The figures don’t favour women in financial technology, but that hasn’t stopped these leaders from taking their place at the forefront of an exciting new sector.
Last year, when we first ran Fintech Week and a content programme focused on this area of increasing interest to the business, entrepreneur and technology communities, we made sure to include a list of women CEOs in the sector.
Why? Because this new sector suffers from an old problem: a lack of gender diversity.
According to Innovate Finance’s recent Women in Fintech report, less than 5pc of top executive roles at Europe’s top 50 fintech firms are held by women, and there was only one female CEO in that collection. This is a common problem in a multitude of business sectors. The Fortune 1000 list of America’s 1,000 largest companies features just 51 female CEOs.
These figures are exasperating and can prompt even a keen-eyed industry observer to cry out, ‘Where are the women’?
Well, here are just some of them. All are leaders, but in many different ways. Some are innovators, some are disruptors. Some are advisers, some are observers, and some are bridging the gap between financial institutions of old and young fintech upstarts. Some are uniting communities in order to further progress, and some are taking exciting new technology to new places.
Of course, there are remarkable women all over the world working across the whole spectrum of finance and technology – we’d just like to see some more of them.
Sinead Barry is a managing director in Accenture’s financial services group, and the programme lead for the Fintech Innovation Lab Dublin. Barry has nearly two decades’ experience in the financial services industry behind her and, with her appointment as executive sponsor of the Fintech Innovation Lab, she has become heavily involved with fintech sector development. Accelerators such as this make it easier for innovative fintech start-ups to do business, taking away many of the challenges associated with dealing with large, complex financial firms.
Cathy Bessant joined Bank of America in 1982, and rose up the ranks over the intervening years, before being appointed chief operations and technology officer in 2010. In this role, Bessant is ultimately responsible for the technology platforms behind everything from consumer and commercial banking to risk management and finance. Bessant has made platform stabilisation, simplification and modernisation a priority. Under her leadership, Bank of America has consolidated a number of bloated platforms and applications, massively streamlining the bank’s tech offering.
Duena Blomstrom is a digital banking consultant, fintech specialist, entrepreneur and angel investor. She is a mentor for Startupbootcamp and Techstars, runs her own blog and is a frequent speaker at public events, as well as the former head of sales and marketing at fintech company Meniga. Blomstrom is also an advocate of what she calls ‘emotional banking’, where she wants to get big banking to think outside the box and start thinking about the customer’s feelings. With a background in psychology as well as business, she says she is interested in all things at the intersection of technology and behavioural science.
Ana Botín (shorthand for her full title, Ana Patricia Botín-Sanz de Sautuola y O’Shea) has been at Banco Santander since 1992, having served as executive vice-president and executive chairman of Banesto (a subsidiary) and CEO of the bank’s UK arm. Back in 2014, the forward-thinking Botín-Sanz set up InnoVentures, Santander’s investment fund that started with $100m. Based in London and under Botín Sanz’s watch, InnoVentures has so far invested in (among others) iZettle, an exciting Swedish payments start-up; and Kabbage, a US lending start-up.
Kathleen Boyle is quite prominent in the fintech space, recently editing a major research paper on digital disruption in financial services. Boyle has edited Citi reports in the past that looked at the growing role automation will play in fintech, as well as disruptive start-ups poised to make waves. At Citi since the turn of the millennium, Boyle’s current role in New York keeps her at the forefront of the entire field.
A partner with VC company Passion Capital, Eileen Burbidge has been called the queen of the start-up investment scene in the UK and, last summer, she was elected the UK Treasury’s special envoy for fintech by chancellor George Osborne. The goal for the government is to establish its nation as a leader in financial innovation, and Burbidge now champions that cause internationally, unequivocal about the UK’s aptitude. “I’m certain that the UK can take on Silicon Valley and don’t even like phrasing it that way as I feel that ambition is too low given our potential,” she told The Guardian.
Claire Calmejane is in charge of harnessing digital innovations and disruptions to serve Lloyds’ 30m customers and 80,000 employees. Prior to joining Lloyds, she was visiting scientist at the MIT Centre for Digital Business. At Lloyds she heads up the LBG Innovation Labs, a 50-strong diverse team focused on de-risking the bank’s investments, identifying fintech trends and stimulating creativity. She also leads Lloyds’ digital centre of excellence, which set up the UK’s first digital graduate scheme.
