Women in FinTech (North) – Event Write Up
Jake Fox / 23rd February 2018
On 23rd February 2018, the FinTech North community gathered to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing women in finance and FinTech.
Julian Wells, Director, Whitecap and FinTech North opened the event thanking Leeds Beckett University, Leeds City Council, and Yorkshire Bank for supporting the event. He then highlighted upcoming events that FinTech North is hosting or speaking at, which include:
Dr David Devins, Professor of Enterprise, Leeds Beckett University
Dr David Devins from Leeds Beckett University discussed how Leeds Beckett University, and particularly the business school, is taking a proactive approach to student employability and work-based learning. The business school delivers a range of initiatives where students can get actively involved with local businesses for a few months, supporting in areas across marketing, business development, HR and more.
David also spoke about the business school’s latest offering; the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).
Where a PHD is heavily focused on academia. A DBA is about practical intelligence being applied to real business problems, but with the added benefit of working alongside academic peer groups. We think this is a real step forward in the collaboration of academia an industry – Dr David Devins.
Jay Sheth, Head of Economics, Policy and Regulatory affairs, Virgin Money
Jay Sheth was up next and provided an overview of the valuable work Virgin Money is doing for diversity, in particular the report he helped produce about women in financial services leading to HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter. The recommendations from the report included encouraging firms to:
– Set internal targets on diversity
– Report publicly against their own diversity targets
– Have senior executive pay be tied into the company’s outcomes on diversity objectives.
The Charter now has 160 firms signed up to it and continues to gain traction in financial services and FinTech.
Greater diversity is a crucial component for financial services firms developing the right culture – Jay Sheth.
Chris Sier, FinTech Envoy for the Northern Powerhouse
The attendees then heard form Chris Sier, who had a prepared speech that provided both a personal and professional perspective on issues in diversity and the missions we should all be on to making sure all people regardless of gender are accessing the right opportunities.
Sexism is endemic to the financial services sector, and that needs to stop – Chris Sier.
He identified the empirical evidence that proves the business case for diverse companies, in: corporate performance uplift, profitability uplift and risk reduction. Chris then moved on to highlight that although evidence shows the business benefits of diversity, that is not the reason to strive for the diversity mission.
The reason we should push for diversity, is because it is the right bloody thing to do – Chris Sier.
Chris finished his talk by discussing the role FinTech plays in eradicating sexism from financial services. He spoke on how FinTech is a new sector, with new approaches, a fresh culture and a new ethos. Just like the commercial disruption FinTech is bringing to financial services, Chris elaborated on the progressive culture disruption that will come along with this sectoral growth.
The financial services incumbents of sexism will eventually realise the threat of innovation and the benefits of diversity in modern working, and this will be done through FinTech showing what moving forward looks like – Chris Sier.
Sara Parker, Director, North Invest
The next speaker was Sara Parker, a finance and investment professional with over 20 years of experience in financial services. Sara opened her talk highlighting how some steps forward have been achieved in diversity, but there is still much work to do.
Talking to her ‘21-year-old self’, Sara gave a personal perspective on ambitions and purpose, Sara also highlighted the importance in finding the right people to strengthen your personal and career journey. She finished with encouraging everyone (not just women) to take risks in reaching their goals and potential.
Georgina Mitchell, NED, rebuildingsociety.com
We then heard from Georgina Mitchell who spoke on her personal journey in building a career. She told us of the various gender-related challenges she has encountered and overcome in fulfilling finance related positions.
Just because you are in a minority, that doesn’t mean you don’t belong somewhere. You have ideas and approaches teams need to hear – Georgina Mitchell.
Georgina also highlighted the need for taking on criticism and feedback and using that to learn and develop as a professional.
Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, British Consul General in Atlanta
We were delighted to welcome Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, a senior Foreign Office representative. Jeremy began by stating that women career issues are one of the major areas that the Foreign Office is focusing on at present. He then moved onto to discuss his work in Atlanta, USA and the fintech ecosystem that is developing there.
Atlanta is the business capital of South-East USA, it also has the third largest cluster of FinTech companies located there – Jeremy, Pilmore-Bedford.
Jeremy told us how the DIT ran an international initiative where 12 female founders of FinTech and finance related companies were involved in a trade mission to Atlanta. He said, the UK should be an international leader in what can be achieved through diversity in financial services.
The event then moved to panel discussion where the speakers were joined by: Sarah Tulip, Chief Operations Officer at aql, Zandra Moore, CEO at Panintelligence and Sarah Beauvallet, Partner at Positive Momentum.
Topics in the discussion included finding the balance between diversity and ‘positive discrimination’ as well as the practical challenges of increasing the number of women in executive boards. Virgin Money is a company taking a proactive stance in this area:
Virgin Money will soon be the only FTSE company with a female chair and female executive. Hopefully gender can be a catalyst for broader diversity issues in age, ethnicity, race and others. – Jay Sheth.
Other discussions looked at the importance of role models in encouraging young women to push towards their desired careers. Further, the role of education and how business and education could collaborate was mentioned and how they can showcase the opportunities and value out there for young women.
Laura Bailey and Julian Wells rounded up the event by thanking the speakers, sponsors and attendees. There was definite enthusiasm for another future event on the theme of diversity.