Three FinTech CEOS Share Keys To Startup Success For Women Leaders
Within the first few minutes, you must establish your credibility.
“I often just emphasize my degree, my portfolio growth and put my expertise in context,” says Morgan, whose company deals in access to lines of credit from $250,000 to $10 million.
“I walk into a room of people in finance and they don’t expect you to be a CEO of a finance company. So I overcome that bias.” She adds, “I also try to be a slightly more serious and less friendly version of myself.”
Morgan’s company, P2Binvestor (that stands for People to Business), “is a financial technology company providing large lines of credit to growing companies who are too big for small business loans but cannot yet access a traditional bank line of credit. We partner with private investors and banks to provide our clients with competitively priced, flexible, and scalable capital. We also build amazing technology that makes it easy to manage large, asset-based lines of credit,” according to the company site.
Morgan is a leader in FinTech, the growing field merging finance and technology with a startling lack of gender diversity.
There was one woman CEO in the top 50 EU FinTech companies in 2014, according to Innotribe’s 2015 report, “Power Women in FinTech” in collaboration with the Digital Finance Institute and Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group. In the U.S, there were 51 female CEOS in the Fortune 1000 list of FinTech companies, the report states.
“Goldman Sachs projects an estimated $4.7 trillion in revenue and $470 billion in profits from the traditional banking marketplace is at risk of being displaced by FinTech companies,” according to Innotribe.
“FinTech’s transformative powers to make banking more transparent, democratized, and available to the sizable unbanked population globally is hindered by the continued stagnation of women in leadership positions and the continued depletion of female technology talent. For the banking industry to truly reach its potential, the gender imbalance in FinTech must be confronted and addressed,” according to the report.
“FinTech is a new and exciting industry that provides the perfect blank slate for us to do away with the ‘boys club’ image that has become associated with the traditional financial services industry. It allows women (and men) to demonstrate their success solely based on merit. As a female entrepreneur in this industry and a mother of three young children, it’s an exhilarating challenge to prove that it can be done,” Monica Kalia, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Neyber, told Forbes.
To get it done, Eva Wong, co-founder and chief operating officer of Borrowell since 2014,says confidence and assertiveness is helpful in overcoming the gender bias of FinTech. Authenticity is also key.
This aligns with the Take The Lead Leadership Power Tool #2, as created by Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead. That tool is, “Define your own terms, first before someone else defines you.” Feldt adds, “The first step toward gaining respect is to get clear about what you want to be known and respected for. Then live that with integrity. ”
“I do not pretend to be somebody I am not,” says Wong, who was named to the 2017 Women in FinTech Powerlist.
“I do not pretend I know something I don’t and I ask questions if I am doubtful,” Wong says.
Borrowell is a tech company that provides “free credit scores, without needing to apply for credit first, and updated scores so you can monitor your score over time. Then, we make financial recommendations based on your score to improve your financial well-being and to better manage debt. This includes fixed-rate personal loans, credit cards, and the best mortgage rates to suit your financial profile,” according to the company site.
Wong, who says half of the Canadian-based Borrowell leadership team is women, wants to be sure people understand the company’s diversity. “We are making sure we are deliberate in letting people know that.”
Such transparency about leadership is important, says Morgan. “When you look at entire management teams that are male, we know we are never going to look like that.”
Denise Thomas, co-founder, CEO and chairman of Apple Pie Capital, a company that specializes in franchise financing, says the women in FinTech now “will stand the test of time. We need more women entering the field.”
“The model for all our companies is brand new,” says Thomas. “You stand out as a female in this business. You have to be agile and learn quickly.”
“There were 10 men and one woman on my team at first,” says Thomas. “I had to go with the right person at the right time. But now we have greater diversification and are putting females on our executive team.”
More wisdom from the FinTech CEOS:
Diversity of thought wins. “The more diversity we have and the more perspectives, we will come out with better innovations and solutions,” says Wong.
Take out the jargon. “I came into FinTech without a finance background, but with a marketing background for agencies and brands, and it can shake your confidence. But what I’ve learned is much of it is common sense,” says Morgan.
See it, be it. “It can be hard for people to be something if they don’t see it. Tech and FinTech is not just for 27-year-old guys with hoodies. This is what a FinTech CEO looks like,” says Wong.
Show up. “Resilience is a key trait of all entrepreneurs. So forge ahead and never take no for an answer,” says Thomas.
You can’t do it alone. “Network regardless of gender,” Thomas says.
“I’m not sure if in my lifetime that women will represent the majority of leaders,” says Thomas, “but we make great examples.”
When asked to predict the future of women in FinTech leadership in the next decade, Morgan says, “It’s sad to say that 10 years is not a really long time. But we already see more women in FinTech today and things are improving.”
Morgan adds, “Are FinTech companies going to make it a priority to hire more women and build cultures where women can be successful? To do so, we have to create the next level of women in leadership roles.”
Change will not happen only if women mentor other women. “Those numbers won’t do it,” says Thomas.
But “if men dedicate themselves to sponsoring women,” Wong says, change can happen.
#GoSponsorHer, is a recent initiative to create that change in finance management.
According to the site, “Companies have a real opportunity to drive growth by unlocking female talent. The benefits of gender diversity are well-documented, and include better team dynamics, improved decision-making, and better returns on investment.”
“Mentoring women in the workplace is not sufficient. Women need more sponsors who will engage in their career advancement, and commit to their success,” according to GoSponsorHer.
“Diverse workforces are more profitable,” Wong says, “We need to take that, care about it and implement it.”
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About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com