Julie Davenport works in global services at Fidelity Management and Research (FMR) Ireland, where she leads the risk and compliance division in Ireland. FMR is the offshore services arm of Fidelity Investments, and Davenport has been with the company for two decades now, amid a career in financial services spanning 35 years. An original member of the team responsible for establishing Fidelity in Ireland in 1996, Davenport is considered an essential cog in its management and evolution. While the size of the Irish branch doubled from 2010 to 2014, she oversaw all aspects of technology delivery and capability evolution of its teams.
Dubai-based Jordan native Ola Doudin has quickly established herself as the face of bitcoin in the Middle East as co-founder of the bitcoin consumer wallet for the Arab world, BitOasis. Since co-founding BitOasis in 2014 with Daniel Robenek, Doudin has quickly garnered fame for her contributions to spreading knowledge of bitcoin and blockchain technology throughout the region. Now working from Dubai, Doudin cemented her place within the Middle East’s fintech elite after appearing on the cover of Forbes Middle East earlier this year.
Caroline Faulkner has had a rich career in tech, leading to her current role as senior managing director and CIO of Pramerica. She started at the Letterkenny-based company when there were just seven employees on staff, and was instrumental in taking the company from a green-field site to a fully-functioning operation. During her tenure, Pramerica has forged close ties to local education institutions – including Letterkenny Institute of Technology, University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast – ensuring that the pipeline of highly-skilled fintech talent continues to grow.
Connie Gallippi founded and runs BitGive, a philanthropic bitcoin organisation in the US which aims to use the cryptocurrency for humanitarian work. Operating since 2013, Gallippi’s interest in bitcoin and her 14 years of environmental work encouraged her to push for bitcoin’s acceptance in disaster zones for immediate results, rather than waiting for local currency conversions and clearance. Using blockchain, she is now aiming to develop a donation transparency model to show where funds are going during the process.
Up to 2008, Menekse Gencer was head of PayPal’s mobile business development in North America before founding mobile payments advisory service mPay Connect. Gencer has published mobile money papers on behalf of the World Economic Forum, the mHealth Alliance (United Nations Foundation) and the InterAmerican Development Bank. She is now PwC’s global payments fintech leader based San Francisco, where she is responsible for payments innovation, thought leadership, identifying trends in the industry and the impacts and opportunities for start-ups and larger clients.
Quantum computing will soon be driving the future of fintech, so founder and CEO Gemma Godfrey is in a good place to lead as someone with a background in quantum physics. Godfrey leads Moola, an online wealth management service for keeping tabs on your investments and spending, founded in September 2015. She also has a wealth of experience as a broadcaster, and has also held leadership positions at financial powerhouses like Brooks Macdonald, Credo Capital and GAM, after starting her career at Goldman Sachs.
Tiffany Hayden is the co-founder and CEO of Enable Payments, a for-profit start-up established in 2015, which is aiming to be the first provider of emergency financial infrastructure. Hayden is passionate about financial inclusion and reaching the world’s unbanked populations and the Enable app would allow users such as refugees and other displaced people to save, spend, distribute and receive money using distributed ledger technology. For example, aid agencies could use the Enable app to distribute money to refugees, who could, in turn, use the app to pay merchants for goods. Enable aims to make all transactions traceable, cutting out the chances of fraud and the disappearance of vital aid money.
When it comes to bitcoin in the southern African state of Botswana, no one comes close to being as knowledgeable as Alakanani Itireleng. Calling herself Botswana’s Bitcoin Ambassador, Itireleng is now CEO of Gaborone-based bitcoin marketplace Satoshi Centre. From the country’s capital city, the Satoshi Centre provides an incubator for fintech start-ups, while Itireleng works with local farmers to help them sell farm shares over blockchain and other cryptocurrencies.
