As The Fintech Times celebrates Women in Fintech this September, we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading females in the industry. Here we meet Sam Seaton, CEO of data and intelligence platform Moneyhub. Australian Sam, who has lived in the UK since the mid-1990s, has the ethos ‘noise is easy to create, but making a real difference is much more difficult’.
Samantha Seaton has more than 25 years’ experience at tech and financial services companies. She started out at global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson before becoming CEO of financial forecasting firm Evalue.
Following this, Seaton became managing director of Momentum Global Investment Management Retail UK business, before taking on the role of CEO at Moneyhub in 2016.
Moneyhub is now the market-leading open finance data and intelligence platform, with clients including AON, KPMG, Lumio and Nationwide.
In addition, Seaton is also a digital advisory panel member at Newbury Building Society and a member of the Money and Pension Service’s Pension Dashboard Steering Group. Seaton was also recently appointed as non-executive director at CAF Bank – the bank for charities and non-profit organisation.
Despite carving out a successful career in the financial services industry, her fintech story could have been a very different one. Australian-born Seaton grew up dreaming of riding horses for a living, while also mulling over a career in nursing.
Her uncle talked her out of the latter, and instead, she went to university to study computer science. After completing her degree, Seaton moved to the UK to pursue her equestrian dream of representing Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympics by competing on the international circuit, but narrowly missed out on qualification.
How did you go from competing on horses to working in financial services and fintech?
I had an amazing time being part of the Australian Olympic squad and competed between 1996 and 2000 in the UK. I took part in all the major events across Europe, such as Badminton and Burghley, Boekelo in Holland and Punchestown in Ireland. But in the end, I didn’t quite get into the final five for the Olympics. So, it got to 2000 and I thought ‘what do I do now?’.
I had done some part-time work at consulting firm Towers Perrin [which later became Towers Watson] and had got quite close to them as a company. At that point, the company was coming off models and spreadsheets and wanting to get onto the internet for its client base because they all wanted everything on the internet. I kind of hit the time when there was a transition as a business here in the UK, probably worldwide, and started working with Tillinghast, its institutional financial services division. I helped with the projects that needed to be model-based and, as a result, got involved with financial services.
How have you found working in a traditionally male-dominated space?
From the start, I was one of very few women on my computer science degree course. I went from an all-girls school to nearly all boys overnight and there was a bit of a boys’ club, but I never felt unwelcome. Of course, I didn’t want to take part in their farting competitions, but I’d go out for fresh air sometimes and say, look can you stop so I can come back in?
It’s probably only in the last 10 years, where it became obvious to me that if we do not change that kind of behaviour, girls haven’t got hope. Perhaps in today’s era, I would probably be more confident to say, this is not acceptable. But at the time, I went along with many things, because you almost just had to, to fit in.
There was a very funny experience at one company, where I was told I had done an exceptionally good job, but they wanted someone else – a man – to step into my role to see if they would have more success. I don’t think they were meaning to be sexist but that was more upsetting, that a person who was very senior couldn’t see their mistake. That’s when I think it started to dawn on me how far we’ve got to go as an industry, and probably more widely, as many attitudes in the world are ingrained.
What can be done to help more women succeed in the industry?
One of the main issues is the lack of flexibility in the workforce. There has to be more flexibility around the working female as I think that would make the biggest difference. It is certainly something that I hope I can influence my colleagues at other businesses where they’re perhaps not thinking quite as bravely.
I do have many male colleagues in this industry that I talk to a lot about this, and I make sure that they really think it through a bit more. It is important to make the maternity and paternity leave equal. Help make it a choice between the parents as to who takes the time out and for how long.
At Moneyhub, we give six weeks for maternity or paternity as standard.
Can you tell us about the Open51 initiative?
I am a founding member of Open51, an organisation that promotes the role of women developing open finance and the new data economy.
It is all about making sure the 51 per cent of the population who are women are represented correctly in the world of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
This is key as I worry what we have done in the past will make its way into the algorithms that are going to apply more and more in the future. I’d like to do my bit to stop that happening and make it fair and equal.
Which women in the industry do you admire?
I love some of my fellow fintech community, who I have a lot of time and respect for. Such as Felicia Meyerowitz Singh at AkoniHub, Jayne-Anne Gadhia at Snoop and Romi Savova at PensionBee.
And, I really like people that make a difference. I also have on my advisory board my former mentor Margaret Snowden OBE, who is an expert in pensions. She’s just one of those amazing people who gets on and gets things done. I’m also a big fan of Dame Helena Morrisey – she’s had nine children and achieved so much.
Noise is easy to create, but making a real difference is much more difficult. These women have got a lot of tenacity and they also care about the people in their businesses and the community that they are servicing.