Every industry is feeling the influence of technological advances, with rapid digital developments making waves and offering new possibilities across many different sectors. The financial services industry is no different, with the innovative fintech sector combining cutting edge digital systems with complex financial requirements to improve efficiency without sacrificing compliance.
Spearheading this sector is FinTech City, an organisation bringing together the global fintech community and producing the FinTech 50, an annual list of the industry’s most innovative and transformative European start-ups. Now in its fourth year, the list recognises pioneering businesses and places them in front of key investors and potential customers.
Even though this community represents an eclectic mix of originality and vision, a clear lack of gender diversity is apparent. At a time when traditional organisations are facing scrutiny for their lack of female representation, the 2016 FinTech 50 reveals a group of organisations dominated by men. The lack of women was most evident in senior positions; of 355 leadership positions, only 33 are held by women – only two of whom are CEOs.
Despite the ongoing debate over gender representation and equal pay, the divide is still clear in even the most advanced and innovative organisations. So, what can feasibly be done to encourage women into this sector and ensure that employee and leadership teams demonstrate equal representation?
The pioneers’ approach
The amalgamation of technology and financial services is resulting in a burgeoning sector, with rapid advances making it one of the fastest growing arenas in the UK. Success is no longer measured by a rise in employees, profits and customers over a period of decades, but can be achieved within a matter of months, with agile and progressive start-ups easily winning global contracts.
With their flexibility and malleable business plans, fintechs have the opportunity to carve new pathways and define their own standards, which means that matters such as equality and diversity should be embedded from day one. Established businesses are often held down by traditional or ingrained policies, which were created years ago, back when the business world had entirely different attitudes to gender and diversity.
Fintech companies, however, are not shackled to these concepts, but are free to set a precedent that encourages variety and integrates the skills of diverse individuals.
Recent statistics from McKinsey found that more diverse workforces can deliver clear financial benefits, with greater gender diversity on the senior executive team corresponding to a high performance uplift: for every 10% increase in gender diversity, profits rose by 3.5 percent.
These figures offer a clear call to action that fintech trailblazers should pursue; by giving women the opportunity to fill roles throughout the company, firms will be in a much stronger position to maximise profits.
As such, the innovative and forward thinking approaches that make fintech companies successful should be applied to their core values, helping to implement a structure that futureproofs both development and success.
The talent pool & pipeline
Broadly speaking, the financial services and technology industries both have a reputation for inequality when it comes to gender representation. This is by no means down to deliberate prejudice, but rather as a result of many underlying factors, including a long-held tradition of having male workers in the sector, and the lack of females pursuing careers in either industry, even from an early age.
Overall, the 2016 FinTech 50 includes fewer women in leadership roles than the previous list in 2015, signaling that there is significant work to be done to reverse this trend and encourage a more diverse fintech community.
In order to achieve this goal, organisations must identify existing female talent and encourage women to follow a career in this sector. Talented females should then be nurtured towards leadership positions, with firms using their flexibility and freedom to ensure roles are created with the requirements of their diverse workforce in mind.
The pool of women in the financial services and IT sectors is relatively limited, so fintech businesses should look for the desired skills in other industries. The 2016 Fintech 50 included only two females in senior marketing CMO positions, one CFO, and one chief legal officer, highlighting areas where women could be encouraged to make sideways moves to such roles in the fintech sector, bringing with them expertise and a wealth of specialist experience.
The fintech community can also capitalise on the attractive prospect of working for a pioneering and fast growing company, and make considered efforts to approach schools and universities to generate interest and engagement with students at crucial points in their career decision making. Coding and analytics, for example, is already becoming ingrained in education curriculums. Businesses can continue to ensure all students leave education with the necessary skills by informing them of the options available and qualifications needed from an early stage. By supporting young people in arming themselves with knowledge and information they need to succeed, fintech firms can help demolish vocation stereotypes and build up a pipeline of talent with an equal representation of men and women.
Competing with the big names
Giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are well-known for their ability to attract vast numbers of graduate applications. However, whilst these technology heavyweights seem to have the pick of the bunch when it comes to recruitment, financial technology is the disruptive newcomer when it comes to destination employers. As the FinTech 50 continues to host the most promising and pioneering start-ups and help them towards becoming industry leaders and eventually household names, the industry must work to define the reputation it wants, highlighting the exciting, successful and innovative nature of this work in order to attract the next generation of talent.
Fintech start-ups can also learn from their technology predecessors, taking on board the famously defined company values of organisations such as Apple, and learning from the importance of internal culture from Amazon, which thrives on healthy competition and big ideas. Any business that takes care to build a positive reputation and meet the requirements of its prospective employees is likely to win over talented individuals and compete with more established companies.
The future of fintech
The FTSE 100 is subject to quota fulfillment and on-going monitoring for gender diversity and pay, with the Lord Davies report setting out targets for women on boards. While the fintech industry is in the early stages of development and not yet under the microscope, the FinTech 50 statistics demonstrate that female representation in senior positions is poor, and suggests that the industry should take steps to address this issue now, before it gains a reputation for inequality that mars its innovative status.
While enforced quotas might not be the answer, the fintech community and developing start-ups should address the diversity of their workforce in the early days. By learning from more established organisations and applying their sense of originality and agility to their core business values, fintech firms will be well placed to encourage and engage skilled men and women for both graduate and senior positions as they continue to grow and thrive.
Tom Price-Daniel is Director, Alderbrooke