Over the next 10 years Scotland wants to be one of the top 5 global FinTech centres in the world. This is being led by Stephen Ingledew, Chief Executive of FinTech Scotland along with other key partners in the financial services industry and Scottish Government.
It’s ambitious, but Scotland has a history of innovation on its side.
However, to achieve this we need a diverse range of talent, skills and experience and this includes recruiting and retaining more women into the sector.
With both the financial services and technology sectors historically underrepresenting female talent, I sat down with Stephen to discuss how FinTech has provided an opportunity to address the gender imbalance.
Tell me a little bit about FinTech Scotland and what you are trying to achieve?
S: FinTech Scotland is made up of established financial services companies, FinTech enterprises, the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Government. Together we are trying to ensure that FinTech is a major industrial sector for the future and that Scotland becomes a top 5 global FinTech centre in the next 10 years.
Scotland is currently ranked as 15th in the world, but we can achieve our goal by encouraging more innovation and new FinTech enterprises and transform the way they work with larger parts of the financial services sector.
How important is inclusivity and diversity in achieving this goal?
S: Inclusivity and diversity are very much a part of our core values, alongside innovation and collaboration. There is a need for the sector to reinvent financial services for consumers and you can only do that if the sector is much more inclusive. Money plays a role in all our lives, yet in the past consumers have been excluded. Many people have been excluded from good financial products or they have been sold bad products that don’t meet their needs. FinTech provides an opportunity to change this and make finance work for everyone. But you can only do that if you have a much more diverse work – force, with people from different back grounds, experiences and of course a better gender balance.
Inclusivity and diversity are very much a part of our core values, alongside innovation and collaboration.
Do you know the gender balance in the financial services sector?
S: 70% (men) – 30% (women) at best.
What challenges do the sector face when it comes to recruiting and retaining women?
Firstly, perception. It is perceived to be a male dominated sector, with traditional 9 to 5 hours along with working into the evening. This perception hasn’t really encouraged a lot of flexible working, which can be important for people with family and other commitments.
Secondly, the financial services sector has been very narrow in the way it has recruited people into the industry. It needs to open up its ways of recruitment and recognise that it needs a much more diverse talent. We don’t just need actuaries, accountants and lawyers but also people from different backgrounds including technology, digital, and data, and social science backgrounds. That in itself will encourage an opening up of the sector rather than it being a small range of professionals that has existed in the past.
Financial services has been very narrow in the way it has recruited people into the industry. It needs to open up its ways of recruitment and recognise that it needs a much more diverse talent.
What types of skills are FinTech employers looking for?
The skills FinTech are looking for are actually very broad and this is the exciting bit about FinTech. Yes, FinTech needs those with skills around the more technical areas such as computer science and data science. But also the social sciences, the areas of human geography, social anthropology, behavioural finance and psychology are all important skills because that’s all about understanding the consumer, the business and the needs.
We always need to remember technology isn’t the answer alone – it is just an enabler. You have to ask, what does the consumer actually need? Therefore, we need people who can address what the consumer needs are and then use technology in a powerful way. This reinforces the need for diverse teams with a range of skills.
We always need to remember technology isn’t the answer alone, it is just an enabler. You have to ask, what does the consumer actually need?… This reinforces the need for diverse teams with a range of skills.
What can the sector do to address challenges?
S: There are many things we can do:
- Leadership and Role models
Leadership is crucially important. If the issues around inclusivity and diversity are embedded within the leadership of an organisation we can challenge perceptions and stereotypes.There are very successful female leaders in FinTech. By highlighting how they have been successful in terms of the journeys they’ve been on, the support they have had we can encourage other women to work in the sector.
- Opening up the sector
Financial services is not just for men that are in their 50s who wear dark suits and have grey hair, work 9 – 5 and then go to the pub. If we can change this perception then more people will wake up to see the value of what financial services delivers.
- Mentoring and support
We can look to Equate Scotland in this area. It can be very lonely when starting up a business or working in a large organisation, particularly if it is male dominated. Being able to find the right support to deal with challenging situations and environment is crucially important. The more we do this the more confidence we can give to women who want to pursue a career in financial services.
- Flexible working.
You don’t have to be in the office all the time. Unless employers have flexible working they risk losing out on a diverse range of talent, skills and experience.
Finally what would you say to employers looking to engage in diversity efforts?
S: Working with Equate Scotland is crucially important around awareness and understanding.
The key that sits at the heart of this, is that addressing gender inequalities is not only right from a social point of view, but it is also commercially the right thing to do. You’re missing out on talent if you don’t have a flexible way of working. If you don’t have diversity, you can’t really have innovation come through because you have all men in the field. And you also won’t be viewed kindly by society and consumers.
If you are interested in a career in FinTech or are an employer looking to engage in diversity and inclusion please visit the Equate Careerhub.