An insight into being a minority in the workplace

Interview with Alice Leguay, Head of Partnerships at HUBX

What can you tell us about your business and its views on equality?

From inception, HUBX has taken diversity and equality seriously. In 2016, very few support or networking groups existed, and editorial content on the topic was hard to come by.
We felt we had a duty to encourage diversity, as much to the tech scene as to our clients in the financial sphere, an industry where words were only slowly turning to actions. We wanted to come in for a pitch bringing with us not only our vision and innovation, but also our diverse culture, which permeates our product.

What has been your own journey to current position?

After studying Modern History at Oxford, I landed on the Fixed Income trading floor at Morgan Stanley in 2001. For 6 years, I loved the energy, fun and the intense learning curve it provided. After moving to hedge funds for a couple of years, I became drawn to the digital space and set up a crowd-sourced data business, which was an incredible experience. Learning to navigate highs and lows, the solitude of entrepreneurship, the joy of delivering a product which delights clients.
A year ago, I joined HUBX. My motivation was driven by the vision for the business and the opportunity, but more than anything, and as I said to Axel and Stephen during our initial conversations, my main motivator was – and is – the quality of the team. Wanting to jump out of bed in the morning to spend my day with interesting, motivated and kindly professionals.

What interested you in this space?

Two things: The lack of disruption thus far, and the positive impact our solution has on sourcing funding for businesses.
The private markets have barely changed since the advent of email. Email is the main tool used across the industry, from regulation, to marketing to book-building. That is absurd considering the need for secure and efficient channels. The sector has a mountain to climb, and we are perfectly positioned to help them do so. The opportunity for growth are staggering.
Another strong incentive was making an impact by building a tech solution which helps bridge the funding gap. Many deserving businesses are stuck between a loan from a high street bank and the private equity route when it comes to funding. Streamlining access to investors, while maintaining standards and professionalism is an exciting systemic shift, especially as it also meant giving women entrepreneurs a step up.

Did you find it difficult to break into this area as a female?

Being in a minority, both on a trading floor just under 20 years ago, and in technology, was challenging. Absolutely. Being female was highlighted for the wrong reasons on many occasions.
Also, building relationships with an all-male client-base was particularly tough. It took longer to be taken seriously. Standing out from the crowd does help in many ways though. People are more likely to remember you, which is a head start.

How have you settled into the business?

I feel I have been here for years. A year is a long time in FinTech! Our business is moving incredibly fast, so everyone pulls together to make changes happen.

How have you seen the landscape change in FinTech in terms of equality?

The topic is all the rage, which is exciting to see. It doesn’t necessarily mean change on the ground though.
Specifically, as a gauge, I look at capital allocated to women in the FinTech space and not seeing the needle move much just yet.
I am hopeful however that all the conversations taking place around us are creating momentum for change.

What do you think are the reasons for this change?

Employees! These changes come from the ground up. Companies must engage their staff as they have a very fluid attitude to jobs: they will leave, eventually, if they don’t feel the culture is right for them.
Companies, especially those with clout, must make extensive and visible statements regarding diversity and equality. Those who do not will stand out. It will hurt their recruitment and retention.

How does your company differentiate itself from its competitors from an equality perspective?

We have signed the HMT charter for women in finance, committing to 50/50 women in management by 2023. Not many FinTech businesses have done so.
We encourage the women in the team to network extensively, attend conferences and workshops such as public speaking techniques to enrich their toolbox.
It’s important to us that our team is diverse in terms of culture too. In the last year, we have recruited two new team members with Tier 2 visas, which for a team of 20 (in London) is a high ratio. It’s not cheap and can take months to process, but the value of maintaining high levels of diversity is worth it.

Where do you see the future of the market heading?

Diversity is becoming part of corporate DNA – at least in the messages being put out to the market. Look at Pride Month and how many logos have morphed into rainbow flags!

What do you feel are the biggest obstacles facing minorities in the industry?

A common pitfall is the need for small businesses to recruit staff able to hit the ground running and blend right in with the team. Plug-and-play! It takes discipline and overt commitments to counter that bias.

How do you plan to overcome those obstacles in your company?

Where possible, we give ourselves time to recruit, keeping applications open for longer. This requires extra planning. When interviewing, we ensure candidates meet with a diverse set of HUBX staff; it has been shown to be effective in encouraging applicants from diverse backgrounds to join. We also have a flexible working policy which is helpful for those juggling commitments at home and in the office.

What makes your company an employer of choice?

Our commitment to staff wellbeing in and out of the office. We have a formal extracurricular initiative called HUB+ which organises events, outings and treats. This ensures we have the chance to bond out of the office. Culture isn’t just a concept we throw around at HUBX – we take it very seriously and never lose sight of our values.

What would you like to see change in FinTech as an industry?

More accelerator programmes supported by institutions. Velocity by the Investment Association for example. When it comes to B2B, FinTech businesses must overcome high barriers to entry as so much is at stake for clients. Such programmes are incredibly helpful to raise a company’s profile and create diversity in the sector, building up smaller firms who bring their culture to the table.

Is FinTech inclusive enough at the moment?

Is there a single industry which we could say is inclusive enough? FinTech is improving but the road is still long.

What is the most exciting thing about FinTech for you personally?

FinTech is powering an incredible level of change on so many levels. From payments to friends in seconds, to bridging the funding gap between companies and investors. I am thrilled to have a front row seat to both witness and make these changes happen.

Who has been the most inspirational person to you in your career journey and why?

I have lacked role models in my career. I feel that the choices I have made and the paths I chose were not influenced by mentorship or any external guidance. That is a real shame. Nowadays, women and minorities can access better support networks to be used as sounding boards, and inspirational speakers.
When it comes to individuals, Elizabeth Day and her How To Fail podcast have been an inspiration, turning the concept of failure on its head. Stephanie Phair (Outnet, Farfetch, BFC) is another woman I look up to: not only is she a high-performing professional, but she has always cites kindness as one of her core professional values.

To date, in your view, what disruptors have caused the most innovation in the industry?

Digital banks. Not only have they revolutionised our day-to-day experience as users but the scale of deposits they are in the process of gathering through their B2C strategy is giving them incredible momentum in the wholesale space.
Traditional investment banking has started taking baby steps in innovation. Certainly, HUBX aims to be a trailblazer in the field. Capital markets is an interesting case study for Fintech: trust and relationships are core executing deals. Therefore, any disruption must enhance relationships, not replace them.

What do you look forward to for the industry in 2019?

The first half of the year has been full of so many projects and ideas relating to inclusion. I look forward to seeing many more later in 2019, especially after the huge success that was Pride month!

Head of Partnerships, HUBX

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