As co-founder and chief behavioural scientist at Sybenetix, Wendy Jephson’s background as a psychologist has led her to develop a company that tries to figure out why we make particular financial decisions. Some of her most recent research includes an award-winning look into loss aversion and emotion regulation choice using mobile heart-rate variability monitors with a team of fund managers in one of Europe’s largest hedge fund investment houses. Within Sybenetix, Jephson is the one with the psychological background who drives the analytical technology offered to investment firms.
Joyce Kim is the co-founder and executive director of Stellar Development Foundation, a non-profit organisation building a decentralised, distributed financial platform for open access to all. Operating as a digital currency and a network, Stellar makes it so that the world’s unbanked population can transfer funds from one currency to another as easily as sending an email. Kim has cited research from the World Bank showing that only 37pc of women in the developing world have bank accounts, and Stellar is bridging this financial gender gap. Since its launch in July 2014, the Stellar network has notched up more than 3m accounts, and almost 35pc of its users are female.
Jinyoung Lee Englund
From politics to tech, Jinyoung Lee Englund has had quite the career – and she’s still only in her early 30s. An advocate of bitcoin, Lee Englund was previously the director of communications and business development, as well as the director of public affairs for the Bitcoin Foundation, before taking up her current role with the Digital Currency Council. Her current role sees her travelling to spread awareness about the uses and advantages of bitcoin. Last year, she was named in Coinfilter’s top 40 women in bitcoin, while Richtopia recently named her among the 100 most influential people in fintech.
— Fadilah Tchoumba (@FadilahTchoumba) March 14, 2016
Ovamba is a leading provider of funding to SMEs in Africa. A finance and investment platform, Ovamba matches investors who want to invest with suitable Africans SMEs that require short-term funding. It encourages investment from both local and institutional investors to energise the SME sector. Set up by Viola Llewellyn and her co-founder Marvin Cole in 2013, Ovamba’s algorithm uses ethnic, cultural and tribal data to determine what an African SME looks like and what sort of backing they need, and aims to fill the gap between the traditional banking sector and micro-finance. Llewellyn also mentors start-ups in Africa and, prior to her current role, she was the co-founder and managing partner of Praxis Management Advisors, which offered advice to businesses and others looking to move into sub-Saharan Africa.
Lumley is director of global ecosystem development at Startupbootcamp Fintech and Insurtech. She has spent more than 20 years working as a journalist covering financial services and technology, most recently as an editor at financial services and technology newswire Finextra. She now focuses her efforts on building and promoting the growing sector of fintech and insurance start-ups. As well as being an internationally recognised conference speaker and moderator, she is also a regular contributor to Brett King’s Breaking Banks radio show on the VoiceAmerica Business channel.
A marketing strategist specialising in fintech, Devie Mohan has mentored and consulted with several fintech start-ups and firms. She is currently the head of global proposition marketing for Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk, but she’s also a speaker, blogger and columnist. Mohan was named as the seventh most influential person in fintech in the UK by City A.M. in March this year and, last year, she was named on SWIFT Innotribe’s Power Women in Fintech list. Mohan, who grew up in India, is also the founder of the Turya Collective, a global fintech start-up, banking mentoring organisation and think-tank.
Hazel Moore is co-founder and chair of FirstCapital, an investment bank providing financial advice to tech companies since 1999. In 2015, she won the Women in Private Equity Award for Best Corporate Finance Advisor, after being named for two consecutive years as one of 100 Women to Watch in the Female FTSE Board Report. Moore will speak at Inspirefest this summer, introducing the fintech session and discussing FirstCapital’s views on key trends in this fast-growth market.
Emily Mossburg is a principal on Deloitte & Touche’s cyber-risk services leadership team, leading the brand’s resilient services and helping clients to brace themselves for cyberattacks and to bounce back in the aftermath. Financial information is a tempting target for hackers, and Mossburg’s expertise has been largely focused on the financial services industry, leading post-incident triage and recovery efforts for clients who have suffered large and highly visible cyberattacks
Having previously served as group head of risk and innovation, Anju Patwardhan became Standard Chartered’s first-ever CIO last summer. Charged with shaping the entire group’s innovation agenda, Patwardhan is essentially there to ensure Standard Chartered keeps up with the growing thirst for new services. One of her quirkier projects in recent years is investing in automated compliance workers, building robots to replace a costly area of banking administration. Patwardhan is helped in this regard by a newly-opened innovation lab in Singapore, where she is based.
