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Innovate Finance CEO Charlotte Crosswell’s Speech at Women in FinTech Reception with the City of London and the Department for International Trade

Innovate Finance CEO Charlotte Crosswell’s Speech at Women in FinTech Reception with the City of London and the Department for International Trade

Friday 5th October 2018

Thank you Lord Mayor, Permanent Secretary; and the Mansion House, DIT and of course, Innovate Finance teams for organising this evening’s event  I have to admit that women in fintech initiatives are right at the top of my favourite events.

The importance of diversity in both FinTech and Financial Services is no longer an act of simple awareness building or garnering high-level buy-in from boards.

Of course, building awareness remains an essential ingredient to change – especially in the corporate world, where improvement and advancement seem to move at a glacial pace. However the dialogue has shifted and is now geared more towards action and ensuring the change happens.

More diverse teams are proven to deliver commercial value. Firms with high gender, ethnic and cultural diversity are 35% more likely to see higher profitability.

We embrace the will for innovation and change, demanded and driven by both female and male entrepreneurs and industry leaders across our sector. We want to play a role in helping to accelerate that pace of change, especially in start-up Fintechs who can potentially make a real difference right from the very outset.

The landscape today for women in financial services and Fintech is not necessarily a pretty one:

  • Women represent only 29% of the staff in the Fintech sector and only 17% of senior executives
  • Women, on average, earn 18% less in base salary than men and the pay gap is exacerbated by the difference in what women and men receive in bonuses and incentives.
  • And rather shockingly out of a pot of $85bn invested by VCs in 2017, female founders across all industries attracted just 2.2%. However, a recent study showed that when women applied for investment, they received less funding compared to the average male founder, but made double the revenue. A strong message for those VCs in the room!

We at Innovate Finance emphatically support the need to create better ways of working and better systems to deliver a more inclusive sector. New models to recruit and retain diverse talent, new systems to teach and inspire at a young age (especially young girls) and more collaboration to develop better programmes that deliver real change.

Importantly, we see the development of key areas:

Firstly, top-down approaches through collective and inclusive leadership.

Demanding buy-in for aspirational values, mandates and mentorships. With a push and pull approach – firms are increasingly willing to work introspectively and “in-reverse”, initiating more listening and feedback mechanisms for teams on the ground.

Secondly, developing and inspiring the pool of diverse talent from the bottom-up.

Talent and recruitment programmes play a critical role in the way larger and smaller organisations find and develop their talent pipelines internally. The competition for talent has never been more fierce, with tech giants, startups, investment houses and banks all vying for STEM and STEAM based “skill sets” to push their digital horizons.

Importantly, the market demand for diverse talent means we must address the supply. We believe it is crucial to go further back than universities into schools – showcasing to children that the new world of finance and Fintech is exciting and offers a broad range of opportunities (not just coding or accountancy!). We need to look at curriculum change to reflect the reality of a technologically driven world with financial wellness taught at a younger age with numeracy and literacy as standard.

Businesses and industry can inspire by putting role models in front of young people — both male and female — so they absorb and thus accept inclusive leadership as the norm from the youngest age. We need to raise their aspirations and create access for those sections of society who wouldn’t naturally choose a job in finance or in these areas – it has been shown that by the age of 9-10, children already have a strong sense of identity – of what they can and can’t do. (and I can vouch for this with my 10 year old!) Once they have this, it is very hard to change.

Thirdly, data in diversity – understanding the data changes the conversation.

As we have said, a more diverse firm is often a more profitable firm. However, implementing successful D&I programmes and measuring their effect can be difficult. We must move from an events-based system – often the most obvious output of a programme – to one where the whole company is working towards real and tangible change. Firms should plan for outcomes and track them when talking about gender equality or inclusivity programmes – be this in numbers recruited, work experience, training programmes and HR processes.

It is not and shouldn’t be a hero, or zero, sum game. Collaboration is key.

Getting the right D&I approach is difficult, crafting the most effective programme or outreach initiative takes time, money and hard work. It’s little wonder organisations feel apprehensive to share and open up. But with effective collaboration across industry on the ‘what worked’’ and ‘what didn’t work’ allows us to stop taking ineffective action, plugging the same failing programmes because of investment already made into them, not sharing key insights because it may depreciate competitive advantage.

We must harness diverse talent to deliver on the promises of the new digital economy…..

That is why Innovate Finance this week launched our Diversity Programme, led by the Women in FinTech initiative to extend beyond the successful Powerlist that already celebrates the achievements and talent of women across the FinTech ecosystem. We have spent time talking and listening to the women in our industry – ranging from founders, investors, investment banks, start-ups and technology firms and look forward to working with you all over the coming year. Please don’t forget to mark your diaries for 29th & 30th April and the IFGS summit. It will be no surprise to you that we are committed to having at least one women on every panel again – not too difficult for us, but seemingly challenging for so many others. All suggestions very welcome on more great women out there to come and speak.

Thank you all for coming tonight and I’d like to hand back to Rohini for closing remarks.