Diversity & Inclusion - the new FinTech disrupter...

Our founding member, Sharon Doherty, Chief People Officer at Finastra is best known for championing the award winning diversity and inclusion agenda at Vodafone, she is now changing the landscape of FinTech.

We sat down with her to find out more...

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

Finastra is sizeable financial technology (fintech), with 8,500 banking and financial institution customers and over 10,000 employees around the world. Present in over 130 countries, our vision is to deliver the #1 open development platform for innovation in financial services.
Our ambition is to be the most loved and inclusive employer in fintech - a great aspiration for a company which believes in the future of finance being open.

What has been your own journey to current position?

I’ve been at Finastra for five months now. I’m a mother, author and champion of inclusion and equality in the work place.
I’ve worked globally in big brands for the last 30 years including Kingfisher, GE and PwC. I was part of the team who built Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and for the last 10 years I worked at Vodafone.
At Vodafone I was able to lead some amazing and ground-breaking work that helped the organization become more inclusive and engage over a billion people in our award-winning diversity and inclusion programs.
Highlights include being the first company in the world to launch a global maternity policy, launching the biggest program in the world to reconnect 1,000 women on long term career breaks back to work and being the first company in the world to launch 10 days safe leave for women and men suffering from domestic violence and/or abuse.

What interested you in this space?

I was excited to join a disrupter, in a growth industry, with global reach and ambitions to change the way that industry is powered.

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

Personally, no. It hasn’t been a problem. I lead the People Team – typically a function with more women in – even in financial services, fintech and tech industries.

How have you settled into the business?

It’s been great. I spent my first 100 days getting to know the business, our people and getting going with some quick wins, particularly in the inclusion space.
We kicked off executive sponsors for key areas we plan to focus on including, the Women@Finastra program, generational inclusion, special abilities, cultural inclusion and we got going with our first global LGBTQ and friends global webinar.
It was a ten-year journey to help Vodafone become one of the most inclusive companies in the world. With Simon Paris, my new CEO, we expect to go on a similar journey, but in three years. Bold I know, but it’s fintech – everything happens faster here, right?
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How have you seen the landscape change in FinTech in terms of equality?

It’s a new industry for me, so I’m learning about where financial services and tech come together.
I’m writing these responses in the week that Alison Rose has been appointed as the next CEO of RBS, so it’s clear that the financial services world is trying to evolve. I would say banks have been working for the last few years hard to embrace LGBTQ too. This is progress, but change is slow going. Tech firms have been saying all the right things for years, but the real culture change has been slow to come.
Fintech comes from similar heritage so it’s not surprising we are an industry that has a way to go. There is a lot of focus on equality, which helps. Talk needs to move to action to really deliver a change in culture and boost the numbers of women and other minority groups in leadership or influential roles.

What do you think are the reasons for this change?

Change is coming about slowly for a number of reasons.
Positively there is a new generation of small Fintechs who have the best men, women and other minority groups coming together to create innovative solutions.

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

It’s our core ambition for our people to love where they work. Our vision is to be the most loved and inclusive employer in fintech and we have a CEO who embodies inclusion and equality.
We are a young company and are constantly reviewing all we do to ensure we design everything with inclusion in mind.

Where do you see the future of the market heading?

I would say it will be open! Banking has been a closed environment for many years. New technology, regulatory challenges, and changing consumer behaviors mean the future of finance will be, and needs to be, open to be a trusted and thriving industry.

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

Combining tech and financial services means there is a potential recipe for ingroups and exclusion. It’s so important to ensure that minorities in this environment are not disadvantaged when it comes to hiring, so that their innovative perspectives can be heard. It’s also the case then small inequities, or unconscious biases may just make minorities feel they don’t belong and leave or underperform. Net net everyone loses.

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

Our rallying cry for our people is to be the most loved and inclusive employer in fintech. We have exec sponsors in place for gender equality, LGBTQ, special abilities, multi-generation and culture. We already have great grass root activation on these subjects in Finastra and are building further on this. Supported by training and a review of all our people processes, we are taking this very seriously.
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What makes your company an employer of choice?

Finastra is a scaled disrupter. Our employees get the benefit of being part of a company which is changing how financial services operates and an environment where they can be themselves.

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

I’d love to see:
·      More female CEOs running companies and women on advisory boards
·      Panels which help shape the future of the fintech landscape
Importantly, with nearly 2bn people around the world not having access to a bank account, this industry has a massive opportunity to have a positive impact in boosting financial inclusion and making financial services accessible to all.
In India, our Finastra CSR team have successfully helped over 700 people in the last year to become banked, through local partnerships with NGOs. We’re also looking at micro platforms in region that help women become independent entrepreneurs.

Why do you think finance/banking/FinTech have been male dominated industries in the past?

Fintechs are an intersect of financial services and technology, both environments that have been male dominated. We can probably take that as a proxy for other minority groups also.
The percentage of women is low, there are many small firms who are not monitored by surveys such as the gender pay gap initiative, they may hire from existing networks, meaning things are slow to change at some companies. Perhaps the most significant factor for financial services is its poor cultural reputation in some places.
Given talented women graduates and professionals and other minority groups are in demand we need to find ways to reframe the positive impact financial services can have on the world and the interesting and exciting impact women and men working together can bring.
I think progressive financial services employers are really trying to buck the trend.  

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

Financial services is an important industry, it’s been slow to change traditionally, but fintech is presenting a massive opportunity to disrupt or innovate, helping provide new and exciting services for consumers that are more cost effective and more tailored to their needs.

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

We’re seeing a lot of talk about the ‘super-app’ as companies in the East, like Ping An and WeChat, are increasingly taking care of their customers’ whole lifecycle, not just banking and finance.
The potential of financial applications to reach beyond traditional banking capabilities is particularly interesting in relation to financial inclusion too. I think this is where we’ll see some interesting advances in the next few years.
Nationwide Building Society, for example, has recently been working with fintechs to develop open banking-based apps and services to help financially vulnerable people.

What do you look forward to for the industry in 2020?

I’m excited for the industry to continue on the journey it has only really just started, to take equality and diversity seriously, so that we can see a real impact in the short term.
For us personally at Finastra, we believe the future of finance is open, and that isn’t just about technology. It is ingrained in everything we do. Open platform, open APIs – that’s us! But we’re also open minded and open for inclusion and diversity.

Chief of People, Finastra

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