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Wonder Women: Celebrating Female Fintech Leaders

Ronny Lavie, Managing Editor at The Fintech Times

It wouldn’t really be a sweeping generalisation to say that, if you walk into the boardroom of pretty much any company in the finance and tech sectors, you will be met by significantly more men than women. But how is it possible that, in the 21st century, we can have self driving cars and robots with minds of their own, but the idea of a woman CEO is still a novelty?

According to a 2017 study by EY and Innovate Finance, women represent 29 percent of the workforce within the UK fintech sector, despite 47 percent of the workforce overall being female. As for women in leadership positions, the same study found that only 17 percent of senior roles within the sector are held by women.

Believe it or not, it gets worse. Looking at the companies listed for the Fintech50, out of 124 founders, only 6 are women. That’s a sorry state of affairs.

The reasons for this inherent lack of equality are varied, and are ultimately rooted in a prejudice which still lingers from a time when a woman’s role in society was to cook the bacon her husband brought home and rear his children.

Thankfully, things have moved on since then and, these days, women are doing everything from curing terminal diseases, to presiding over murder trials, to going into space. Women are also running, and founding, successful companies, and yet, every woman we have spoken to about the unequal representation within the sector said that what we need is more visible role models, for our young women to take inspiration and direction from.

Based on this, The Fintech Times has decided to launch a new regular series, to showcase some of the truly incredible women in the tech, finance and fintech industries, which have broken through the glass ceiling and are soaring high into the stratosphere.

We’re starting pretty much at the top with Susanne Chishti, CEO of The FINTECH Circle & The FINTECH Circle Institute and Co-Editor of the bestselling FINTECH Book Series

A founder, CEO, Editor, speaker, CNBC commentator, lecturer and mentor, with 14 years of experience in the finance industry, Susanne wears many hats, and they all suit her perfectly! She was voted one of the European Digital Financial Services ‘Power 50’ in 2015, a ‘City Innovator – Inspirational Woman’ in 2016 and one of the top 15 FINTECH UK twitter influencers.

Despite her many achievements to date, I have a feeling she’s only getting started and I cannot think of a better Wonder Woman to kick off the series with.

Tell us about your background.

After I finished university, I moved from Austria to London 22 years ago to join Accenture as a consultant to implement software solutions for banks. I then worked in the City for many years (one year I was posted to Hong Kong, which also was a great experience), until I decided to launch FINTECH Circle in 2014. I am also the CEO of the FINTECH Circle Institute, which is our learning platform where we provide in person and online fintech education courses to individuals and financial institutions worldwide. Additionally, I am the Co-Editor of the bestselling Fintech Book Series published by Wiley consisting of: The FINTECH Book, The InsurTECH Book and The WealthTECH Book.

What made you choose a career in the finance industry?

I was always interested in finance and found it very inspiring to learn from expert investors, understand how investment management firms operate and how value is created for both retail, high-net-worth, and institutional customers. I also think that money is an important topic for women. It’s important for women especially to learn how to save more money and invest more to be financially independent. It’s really unacceptable that, even in 2018, many women get paid less than their male peers, and therefore save less, and as a result end up with smaller pensions when they retire. Luckily, there are fintech companies around such as VestPod, whose goal it is to empower women with their finances. VestPod’s fantastic CEO, Emilie Bellet, is also a contributing author of The WealthTECH Book, which was just published by Wiley.

Where did the idea for the FINTECH Circle come from?

The idea behind FINTECH Circle is that all stakeholders within fintech have to work together to succeed, creating a powerful ‘circle’ of value exchange. When we launched our FINTECH Circle Angel Network, the goal was to identify the best fintech startups. At the same time, raising ‘smart capital’ from fintech angel investors is just the beginning. Then you have to invest the money wisely and grow the business, that’s where mentors and a strong board can be invaluable. Many of our FINTECH Circle members sit on the boards of fintech firms to share their expertise, network and guidance. Finally, the majority of all fintech firms are focused on B2B sales and here it’s important to understand how to help them find the best financial institutions as clients. Equally, we advise financial institutions on how to build up internal enterprise innovation capabilities and source the best fintech partners.

Why do you think there is such a lack of women in the industry, and how can we encourage more women to join?

Unfortunately, so far both the finance and the technology sectors are male dominated and women are in the minority. This has to change and we have to empower our daughters and young women with financial literacy skills early on, and encourage them to save and invest for their futures. At the same time, we need many more women across all tech sectors, being able to code and develop artificial intelligence solutions and software for robots. We don’t want any unconscious biases being built into the software solutions, which could be the case if the development teams are not diverse at all. Diversity of thinking and of backgrounds always leads to better outcomes.

What would you say to someone who claims women are less interested in finance because their brains are ‘wired’ differently?

Nobody has said this to me so far and I would be deeply shocked and politely suggest that most likely his own brain must be wired very wrongly to even think that. I worked in Asset Management for many years and most of our best portfolio managers who successfully managed billions of assets under management were women. Another co-author of The WealthTECH Book, Angela Sun from Bloomberg explains how their Gender-Equality Index works and how it pays to be invested into companies who take diversity seriously, as they clearly outperform those who don’t.

What do you think the future of the finance industry looks like?

The future of the finance industry will be better for savers and investors, as clients will have more choice, including lower cost options to invest, such as roboadvisory solutions. Clients will be empowered with more information and comparison data at their fingertips and the ability to switch providers more easily. With PSD2 and the new Open Banking standards, customers can also give permission to fintech firms to get access to their bank account in order to provide value-added services. So without switching bank accounts, banking clients will have many more options available thanks to all the fintech companies who offer innovative solutions.


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