Women, technology and partnerships drive fintech forward

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Recently I attended the inaugural Femtech Leaders meetup in Sydney, hosted by Michelle Moffatt. Michelle heads up audit at Tyro, which as you can imagine, is no mean feat. The words audit and startup are possibly as far away from each other in practice as they are in the dictionary. And yes, OK, Tyro is probably not a true startup anymore by most measures. But it still feels like one, and that is really what makes all the difference. So for Michelle it’s a challenging but immensely rewarding role, as she helps the company navigate its way through the new banking landscape.

But back to the event. Well, it grew out of a fantastic initiative put in motion last year by Innotribe, Sam Maule of Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group and Christine Duhaime from the Digital Finance Institute. Reaching out to women across the globe, the team profiled hundreds of female leaders within the financial services and fintech space, giving them a platform to voice their views on what it means to be part of the new wave of disruption. Michelle is featured, along with myself and Amy Ciolek, a talented lawyer and fintech enthusiast. But more women should be. So if you know of someone, or maybe even yourself, let me know and I’ll make you an introduction.

But how did the event come about? Well, one of the women profiled, Ghela Boskovich had what I’d consider a lightbulb moment. ‘Wouldn’t it be great,’ she thought, ‘if all the women profiled in each of the locations could meet each other?’

Now, it would have been easy for Ghela to dismiss this as an impossible idea, let alone a coordination nightmare. But instead, she reached out to the community and asked for help. Within days women all over the world had put up their hands offering to coordinate local meetups, find venues, and act as hosts – in their own time and off their own backs. A brand new global initiative and partnership was born, just like that. And all out of a moment of inspiration on Ghela’s behalf and a willingness to let others help her make her vision a reality.

It’s easy to say things like this are easy to make happen. But they’re not. They take people, effort and time,  the last two of which are often in short supply. But thanks to Michelle – oh and Ghela, and Sam and Christine and Innotribe – a fabulous group of women in Sydney, London and New York now know each other and may even be able to help each other somehow in the future. When you think about it, the waterfall effect of small actions, like what happened here, are incredibly powerful. And it all came about because Ghela realised she couldn’t do it alone.

What I like about the fintech industry is people’s general willingness to help each other. People seem to want to culturally shift the way they think about what it means to do business. So far, from what I’ve seen, it seems far more about collaboration than about working against each other. To back this point up, I recently saw a graph which highlighted a distinct trend amongst emerging businesses to now implement partnership models as opposed to single corporate structures. No man is an island, so they say.

And while partnerships are tough, and often involve a lot of compromise, when they are executed well they allow both parties to shine. Look at fintech ecosystems like Xero and Tyro or even fintech hubs and their partnerships with banks and other technology companies. These ecosystems succeed because they direct energy towards understanding how each partner can help the other achieve their goals. I think that’s a very fundamental shift in standard corporate think and possibly a healthier and more empathic approach to business.

So if you’re a fintech startup, battling away on your own, don’t forget about the ecosystem you already sit within. Are you accessing it to your advantage? How can you help each other? It’s tough out there and highly unlikely the banks and incumbents are going to give you a break. It’s business after all, and if you need a handout well, maybe you shouldn’t be there. But if you need a helping hand, well, that’s a different story. You just need to be bold enough to ask for it.

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