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 Tiama Hanson-Drury, Zitah McMillan, Shemina Jiwani, Sarah Clements, Robin Gregg, and Olga Karablina as they share their advice on managing financial goals and personal expectations.
Tiama Hanson-Drury, Chief Product Officer, Minna Technologies
Since first reading her words, I’ve felt Michelle Obama perfectly captured a sentiment that has driven me throughout my career; “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
In that vein, I want to share a bit about how I’ve managed to strike a relatively good balance in managing both my own personal financial and development goals.
There are three aspects to it. Firstly, I find it absolutely criminal that so many of us perhaps (hopefully) have an investment plan in our retirements, but don’t have similar investment strategies in our careers! Sure, you can (and should) put money away each month to ensure you can retire with enough funds to live the lifestyle you want (more on that later).
However, what about investing in your career now to ensure the time leading up to retirement is meaningful and rewarding? So often people haven’t prioritised their own development, and haven’t spent time thinking about what their priorities are for the next 3 to 5 years, much less the longer-term roadmap.
While there are plenty of examples of very successful people who openly claim they’ve just “followed what they liked” or “didn’t have a plan to reach where they are;” I’d argue that it’s much better to spend some time putting together a plan. It doesn’t have to be detailed; but it should be produced after considering what drives you? What brings you satisfaction? What are you good at that you can leverage to create a career where you are driven and satisfied?
For some, it’s very specific roles or job responsibilities. For others, it’s a quality of life or a type of work environment. Regardless, by focusing on what your ideal looks like, you can begin to put a plan together on how to achieve it. If you are reading this and thinking you’d like to try this, I encourage you to ask people you admire if they’d be willing to mentor you in helping create this plan. For those of us who are far into our careers, and have seen firsthand how to create a career we feel is rewarding, WE are best suited to help mentees achieve the same.
Secondly, investing in your financial future should not be limited solely to putting money into your pension or your retirement fund. I’m certainly no financial planner, however I’m very passionate about this point. Often the concept of building wealth is seen as a distant concept, or something reserved for the wealthy. However, there are increasingly great options that provide simplified opportunities for you to build wealth in a safe and surprisingly simple way.
Take for example, robo investing or micro-investing platforms, like Acorns in the US, or Nutmeg in the UK. You can sign up to “round up” your everyday purchases to the nearest dollar, and put the difference between your $2.50 cup of coffee and a round $3 into an ETF.
The idea is that by taking these small amounts of money and shifting them into higher-return investments, slowly over time, you’ll hardly miss the money from your bank account, but you’ll be building financial security for your future. This is a much better strategy than having money sit in a savings account that earns less interest than is required to keep up with inflation!
Thirdly, you don’t have to be an expert in either professional development or financial development to do either of points one or two. I was raised by two self-employed psychologists with no corporate business experience; and while I was lucky enough to be encouraged by them to learn how to balance a checkbook, manage my own budget, and always put money away for retirement; I certainly wasn’t educated in the stock market or concepts like ETF investing.
I simply learned because I had a goal to build a life that prioritised my personal and financial development. I asked others I admired to tell me how they achieved their goals. I did research on the things they told me had made a difference, and started to build up my own context around the concepts, and then started to experiment with putting these concepts into practice.
These three things are some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned throughout my life. I hope they spark inspiration for you too.
Zitah McMillan, CEO, Predictive Black
You’ve made the leap, you’ve started your own fintech or, like me, co-founded it and the excitement is building. What’s also building is the fear. Let’s be honest, it’s a hard thing to do so fear if healthy. However, as a woman in fintech you’re bombarded with ‘noise’ about how hard it is, how hard it is to be taken seriously, to get funded, or just to get decent support at home so you can commit to your new venture.
Thinking about my own journey, I’ve had multiple careers before I decided that now was the time to strike out and build my own business. So, I should be immune to the expectation gap or the financial challenges, right? Wrong. None of us get this totally right, and we should be ok talking about it.
In my company, we built our own software. No matter what price you put on that in terms of what you’re going to invest, your ‘boot-strap’ investment, you’re going to need to invest more. So you need to be clear about how much you can afford, or not, to put into the development of the business before you seek external funding. Which is a whole other ball game.
It’s likely that you will have come from a job which paid you and now you’re paying to do this new job. That is something you have to manage carefully. You are going to be watching your hard-earned cash disappear into the maw of your very hungry business, how you manage that is key to your future, both in terms of your business but also how you view yourself. If you spend more than you planned, as I have, does that make it a failure? No, as long as you’re clear on what you’re investing in and why it’s necessary.
You will come across naysayers. Those people who question why you? What reason do you have for thinking you can do this? Did you train for it? Do you have an MBA in whatever you’re meant to have or a degree in something else? All of these questions are designed to subtly and sometimes not so subtly, make you doubt yourself and what you’re doing.
Don’t let that happen. You’re on this journey for a reason. And remember, we’re all here cheering you on, even if we haven’t met yet.
Shemina Jiwani, Chief Operating Officer, AscendantFX Capital Inc.
Finding a balance between home and work is a constant challenge, especially as a mother of two young children. In my experience, I’ve found that daily balance can be elusive, but “big picture” balance is easier. Rather than focusing on the day-to-day chaos that can envelop a working woman, I focus on maintaining stability over time. There are days where I travel for work or have to work late, but I try to balance that out by prioritising focused days with my family, such as chaperoning my daughter’s field trips.
