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The women of fintech: what the future holds

08 Mar 2018 04:00

Much has been said about the need to encourage more women into science and technology. A good example of the need for more diversity in fintech is in how the industry is being increasingly influenced by the process of user-centred design.

User-centred design is the idea that a product should be created and developed with the user top of mind. The product should be developed by homing-in on a problem for the user and developing creative solutions to it. Crucial to this process is a diverse mix of people in your team with a broad range of backgrounds, perspectives and expertise.

Rise, Barclays’ fintech platform and the home of Barclays’ award-winning Accelerator, offers collaboration opportunities with around 55 start-ups each year. It’s a rich and diverse thought space where some of the most original ideas in fintech are developed into industry-leading innovations.

On International Women’s Day, we caught up with three people who play a key role at Rise to find out how women are shaping the future of fintech.

Charlotte Roberts is VP Open Innovation Programmes at Rise:

The Barclays Accelerator, is all about growing some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking fintech start-ups. They benefit from our network and deep expertise and we get to invest in each company and collaborate on the next market-leading solutions and customer experiences.

We only have three months to understand each business and explore all the opportunities, so it’s a fast turnaround, but the beauty of it is that it comes together so quickly and that’s both mission-critical for start-ups and very exciting.

The appeal

I’ve always seen myself as a problem solver and got into fintech because I was inspired by our goal of constantly striving to innovate for customers. Being involved in new and emerging technologies is a great way to achieve that. There are enormous challenges and opportunities presented by changing technology and new regulations. Our vast financial expertise is crucial, but to remain a market leader we have to test and learn with companies at the cutting edge of technology.

The future of fintech

I believe that the way we manage our finances will be much simpler, more accessible and personalised.  New regulations are creating the conditions for greater competition and consumer choice. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making data more valuable than ever because we can now infer and predict highly complex models.  Ensuring this data stays secure will be an even greater challenge as technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) connect everyday objects to the internet, payments and gather data about everything we do.  Longer term, when quantum computing technology matures we will have significantly more power to process all this data and will have to re-think how we secure it.  The rate of innovation in fintech is only going to get faster.

Women in fintech

I’m a huge optimist, I predict a bright future for women in fintech. More women are entering the field, women’s networks are going from strength to strength and doing great work. Organisations can continue to do more though, and we need more strategy and action around supporting women with technical skills all the way from university and progressing them through to the top, but there’s a lot of good will and awareness and we’re definitely moving in the right direction.

Veronique Barbosa is one of the founders and COO at Flux. Flux is a high-growth fintech that was part of the Barclays Techstars accelerator in 2017.

At Flux, we’re on a mission to liberate the world’s item level data. It might sound complex but, putting it simply, we aim to make customer’s lives easier. We do this by offering itemised digital receipts in the same safe place their transactions live today, their banking app. Today, a customer might see they spent £5 at a retailer at 11am in London, with Flux they’ll also see it was £2.50 on a cappuccino and £2.50 on a blueberry muffin.

Flux links to existing bank cards and apps to create a frictionless experience, so eventually paper receipts really could be a thing of the past. The app even allows loyalty and reward data to be stored so you won’t have to waste time getting small slips of card stamped for your free coffee.

Since leaving the Accelerator, we’ve grown the business significantly, working with retailers such as the EAT restaurant chain, and are working on exciting pilot partnerships with both Barclaycard and Barclays

The buzz of fintech

Working in fintech gives me the ability to help shake up one of the oldest industries in the world and help change consumers’ lives for the better. My first job out of university was in investment banking.  I left to get into fintech which I found to be a really exciting intersection between finance, something I find intellectually stimulating, and technology which is rapidly changing how we live our lives.

I take my inspiration from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in my day-to-day work: what would you do you if you were not afraid? That is what drives my passion and how I navigate this industry

The future promises greater transparency in banking, more convenience and more control of our finances. These are changes that will improve life for consumers – I hope that when I look back on my career, I can say that I helped drive some of that.

Magdalena Kron is the Head of Rise London

I love the challenge of connecting the 55 fintech companies we house at Rise London in with Barclays, and with our corporate clients and partners. The aim of Rise is to stay close to the entrepreneurs and innovators that are building the future of financial services, and for us to identify how we can co-create new products with them. I also focus on connecting the Rise community and London’s fintech ecosystem with our global Rise network to create synergies in this fast moving world of technology.

A different path

I’ve always wanted to do things differently. Following my studies, I co-founded a company building technology to help retailers manage their flexible workforce. I went on to help tech start-ups secure funding and pitch more effectively to investors. After that, I learnt about Rise and was excited by the vision to build this global network of fintech thought leaders. The journey so far has been amazing and included launching Europe’s largest fintech hub in May last year.

Fintech excites me as it impacts everyone, from a personal level to the way every business operates.

Women’s networks

There are plenty of diversity initiatives in the fintech community but we still need more female representation. One of my passion projects is promoting more women to work in technology and start-ups overall. In 2012 I co-founded GeekGirl Meetup, a network focussing on women who work in tech, code, start-ups and design. Our aim is to showcase the achievements of women and boost their profile in tech and to create more role models for women to follow.

The future of fintech

So much innovation is happening in systems (back-end) infrastructure. Financial institutions are having to adopt new technologies at a greater speed. They have to identify solutions that are more flexible and amenable when being integrated, as we need to be agile enough to iterate our systems continuously.

Barclays is a 327-year-old institution, and it’s exciting to think about what the next 300 years could bring. We’ll be continuing to bridge the gap between corporate and start-ups, making sure that technology is integrated and supporting the right partnerships at the right time. Rise is there to help Barclays do just this -  moving the bank into the future.