Fintech is set to disrupt the financial services industry but can it shift the gender balance of two traditionally male-dominated industries in the process?
There’s no shortage of analysts and commentators shouting about fintech’s business potential. In March you may have read about Goldman Sachs’ equity report, which estimated that US$4.7trn in revenue from traditional financial services was at risk at being displaced by break-out fintech upstarts.
But though fintech has been labelled a ‘disruptive’ movement, its gender stats are nothing short of status quo.
The Oliver Wyman Women in Financial Services report checked the leadership of 150 global financial institutions in 2013 and found that only 4pc of CEOs were women, and the figures from the tech industry aren’t much different.
In 2014, Fenwick & West’s Gender Diversity in Silicon Valley report on the SV 150 (that is, the top 150 high-tech and life sciences public companies in Silicon Valley by revenue) found that 38pc had no female representation on their boards.
‘The number of CEOs named John is higher than the number of female CEOs overall’
– PANELLIST, 2015 INNOVATE FINANCE GLOBAL SUMMIT
The stats are so abysmal and so blindingly apparent, that one panellist during the 2015 Innovate Finance Global Summit reportedly noted that the number of CEOs named ‘John’ is higher than the number of female CEOs overall.
This comment was no doubt inspired by the The New York Times’ look at what writer Justin Wolfers called “the Glass Ceiling Index”, which included an eye-opening graph ranking the total number of female CEOs at S&P 1500 companies (4.1pc) below all men named John (5.3pc) and David (4.5pc).
The women fintech CEOs
Despite evidence supporting the need for greater diversity – not just for better bottom lines, but for better products, too – the fintech sector is emulating the gender make-up of its parents.
According to Financial News blog The Tally, among the top 50 European fintech companies by funding in 2014, there is a grand sum of one female CEO.
Indeed, the number of women leading fintech organisations is smaller than it should be, but knowing at least a handful of them by name might just help remind us that fintech is not just for Johns and Davids.
1. Lucy Peng, Ant Financial Services
Alibaba co-founder Lucy Peng is the CEO of Alibaba’s financial services division, Ant Financial Services. Ant serves about 615m users and includes Alipay (Alibaba’s PayPal competitor, which is used throughout the Chinese e-commerce giant’s platforms) and its mobile payments service Alipay Wallet. Peng also serves as chief people officer of Alibaba Group and, since its record-breaking IPO, is one of the wealthiest women in tech.
Photo via Alibaba
2. Margaret Keane, Synchrony Financial
After Alibaba, the second-biggest IPO of 2014 came from Synchrony Financial, a retail finance company that chiefly handles store credit cards. While this may sound like old money to some, Syncrhony has been quick to adapt to new payments platforms such as Apple Pay and is one of the first of private-label credit-card services to leverage contactless payments via NFC.
CEO Margaret Keane is an advocate of gender diversity and her executive team includes a number of female leaders. In a recent interview with Forbes, she also claimed the company has an 85-95pc retention rate for female employees.
Photo via Synchrony Financial
3. Mariya Gracheva, Yandex.Money
In March 2014, Mariya Gracheva succeeded Jane Zavalishina as CEO of Yandex.Money, the largest electronic payment service in Russia. At the time, Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh said Gracheva was “an obvious choice” with seven years’ experience at the company as well as credit for coming up with the Yandex.Money bank card and helping to develop the services that allow users to add money to their e-wallets directly from their bank cards.
Photo via Yandex
4. Anne Boden, Starling Bank
The former chief operating officer of AIB is on a mission to create the best bank account in the world with her own company, Starling Bank, which is currently in the process of becoming regulated in the UK. Founder and CEO Anne Boden has over 30 years’ experience in retail banking and intends to build a smart, personalised and fully mobile banking experience that suits the modern consumer.
Photo via Starling Bank
5. Céline Lazorthes, Leetchi Group
Céline Lazorthes is the founder and CEO of the Leetchi Group, which stemmed from Lazorthes earlier venture, Leetchi.com. Founded in 2009, Leetchi.com provides a group payment app that allows users to collect and manage money for a group. Having built the payment solution from scratch, Leetchi.com decided to open up the technology to other websites via MangoPay, and now both companies reside under the Leetchi Group umbrella and Lazorthes’ leadership.