While many working mums found working from home during the pandemic challenging (myself included), it also presented some positives like being able to be a part of drop-off and pick-up. It was also great for my kids to see me working and understand more of what that means.
Finally, while it can be a source of guilt for many mothers, investing in quality childcare is essential for my family. It gives my husband, my kids, and myself peace of mind and the extra help moves us closer to the balance we constantly strive for.
Sarah Clements, Chief Delivery Officer, Delio
My main advice for managing financial goals and personal expectations would be: plan, be realistic and most of all, be honest – both with yourself and your employer.
Additionally, if you don’t ask your employer or inform them about any external circumstances, then you will never know if they can support you or not. Whether you need advice or support on balancing your career and personal goals, we need to normalise speaking up and having an open dialogue. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for advice or discuss solutions on juggling the two. I tried to encompass this attitude throughout my career, which has helped me in my current position as I navigated my new senior leadership role while being pregnant.
I had just been promoted to Chief Delivery Officer, which was an exciting time for my career goals. Yet, I also had concerns about how this new leadership role would coincide with my pregnancy and upcoming maternity leave. I felt apprehensive about managing pregnancy alongside the new responsibilities. More so, in the back of my mind that – even though I had reached this milestone in my career – I put pressure on myself, thinking things might change once I go on maternity leave.
All these worries in my head soon disappeared when I announced my pregnancy. I used these talks to express my thoughts and raise questions, and – even though I hadn’t expected any less – I felt heard by my boss. Everyone in the senior team positively reinforced the situation. My boss straightaway offered his full support, asked where the company could help – from a financial perspective and in terms of time off. It was such a positive reassurance that I could manage my personal goals (starting a family) with my career goals. It’s reaffirmed my belief that we shouldn’t shy away from having potentially difficult conversations.
In short, I’d say that personal goals don’t need to be paused at the expense of financial goals and vice versa. However, it’s necessary to be open and transparent when managing these goals. Build an open dialogue, plan for yourself, and make sure your employer knows what this encompasses. Be honest with yourself about how much you can do, how you can best manage both goals, and most importantly, don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations.
Robin Gregg, CEO, RoadSync
There are so many ways you can approach your financial goals and expectations. When it comes to financial literacy for myself and my family, I’ve found there are a handful of best practices I try to adhere to and instill in my children. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to finances, but I find this to be a helpful place to start.
- Stay open to conversations: As a society, we usually find it taboo to talk about money, which makes it difficult to engage in practical discussions around budgeting and financial management. So, we must remain open to conversations, especially with our children, about finances and how to achieve those types of goals.
- Think about how to prioritise your big expenses first: I’ve encouraged my children – and myself – to think about the big expenses first. Otherwise, you leak money, and you remove your ability to save for bigger, more meaningful, purchases.
- Determine your personal “hourly wage”: Everyone has an hourly wage. You must determine if it’s worth your time to spend 30 minutes on the phone fighting over a $5 charge vs. spending your time doing something that matters and would bring you more fulfillment.
- Decide what “money well spent” looks like for you: Money well spent for me has sometimes meant paying people to do things to give me free time. Especially when my children were small, having people to help me in the day-to-day was invaluable. I would encourage everyone to think about spending money in ways that help maximise your time and do what you really want to be doing.
- Plan ahead to make your biggest goals more attainable: Think about where you’d love to spend your money, and then make that accessible to yourself. It may be more accessible than you think if you are thoughtful about how you budget and where you spend money.
- Familiarise yourself with both traditional and digital means of payments: I would argue that an important piece of financial literacy is understanding all the means by which transactions can occur. From paper checks and cash to digital apps and touchless payments, there’s freedom in having options. Harnessing technology can be an efficient and seamless way to take control over your finances and visualise exactly where you’re spending.
Olga Karablina, Head of Product Development and Partner Relations, ECOMMPAY
While working in Africa for eight years, where I was the founding CEO of a VIP travel agency, I developed excellent soft skills when immersing myself into the complex cultures and languages of the country. I returned to Europe and whilst I had a bachelor’s degree in economics, I was lacking hard skills. When I joined ECOMMPAY, I also began studying for a master’s degree in finance.
Working in fintech for me is mostly about self-education and development – looking at what competitors are doing, reading media, communication and networking inside the industry to exchange knowledge. A company by itself gives a lot of information and while education is great, it can’t always give you what you need for work. During my first meeting at ECOMMPAY, I only understood 10% of what was said. I needed to prove that I was in the right place and that I could provide results so after the meeting, I went home and Googled all the words that I hadn’t heard before. That approach has stayed with me, when meeting with colleagues or stakeholders, you must be prepared for any question. This means spending time researching and building a solid understanding that helps you to anticipate and answer questions.
Within ECOMMPAY I haven’t felt any inequality, it’s a well-balanced company with women in multiple leadership positions, but I have felt uncomfortable sometimes due to others within the industry. For a man, it is easier to establish a professional impression from the start of a meeting by simply exchanging pleasantries and commanding the room. This is not always an option for me. To create a professional first impression I must first prove that I’m in the right place by starting with professional questions to demonstrate my expertise. I can then talk about topics non-related to the meeting, like the weather.
The best piece of advice I can give is to love the work you do and be structured in your approach. Don’t be afraid to take responsibility and get out of your comfort zone and, of course, continuous learning is key. At the end of the day, it’s always about self-development. You don’t always need to break a glass ceiling just because you can. You should do it if it brings you to the next level as a person, brings enjoyment to your career, and allows you to specialise into what you want.