DIVERSITY IN FINTECH
Whenever I hear that women “can’t have it all” I always try to think of a good example why it’s not true… When I met Georgia Hanias I had the impression I found one. The Head of Global Communications for Innovate Finance, she is something that a modern woman aspires to be – successful, with a strong sense of mission and purpose, with a good family. But as I found out it wasn’t that easy for her. We had a cup of coffee with the famous L39 view, and touched upon many issues about fintech, Brexit and diversity. Here are a few things I would like to quote Georgia on…
Brexit and UK Fintech
“We polled our members after the referendum and it became clear that overwhelmingly FinTech companies and financial institutions wanted to remain in the EU. The referendum result was not the outcome we hoped for but we respect the decision made by the UK population. Moving forward we have to lobby government to secure some important aspects of our relationship with the EU such as passporting rights, access to talent, – which is crucial to this sectorand access to the single market. Innovate Finance put forward recommendations for the FinTech sector a few weeks before the Autumn statement and the government took it into account and our key requests were mentioned. I interviewed the UK’s Economic Secretary Simon Kirby and he stated that FinTech would also be part of the negotiation discussions for Brexit. We are going to do as much as we can to secure the outcome that our members want for the UK’s global FinTech community. As a non-for-profit, nongovernmental organisation, we serve as a voice for our members and we will continue to work closely with them to support their issues and recommendations for safeguarding and supporting our multi billion pound sector. We don’t know what the future of Brexit holds, all we know is that we’re going to fight our corner. Innovate Finance is 260 members strong, we’ve got everyone from the big financial institutions to the fledgling startups, to the momentum players likes TransferWise and Nutmeg. Major technology firms including Intel, Microsoft, IBM as well as professional services firms such as Hogan Lovells, EY and Deloitte are also members. We’re a convening power that brings all of these players together to help shape a better future for financial services. I believe that collectively we are a very strong voice that can be heard behind the closed doors of parliamentary bureaucracy.
Women in fintech
“At the moment, there is a dearth of female entrepreneurs in fintech. We want to see more female leaders coming up with ideas, setting up businesses and playing a bigger role in the digital economy. We also want more investors to back female talent and give them the support they need to set up and scale up their businesses. At the moment there aren’t many women entering the FinTech profession. There are more in the traditional world of financial services, but getting to the top remains a difficult journey for most as they progress in their careers. The drop-out rate for women in finance is high and they seem to lose influence when they try to balance a family life as well. There are still many unsaid rules of engagements and complexities too in our attempts to go up the corporate ladder as well as institutional biases that not only hold back women but also the overall performance of organisations. It’s very difficult for financial institutions to offer the type of things that many women could benefit from, such as flexible working for instance. It can be quite difficult to give a c-suite executive at the likes of Goldman Sachs or HSBC say a three-day work- week and flexible time if they have a hundred of people reporting to them. So even though we want women to get to the top and challenge perceptions of power, I still don’t think it can work with the way things are structured at the moment. At least in traditional financial services firms. FinTech has the potential to change all that by creating companies from the ground up that write their own rules of engagement and ways of working – which hopefully are favourable to everyone.
“When I was in my 20s and early 30s I had a very successful career in the corporate sector and the media world and I felt that the doors would always be open to me. I had a global life and travelled and worked across the US, Asia and Europe. When I came to London I felt like my career trajectory would continue upwards. But when I decided to have a family I started to hit roadblocks trying to balance two big responsibilities. I realised that the way I was working wasn’t compatible with creating a nurturing home life for my children. I couldn’t just stop working – I’d go absolutely mad! – and I also needed to make money so I decided to set up my own PR media-production business, which I ran for 10 years from home. I wrote for various publications and consulted for different organisations, so overall it was quite a successful initiative. I still travelled to produce films and write stories for magazines – but I chose when and what I worked on – depending on my kids schedule. Crucially, I got to see them during the early years and didn’t have to pay for child support. I’ll never forget the amazing women who helped me along the way, so I said to myself that I’d always give back if I had the opportunity. Now with Innovate Finance I want to be able to support women and see how much we can do to help them.”
“I was born and raised in Canada but didn’t grow up in a white suburb. I lived and studied in a very multicultural environment with kids from different backgrounds who became my dearest friends. My parents were also poor immigrants from Greece that arrived with nothing but made something of themselves through hard work and community support. They were outsiders that didn’t fit a mould. But they integrated the best they could and the way they welcomed others and their vision of the world was inspiring and gave me a humanity that I am very grateful for. I think how I grew up was a clear and true reflection of the diversity that’s out there, so I was well prepared for a global working environment. When I am hiring, I look for people who aren’t cut from the same cloth. I like outsiders who have worked their way up… like the clever kids at state school who quietly worked hard at the back of the class and managed to navigate through a social network where the rules aren’t clear, and learned how to get ahead –despite the odds. I am also drawn to people who managed to make the most of their experiences and have got a global perspective and a can do attitude- and who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and just get on with things. Most importantly, I find that people who have lived in environments with a lot of diversity are able to offer so much to an organisation that’s forward thinking and global – like ours. They are key to success!
Interview by Katia Lang
Head of Global Communications and Diversity Lead
at Innovate Finance
This article first appeared here