As The Fintech Times in September celebrates the Women in Fintech we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading females. One of them is Marieke Flament, an expert in technology, blockchain and financial services.
Marieke is CEO of Mettle, a unique fintech proposition as the digital-only business account for small businesses, backed by NatWest. She is passionate about exploring the ways in which technology can be used to change people’s lives and is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in finance and technology. Marieke was also recognised in the Women in FinTech Powerlist for 2019.
Describe your career journey
I’ve always been fascinated by technology and the role it plays in society, which led me to studying for a Masters in Computer Science at TelecomParisTech and Shanghai Jiaotong University. Being exposed to such different cultures at a young age was so important for my development – it inspired my curiosity and encouraged me to explore new avenues.
My compulsion to try new experiences led me to complete an MBA from London Business School. It was there that I first understood the potential of technology to transform the world of business and finance. I quickly realised that through innovation we can completely change the way money moves around the world, and how people interact with and access their finances.
But my background isn’t actually in finance, as initially, I worked across the globe in a diverse range of companies – from the luxury giant LVMH of Louis Vuitton fame to Boston Consulting Group and Expedia’s Hotels.com, where I headed up the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions.
In my last role as Managing Director of Europe and Global CMO for Circle, one of the largest crypto companies, I was part of the team that pioneered the consumer application of blockchain. During my time there, we took several products to market and built a user base of over two million in less than two years.
Being a key player in moving the blockchain agenda forward through working with key decision-makers – including governments and financial policymakers across Europe – has been a major career highlight for me. Under my leadership, I’m proud to say that Circle was the first FinTech to sign HMT’s Women in Finance Charter and achieve a 50-50 gender split in the sector.
As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?
Throughout my career, I’ve strived to bring diversity and equality to the forefront of the minds of senior leaders in technology and financial services. And no matter how much we do, there is still more to do in that area.
More broadly speaking I think it’s key to see difficulties not as a failure, but as opportunities – or in fintech speak – test and learn!
For example, I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t failed – in France I tried to get into the top school and failed the entry exam, and at the time I felt my world crumble as I had to move to a lower-tier school. In my mind at the time, that was undoubtedly a failure, but I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for that experience and what I took from it. It’s key to try new things to continuously improve and grow.
What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in fintech?
One thing I love about working at Mettle and within the fintech sector is the speed of the technological advancements we are experiencing.
A trend I expect to continue is the ease in which new customers can set up accounts. Thinking back five or ten years, it seems like a distant pipe dream that you would be able to open a business account without leaving your house. What was previously a difficult, confusing, and often frustrating experience for customers is now incredibly easy. This is a direct response to the increasingly busy lives we are leading, the uptick in people starting their own businesses and a growing expectation and demand for digital services – which has only been catalysed by the current pandemic.
Fintech is ideally placed to make everyone’s lives easier, sometimes even without them realising it. This is particularly true for SMEs and independent traders, who have historically been hugely underrepresented by the banking sector – which is surprising as they make up 10% of the UK’s workforce. This is where Mettle steps in to support those who may not have the knowledge or resources to take the leap and support the UK’s recovery post-COVID.
Looking forward, I expect that fintech will become part of the interface of other products. At Mettle, we’re working towards a model that enables customers to access a full range of financial services and other business tools from one hub – saving them precious time so they can focus on what matters most. These tools include free access to FreeAgent, which we have integrated into our services to make it easier for our customers to keep their books up to date, making theirs and their accountants’ jobs easier at year-end. Integrating accountancy tools is just the start, we will forge partnerships across the banking and business ecosystem to meet customer needs today.
Something else I envisage becoming more of a focus will be how our work can drive outcomes that benefit society. Not just allowing small businesses to enter and support local economies, which in itself creates a virtuous cycle as businesses grow, but also improving the levels of minority representation in fintech.
Women remain underrepresented in the industry. The latest figures show that we only make up 30% of the workforce. This is a huge cross-section of the talent pool which isn’t being recruited. I am passionate about seeing those barriers brought down and glass ceilings broken. For instance, at Mettle, we are running listening workshops with the aim of defining what it means to have a fully diverse and inclusive culture. Diversity in the workplace can only benefit teams and I’m looking forward to seeing greater gender, ethnic and cultural diversity in leading roles. This is vital as we need to ensure our businesses truly reflect the customers that we serve.
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders?
My key advice would be: if you are passionate about something, go for it. Throughout my career, one thing I’ve learned is the importance of mentors and role models, and surrounding yourself with a group of cheerleaders and supporters. People who will be here for you when times are tough and people who will believe in you when you stop believing in yourself. The ones who will say “yes you can”.
I had two key mentors; firstly whilst at LVMH looking after IT, the VP for Asia Pacific Jean-Christian Seguret took me under his wing and taught me about finance and your balance sheet and thanks to him I changed my career significantly. I learned a lot about the importance of being genuine as a leader with your team.
The other was Adam Jay, a leader at Expedia, and I learned a lot from him in terms of thinking about business more broadly. So personally I have found the male perspective around me valuable – it demystified a lot and help me believe that anything is possible.
To this day I keep surrounding myself with cheerleaders, mentors and coaches – there is no way we can achieve anything without other people!