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 Julia McColl, Samantha Fogerty, Neha Mittal and Amelie Arras as they share with us their greatest achievement.
Julia McColl, Commercial Director at Chetwood Financial
“Firstly, this is a dauting question to tackle but in the spirit of needing more female role models in banking and fintech, I am here sharing my story.
“My greatest achievement isn’t an outcome, a thing I delivered, or something I made happen. It’s a mindset I have followed that has influenced the career decisions I’ve made to date.
“Early in my career at Lloyds Banking Group I was given some really great advice not to chase promotions, but to really focus on breadth and learn as much as I could in sideways moves. At the time it was hard to hear. We were finishing the graduate programme and the competitive side of me was urging me into the level above. Instead, I moved around different teams, fine tuning my work, understanding myself better and learning what kind of a leader I wanted to be. I figured out what was important to me.
“Years later, having been promoted into a role that I truly loved, I decided to move into consultancy. Whilst daunting to leave my friends and colleagues behind, I knew that I would learn more about myself with a sideways step.
“At Capco I found myself learning so much more than I expected. It wasn’t just the breadth of work but a whole different set of leadership challenges, including building teams from scratch and selling work they wanted to do. I knew if I wanted to try and make Partner, I would need to run bigger projects and leave behind the customer proposition work I loved. It was a sacrifice I wasn’t willing to make.
“I joined Chetwood Financial as employee number one. The founders’ joke that at the time all they had was a PowerPoint presentation – and looking back it was a bigger gamble than I realised! I knew that if the worst happened – we didn’t launch our brands, receive a banking license or raise investment, I could get another job, as by moving around, I had reduced the fear around trying something new. But luckily it worked out! I’ve been at Chetwood for five years and we’ve accomplished so much. We’ve built 4 customer propositions from scratch, brought 4 brands to market, onboarded over 100 partners from aggregators to Banking as a Service partnerships, won awards and generated Trustpilot reviews that I am so proud of. Oh and raised investment, built a team of 180 people and got our banking license! Sometimes you just have to take a risk.”
Samantha Fogerty, Managing Director of Payl8r
“Never in my wildest years did I imagine I would be the MD of a finance company. My weakest subject at school was maths. And yet today I have built and now manage a multi-million fintech business. In my mind, my greatest achievement is overcoming the odds to succeed at something people told me I would fail at. Lacking natural ability in one area doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in it – it means you double down on your natural attributes until you find ways around the problem.
“At school I was energetic, confident and inquisitive. I performed well in all my exams except for maths. I really struggled at the subject, so I never imagined I would end up working in finance. In my early career I stayed away from anything that involved numbers, as I recognised my weakness.
“But just as I recognised my weaknesses, I had to acknowledge and rely on my strengths. My parents had a market stall when I was growing up, so I was brilliant at sales and dealing with people. I was great at negotiating, building relationships, motivating teams and had the drive, vision and creativity to start something from scratch and scale it for success.
“In 2016 I was approached by a really good friend of mine – Louis Alexander – to lead a new business he had formed. He already had a successful finance company under his belt, but he wanted someone to take his business plan and make it real. I scoffed at the idea initially as both he and I knew the limitations of my mental arithmetic, but eventually he persuaded me that I had the right skills to do this job, and I could see a big gap in the market for millennial finance.
“Over the past five years I’ve had to throw myself in at the deep end and upskill myself in a host of new disciplines and tasks. I’ve had to learn and understand a new industry and its regulations, mastered the art of underwriting loan applications, learned about back-end development, APIs and Iframes. I’ve learned how to build a decision engine and interpret credit bureau data, secured million-pound funding from banks and built a successful team where everyone feels valued. Payl8r won Best Retail Finance Provider at the Consumer Credit Awards last year and by 2026 I expect it to have become a £billion business. Throughout all of this I’ve never let my poor maths fail me.
“Fifteen years ago, nobody would imagine me working in finance. But believe in yourself and the rest will follow.”
Neha Mittal, CEO of Divido
“Back in 2018 when I was named one of Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35, as part of my application statement I had set out my vision ‘to revolutionise the old-school world of finance using technology over the coming years’.
“Jumping a few years on, I am now the CEO at retail finance firm Divido. This is a major personal achievement for me and a platform from which I’m in a position to really continue this mission of overcoming some of the barriers that I have experienced as a small Asian woman climbing the tall and often broken ladder set out for women in financial services.
“One way I see to revolutionise this industry is to foster inclusivity and drive diversity to bring in fresh thinking and innovation by championing those from underrepresented groups. Women are all-too-often missing from the meeting rooms and especially the board tables of financial services. I am proud to say that at Divido women make up a third of the executive team but there is still more to do.
“I have always said that ensuring your voice is heard is vital for getting on. Even if sometimes you have to shout, when a valid viewpoint comes to the fore women should always speak up. This was certainly paramount to reaching the position I am in today and I strongly encourage others to do the same.”
Amelie Arras, Marketing Director at Zumo
“One of my greatest achievements, and the one that opened my eyes to the potential of cryptocurrencies, was winning the 2017 Money 20/20 Payments Race, travelling some 2,300 miles on only bitcoin.
“The concept behind the race, now an annual competition, is that each racer must travel as extensively as possible around the world, using only one method of payment. This format shows the limitation of each payment method and demonstrates how important it is to provide choice to customers.
“Back then, it was a huge challenge because hardly anyone had heard of bitcoin, so to finish the race, I had to be creative and resourceful. These are qualities that I believe are crucial in the workplace, especially in the start-up world.
“It also made me realise the power of communities, in this case the bitcoin community, which I found to be open, friendly and amazing. This makes sense, given that bitcoin was created as a way for people to work together to reclaim their financial sovereignty.
“I used social media to connect with the burgeoning crypto community in each destination, providing updates on what I was doing via Facebook and Reddit. The response was unbelievable. For example, the Denver bitcoin community picked me up from the airport and drove me to my hotel. I used the same strategy to pay for food whilst on the road, finding community members who held bitcoin, letting them buy my dinner in dollars, and then reimbursing them in bitcoin.
“This was a few years ago of course, and since then the crypto and decentralised finance space has changed. Crypto is usually only considered from an investment perspective, but it’s actually offering a wealth of use cases, such as better international trade, and a huge potential to bypass an ailing ‘traditional’ financial system and boost financial inclusion.
“I’m proud of the journey I took, and it’s also led me to my current role at Zumo, a decentralised financial platform that brings the benefits of blockchain and digital currencies to people and businesses everywhere.”