Now VP of global operations for PayPal in EMEA, Louise Phelan’s decade with the online payments company has seen her land key milestones for the Irish operation. Phelan was headhunted by PayPal when she was with GE Money, a subsidiary of General Electric. Offering her insights on leadership to Siliconrepublic.com recently, she noted the massive opportunities in mobile for PayPal. “In 2014, PayPal processed 1bn payments made on mobile devices. That was a quarter of our overall volume. To us, it’s not just about capitalising on this growing trend, it’s about empowering businesses and consumers to make the most of online opportunities,” she said.
Anna Scally is a tax partner in KPMG. She also leads KPMG Ireland’s fintech practice and is a member of the organisation’s global leadership team in fintech. Scally advises many Irish and international fintech companies, as well as early-stage start-ups in technology and fintech. The establishment of the Fintech and Payments Association of Ireland last year brought on a new role for Scally as an FPAI director. The goals of the FPAI, and Scally, are to unite Ireland’s widespread fintech community and to ensure the country is seen as a place in which to build and develop fintech companies.
Currently working for banking service provider Figo, Nadja Schlössel is also a senior adviser at FinTech Forum, a European fintech hub-cum-accelerator, that seeks to bring innovative and disruptive start-ups together with investors and financial institutions. In her role at FinTech Forum, she consults with start-ups on optimisation of online processes, business and marketing strategy, innovation management, communication, and presentation skills. Schlössel’s interest and activity goes beyond FinTech Forum, though, with a background in financial services and an innovation consultancy role at PASS Consulting Group that saw her creating and publishing fintech-related studies. She continues to post about fintech regularly on her personal blog, World of Fintech.
In 2014, Elizabeth Stark co-founded StartBitcoin.org, a group of entrepreneurs with a focus on building the future of digital currencies and decentralised technology. With a background in academia (she taught technology policy at Stanford and Yale), Stark has long been an advocate of digital money. Through StartBitcoin.org, she has supported various projects furthering the reach of bitcoin and other virtual currencies. A notable campaign took on New York’s BitLicense, which had the potential to force small bitcoin start-ups out of the sector. Though the campaign was unsuccessful, Stark continues to speak about bitcoin technologies at global events.
Going from studying film and art to running international art fairs to taking charge of a bank’s innovation initiative is not a typical career path, but it suits Lesley Tully. After 10 years running creative events she was attracted to the world of innovation, starting out as an entrepreneur and consultant. Since joining Bank of Ireland (BOI) as innovation manager, her goal is to support the start-up ecosystem in Ireland, and she has wasted no time tackling key issues for this community, such as having space to work in. BOI Workbenches have since arrived in Dublin and Galway, with more promised, and Galway StartLab launched in October last year, offering space for work and events, as well as incubator services.
Marleen van Kammen
Passionate about mobile and digital payments, Marleen van Kammen has held a number of global roles in the financial services industry. Her experience extends from large corporations in North America, Europe, and Asia, to emerging markets in Africa and Eastern Europe where she has worked to improve financial inclusion in partnership with development banks and leading microfinance institutions. As a former management consultant and financial services industry veteran, van Kammen has either worked for or consulted to many of the world’s leading banks, payments networks, financial data and information providers, and mobile network operators.
Lesley-Ann Vaughan is one of the co-creators of Vodafone’s M-PESA money transfer service, taking the service from concept to launch as product manager. Following the product’s launch, Vaughan provided the M-PESA team with mobile money expertise, gleaned from years of work in mobile financial services (MFS). In addition to her work with M-PESA, Vaughan undertook a head of product role at Iceni Mobile, where she worked in mobile payments, micro-finance services and smartphone app development. She is now an associate at Consult Hyperion, where she shares her mobile money and MFS knowledge with clients.
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Weightlifting image via Shutterstock
Updated, 2.10pm, 22 April 2016: Updated to reflect that Duena Blomstrom is the former, rather than current, sales head at Meniga, and that Ola Doudin is originally from Jordan.
Updated, 3.58pm, 25 April 2016: This article has been updated to include information on Nadja Schlössel’s current role at Figo.