-60% of the requirements, you will soon look back and think ‘what was I worried about?’
“Always be there to help others and use the experiences you’ve gained to empower others that are still in the early stages of their career, especially if it means creating opportunities that people may not have had otherwise. One of my favourite quotes is by Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, when she said ‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.'”
Arta Abasina, Head of Operations, Nordigen
“My parents were always keen for me to appreciate the value of money. It was only when I started to work alongside my studies that I really began to understand money and its worth. If you’re waiting tables or mopping floors at an hourly rate, as I did throughout my time at university, you become so much more aware of how much things actually cost.
“Knowing just how I earned – or more accurately – how many shifts I needed to work to buy university books – was perhaps the best introduction to setting out financial plans and goals. It helped me to budget, save for rainy days and to put money aside for a well-earned summer vacation. This was a great start, there’s plenty more to cover when it comes to personal finance management, and unfortunately, there is little guidance available for many young people.
“Subjects such as Maths and Economics certainly help with the basics of personal finances, but there’s little time devoted to this in the typical school curriculum. It’s particularly worrying here in Latvia, as older generations are less likely to be financially literate themselves. If not at school or at home, where are young people supposed to learn how to manage their money?
“Throughout my time as an Investment Director at Overkill VC and now Head of Operations at Nordigen, I have had to tackle strategic and financial decisions on the business side on a daily basis. This experience positively impacted my ability to manage personal finances to be able to manage the household and any unforeseen expenses or other uncertainties.
“My main tip? Prioritise and plan ahead. Approach your finances with the little things first; something as simple as creating a weekly meal plan can help you get a handle on your spending and a better understanding of where your money is going. For goal setting or saving for a rainy day, try opening a vault on Revolut or investing roundups on MoneyBox. Lastly, don’t forget to bring everything together by creating a personal budget – this is helpful in providing accountability and avoiding nasty surprises.
“Once you have a good understanding of the basics and feel in control of your personal finances, it can be exciting – and a little daunting to think about what comes next. One book I love to suggest to everyone is the Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. This book offers a human look at the financial world, how it works and, most importantly, helps you understand your own attitude towards money and where it comes from. Though I’m no longer waiting tables or mopping floors for an hourly wage, the lessons I learned during those days and the years since have shaped my perspective on personal financial development. Your own experience might be very different, and it’s important to tailor your approach to planning and finances so it fits with your view of the world.
“Hoping to change the situation for more young people, together with fellow members of Global Shapers Riga we created FinLit; a non-profit initiative aimed at improving financial literacy rate in Latvia. Our work has led us to collaborate with universities and work towards making this a part of the curriculum for all university students.”
Dr. Cecilia Lenk, Chief Executive Officer, Netcapital Inc.
“Countless books, articles, blogs, YouTube videos, tweets, and even Hollywood movies offer women advice on how they can successfully juggle and balance their personal and professional lives. For all the advice that’s out there, one thing is clear—there is no magic solution.
“For me, the biggest challenge harmonising my personal life and my professional ambitions and expectations was always childcare. Even with the added support of my spouse who has his own demanding professional life, it was never a well-oiled machine. Snow days, sickness, travel, unexpected change in schedules, meetings, miscommunications, anything and everything could, in an instant, upend the whole system.
“For example, one sunny summer day, I took a short trip to New York for a morning meeting. I went to the meeting because it was expected that I would attend, and because, frankly, I viewed it as good for my career. I dropped my young daughter off at daycare at 7 am, then took the shuttle to New York from Boston with a plan to return at 1 pm, well before her daycare closed. I should mention my husband is a paleontologist and was away fossil-collecting. My easy, what could go wrong trip still gives me nightmares. The cab ran into traffic getting back to LaGuardia airport. Planes that usually left every hour were massively delayed due to weather. I was going to be hours late. I called the daycare, people on the pick-up list, friends who my child knew well. Of course no one answered their phones or were away as well. I left lots of increasingly panicky voicemails. Finally on the plane, using one of those weird plane phones, my future sister-in-law agreed to pick up my child. I didn’t get home until 8 pm.
“Most women with children have similar stories of trying to make the opposing sets of personal and professional demands work somewhat in harmony. It is often impossible. During the pandemic, far too many women have been forced to leave the workforce because of closed daycares and schools. If we are to solve this one single aspect of managing our personal and professional lives is affordable, quality childcare. My advice is to do all you can to advocate for it.“