Photo via MangoPay
6. Elizabeth Rossiello, BitPesa
Headquartered in Nairobi, BitPesa is a remittance platform to send money to East Africa using bitcoin. Shortly after celebrating its first birthday in November 2014, the company announced it had raised US$1.1m in funding. CEO and co-founder Elizabeth Rossiello also works as a microfinance rating analyst at Credit Suisse and she is by no means the only woman in charge at this small company, which describes its team as: “Like the Lakers, but with more women”.
Photo via @e_rossiello/Twitter
7. Elly Hardwick, Credit Benchmark
Elly Hardwick (main image) is CEO of Credit Benchmark, a London fintech firm that just last month raised US$20m million in a funding round led by Balderton Capital. Credit Benchmark provides a credit risk platform, pooling estimates from the world’s largest banks and financial institutions to create consensus credit views. In a recent interview, Hardwick told The Tally that the shortage of women in fintech is “inexplicable”.
“Building a successful fintech business requires the same skills as in any other sector: a compelling idea, common sense and an ability to get things done. I don’t think anyone, male or female, should be put off fintech by a perception of complexity,” she said.
8. Lisa Stanton, InAuth
InAuth, which provides mobile authentication and anti-fraud solutions for financial institutions, has had a phenomenally successful 2015 with Lisa Stanton at the helm as CEO. Stanton joined the team in 2014 and in March this year the company announced that it had secured US$20m in a Series A funding round led by Bain Capital Ventures.
Photo via InAuth
9. Susanne Chishti, Fintech Circle
Fintech Circle stakes its claim as Europe’s first fintech-focused angel network, with investors exclusively focused on innovation in financial services. Founder and CEO Susanne Chishti has more than 14 years’ experience with major players such as Deutsche Bank, Lloyds Banking Group, Morgan Stanley and Accenture. She seeks out fintech start-ups with a positive attitude and enthusiasm to solve complex capital markets challenges and says: “You have the choice of sitting on the sidelines and watch how fintech will change your personal and professional life. But you can also get ahead of the game by becoming involved, building up your expertise and potentially invest into the next Apples, Paypals and Googles which are being founded in the UK today.”
Photo via Susanne Chishti/About.me
10. Claire Cockerton, Entiq
Serial entrepreneur Claire Cockerton is currently CEO and chair of Entiq following a year-long stint as founding CEO of Innovate Finance, the UK’s leading industry body for fintech, and before that she helped lead the implementation of Europe’s largest accelerator for fintech, retail and smart cities technologies: Level39. Cockerton continues to work as an ambassador for Innovate Finance, while her work at Entiq keeps her focused on connecting multi-disciplinary entrepreneurs, technologists, financiers and designers to create innovation strategy and product development programmes for large corporations.
Photo via Innovate Finance
11. Catheryne Nicholson, BlockCypher
BlockCypher’s web APIs and callbacks enable developers to build, monitor and secure blockchain applications. The company started 2015 on a high note, raising US$3.1m in its first round of financing. BlockCypher’s co-founder and CEO Catheryne Nicholson is an engineer, entrepreneur and former US Navy officer who sees the far-reaching potential of what her company’s technology can help build. “We truly, truly believe that payments and finance, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” she told TechCrunch.
Photo via @Catheryne_N/Twitter
12. Dr Cristina Soviany, Features Analytics
Dr Cristina Soviany invented eyeDES predictive analytics technology, which eventually led to her founding Belgium-based Features Analytics in 2010. Dr Soviany leads the company as CEO and board member, putting eyeDES to use as a fraud detection and prevention solution. She continues to lead the research and development of eyeDES technology and the predictive analytics scoring engine.
Photo via Features Analytics
13. Martina King, Featurespace
Martina King has had what could be described as a portfolio career in leadership. She currently serves as a non-executive director of Capita, cinema chain Cineworld and retailer Debenhams and she previously held MD roles at both Yahoo, Capital Radio and augmented-reality company Aurasma. In October 2012, she became CEO of Featurespace, a fraud-prevention service using real-time, self-learning adaptive behavioural analytics. As well as financial services, the company has found key clients in online gambling and, this summer, announced a partnership with William Hill.
Photo via Capita
14. Dr Anette Broløs, CFIR
Dr Anette Broløs is driving financial innovation in Denmark as CEO of Copenhagen Fintech Innovation and Research (CFIR). This non-profit organisation was established 2009 to develop Denmark’s position as a specialised fintech and finance IT cluster through events, projects and partnerships. They must be doing something right, as Money20/20, possibly the world’s largest fintech event, is coming to Copenhagen in April 2016.
Photo via Finansrådet
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