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 Natalie Luu, Sarah Davis, Vivian Shen, Diane Myer Brown, Liat Aaronson, and Darcy Douglas, as they share how they paved the way for others to follow.
Natalie Luu, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners
“This is another question that is more personal, so we recommend providing your point of view but we’ve put some thoughts below.
“If you are in the early innings of your own financial journey, you may not have had years of experience with personal financial services such as having multiple bank accounts, investment accounts, credit cards, mortgages, and loans. Exposure to financial services in your personal life will help you better understand the underlying inefficiencies in the industry and how you can prepare for them.
“If I could tell my younger self about managing personal finances, I’d make a few key suggestions. First, I’d open a checking account with a well-known bank branch that has a no-fee ATM card available. Since SoFi and other challenger banks released no-fee ATM cards in 2018, many of the major branches such as Capital One and First Republic have followed suit. Secondly, I’d check out NerdWallet to compare credit cards. Many students start off building credit with a capped limit credit card, also called a “secured card.” It’s a great way to establish credit when your expenses are naturally low, so that by the time you graduate college and have a full time job, you can apply for credit cards with high rewards. I would highly recommend no annual fee, cash back reward credit cards that align with your spending categories. My most used card is the Amazon Prime Visa Card due to my frequent shopping on Amazon.com and Whole Foods.
“After opening a bank account and credit card, I’d deposit my excess savings into an investment account. Traditional platforms such as TD Ameritrade and Vanguard, or neobrokers such as Robinhood are great options to exposure to the market. Once you have funded an investment account, do your research on large publicly traded companies who have historically performed well and have strong management teams. Early on in your financial journey, it’s better to invest in a large cap, blue-chip stocks or index funds such as the S&P 500.
When you are financially secure and are open to taking risk, I’d recommend investing <10% of your savings into the largest cryptocurrency assets by market cap. As an investor in blockchain, I believe the crypto industry will grow substantially in the coming years. Consider investing a small portion of your liquid investments in crypto, but invest at your own risk!”
Sarah Davies, Head of Data and Analytics for Nova Credit
“It may sound like an oxymoron, but creating a rope ladder for others starts with an understanding of why you’re building it. Set aside your saviour and superhero complexes that might be your motivation to help others, and find humility and gratitude that you have been invited to help others learn from your journey – both the wins and losses.
“For rope ladders to be helpful, we must be willing to start with building relationships with those on the ladder. Explore people’s passions, aspirations and goals. Your goal is to find and see the potential in others. Seeing their potential predominantly shapes how you will create opportunities and learning for them to learn and grow. Be especially aware of minority concerns, don’t be afraid to discuss how they can affect fears, goals and aspirations.
“Having established this foundation, give individuals a seat at the table on projects and initiatives where they can engage, learn and contribute in ways that align with career aspirations. The key here is to offer individuals opportunities to stretch beyond their current roles, to explore new capabilities, and skills in order to help them understand what their next role could be. Simultaneously, look to offer opportunities that help the individual understand how concerns related to being a minority can impact their career path. Your role here is to create or suggest opportunities that maximise learning opportunities for the individual whilst not creating exposure for the company. Be willing to be transparent – sharing your personal journey, your successes, and, as critically, your failures, what you learned along the way. Don’t feel the need to have all the answers, rather facilitate the learning experiences and look to connect individuals with others who can offer insights.
“As you develop these relationships, you’ll naturally find a few folk you’ll stay closer to, fulfilling a more intentional mentoring role. I’ve found that it’s helpful to allow these relationships to grow organically rather than programmatically, if they’re to become beneficial to the individuals you’re working with.
“Finally – be ready for people to pass you on the rope ladder. I worked for a great CEO many years ago who said we should always try to hire people who are smarter than us. Sometimes it may not be immediately clear how smart someone is, but creating a rope ladder that allows them to realise their fullest potential also ultimately benefits the entire organisation.”
Vivian Shen, Head of Global Marketing, Amadis
“The strength of a leader is not just defined by the accomplishment of the individual, but more so by the strength and quality of individuals they nurture and propel along the way.
“I have been fortunate enough to work alongside amazingly talented individuals as colleagues, mentors and mentees. The ability of a strong leader to support the team that surrounds them from all angles, demonstrate strength, partnership and positive reciprocal growth.
“As a people manager I have encouraged an open dialogue atmosphere that encourages idea sharing, positive collaborative work spaces and regularly make it a priority to give accountability and provide accolades as it warrants. This is critical to the successful management and building of trust and team, and the type of leader I choose to be. A team member who does not feel they have the opportunity to openly communicate concerns, challenges and at times grievances, will not have your trust completely, and can lead to a breakdown of communication, workflow and overall team and sometimes individual success. One that can hear about opportunities, be given the accountability and accolade upon work success, will learn positive communication skills they can carry on throughout their career.
“When individuals have success, let them know it! It is critical in positive development to be acknowledged for wins. Even if contribution equates to being part of the team, call out the effort. These can be communicated in a variety of ways, but I have done my best to try and give that commentary to the individual and also to acknowledge in presentation or delivery of solutions, that successes were achieved by the work of the group, not just myself as the individual.
“As your team members begin to show expertise and comfort in their roles and responsibilities, encourage growth and present new challenges to them. Expose them to different types of projects and work with alternate teams to get things done. When given the opportunity to share and create opportunity, treat team members as you would hope to be treated, with positive intent and positive opportunity, even if that could mean a change in roles, teams or organisation.
“Individual success and positive team contribution, starts by your example. Presenting yourself and the best your teammates can offer, shows confidence in your abilities. The best leaders have had strong support and exposure to opportunities and have been encouraged to rise. How you represent yourself, how you create equal opportunities for your team members, and encourage growth in those that you interact with, shows strength in your skillset, and makes you a better leader who can champion on.”
Diane Myer Brown, Chief Marketing Officer at TrackStar.ai
“I feel that we only get as far as we can by helping others without the expectation of something in return. If I can open a door, provide an introduction, recommend a skill set – I am there. Being a part of something bigger than yourself truly matters. A commitment to helping others get ahead sits at my core and we all need help in growing our careers and businesses, so why not be one of the people that helps others do that?”
Liat Aaronson, the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Horizen Labs
“I am an educator at heart (and experience) and this invariably drives my desire to help others grow in their careers. Though I aspire to help younger people of all genders and view diversity of all kinds as an incredible asset for any company — there is so much research to support this — I do recognise the need to give more of my time and attention to my female colleagues as a personal driver. Whether through investment opportunities as an angel investor or connector, or being a soundboard to the myriad of obstacles that arise in starting a company, I’ve made it a point to mentor aspiring female entrepreneurs within the startup community in Israel, through innovation, mentorship and accelerator programs, and other initiatives.
“At Horizen Labs, where I’m a co-founder and COO, we have made diversity a goal, and judging by our diversity metrics, we are succeeding! Just in my talented team of seven, we are predominantly women, each from diverse nationalities working remotely from three different countries.”
Darcy Douglas, Vice President of Global Program Management at Taulia
“In my experience mentoring is important, but you need to take it a step further and actually champion people for leadership roles in the organisation, to help them get there. Across my career, I have found the most impactful colleagues have been those who have not just supported me but who have highlighted my abilities within our company or industry.
“Mentoring is of course extremely valuable to everyone involved, the guidance and advice for the mentee and the learnings for the mentors. But a champion helps you succeed, they will put your name forward for opportunities when you have not necessarily been considered. My advice would be to be an example. Be a role model who shows people how you have risen through the ranks as a woman or a minority and use one hand to advance your own career and the other hand to help another person with you.
“The experience of being championed in my career helped me when I implemented a development program called LIFT that instils our company values and culture of support across our team. LIFT started as a programme focused on providing a support network to women at Taulia, however, we quickly realised that the programme should be inclusive of all employees as the supportive network that developed across the company was of value to all employees, especially other minorities.
“In addition to the LIFT programme, I saw a need for a specific Taulia Leadership Programme after my own experiences when reaching the leadership level. I had amassed a career’s worth of experience across my speciality but felt I was not in a position to make decisions on how to run the business as I wanted more knowledge of the different areas of the organisation. The Taulia Leadership Programme ensures future leaders of Taulia have the opportunity to prepare themselves in advance and broaden their understanding of the company. The LIFT programme and Leadership Programme have helped develop over 100 women and minorities at Taulia”