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Series Five, Episode One: Does the FinTech industry have the talent it needs today … and tomorrow?

To kick off series five, we recorded a special episode of DiverCity Podcast at the Innovate Finance Global Summit 2019 in London, we feature interviews with CEOs from across the industry, each offering insights and opinions about where and how to find the talent the industry needs.

Hear highlights from the opening speech by Charlotte Croswell, CEO of Innovate Finance and further thoughts in her interview with host Julia Streets.  Tom Bull of EY offers early insights into the FinTech Census and Alison Rose of NatWest Holdings and RBS updates us on the Prime Minister and Treasury’s review of female entrepreneurship entitled ‘The Rose Review’.

Tim Levine of Augmentum Capital, Karen Rudich of FireDrake,  Adam Toms of Openfin, Ben Brabyn of Level39 and Husayn Kassai of Onfido each offer a wide range of perspectives including how best to educate and attract young people into FinTech, the importance of tapping into diverse pools, how businesses can scale up and accelerate their pace of change, the changing face of leadership in tech, what we need post Brexit and so much more..!

Our guests on this podcast are:

  • Ben Brabyn CEO of Level39
  • Tom Bull, Head of Fintech at EY
  • Charlotte Crosswell, CEO of Innovate Finance
  • Husayn Kassai, CEO of Onfido
  • Karen Rudich, CEO and Founder of FireDrake
  • Tim Levene, CEO of Augmentum
  • Alison Rose, Deputy CEO of NatWest Holdings and CEO, Commercial & Private Banking, Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Adam Toms, CEO Europe, OpenFin

Ben Brabyn

Ben Brabyn, Head of Level39, launched his first digital business in 2001. The world’s first crowdfunding business, Bmycharity combined payments, social networking and data analytics, enabling 800,000 donors to deliver more than £50 million to UK charities. The business was sold to Help for Heroes, the leading charity for British service men and women.

Shortly afterwards, Ben survived a brain tumour while launching his next digital business, an e-commerce site, and also advised various energy, healthcare and social media businesses on strategy, finance and business development. After this, Ben worked for the UK government as of COO of UK Trade and Investment’s Venture Capital Unit, leading a team of VC and sector specialists. The unit established relationships between global investors and a wide range of UK entrepreneurial businesses.

Ben started his career with five years in the British Armed Forces as a Royal Marine Commando. After leaving the Royal Marines as Captain, Ben joined JP Morgan as an analyst working in New York, London and the Middle East.

Ben is an ambassador for the Royal Navy and Heropreneurs, and joined Level39 as Head in February 2016, supporting 200 high-growth technology companies who are transforming the security, productivity and reach of global financial services and other sectors. Ben has a Master’s degree in Philosophy and Literature from Edinburgh University and an MBA from Warwick Business School.

You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenBrabyn.

Tom Bull

Tom is the Director in the Financial Services practice at EY, leading our FinTech sector team in the UK. The practice serves FinTechs, corporate clients and private equity investors on a wide range of strategic, operational, capital raising and deal-related issues.

You can follow Tom on Twitter @tommybull.

Charlotte Crosswell

Charlotte Crosswell is CEO of Innovate Finance. She has spent most of her financial services career in market infrastructure roles. Most recently she was CEO at Nasdaq NLX (“NLX”), a London-based startup derivatives market, and sat on the board of LCH Ltd. She has held a number of management positions at Nasdaq and London Stock Exchange across international capital markets, equities, fixed income, OTC derivatives trading and clearing. In addition to her work with Innovate Finance, Charlotte advises and sits on the boards of technology and FinTech startups. Charlotte holds a BA (Hons.) in French from the Southampton University. She has been included in the list of top 100 Women in Finance over many years.

You can follow Charlotte on Twitter @ccrosswell.

Husayn Kassai

Husayn Kassai is the CEO and co-founder of Onfido, prior to which he served as the President of the Oxford Entrepreneurs student society along with co-founder Eamon Jubbawy. Onfido uses machine learning to deliver next-generation identity verification, helping businesses, ranging from sharing economy to banks, verify identities online using identity document, facial recognition and database searches.

Founded in 2012, Onfido has grown to a team of 150, received over $60m in investment and works with over 1,500 companies globally.

Husayn sits on the Advisory Committee of Oxford Seed Fund and the All Party Parliamentary Group on AI. He has a BA in Economics and Management from Keble College, Oxford.

You can follow Husayn on Twitter @HusaynKassai.

Karen Rudich

Founder and CEO of a challenger firm that focuses on improving profitability of financial services companies through the integration of new/innovative technology with legacy systems. She has led her team in generating multi-million pound turnover and regularly works with top tier banks and cutting edge FinTech/Reg Tech firms that appear on the “Top 10 to watch” lists.

Karen has nearly 20 years’ experience working in the banking sector, including in leadership roles at Lloyds, UBS, and Barclays responsible for large-scale transformation projects that generated billions of pounds in revenue. She is a strategic trouble shooter that looks to develop new ways of working for the best outcome for all.

Karen holds an MBA and started her career in the Canadian chemical engineering industry before moving to the UK to take advantage of the wave where she helped build a tech business that listed on AIM.

Tim Levene

Tim graduated in Russian Studies from The University of Manchester and joined Bain & Company in Moscow, Boston, Sydney and London. Tim embarked on an entrepreneurial path and left Bain in early 1998 and created a new retail concept when he opened his first Juice bar (Fresh n Smooth) in 1999 in Canary Wharf. The business has since evolved into a 31-store business across London called Crussh.

In the summer of 1999, Tim joined 3 former colleagues from Bain & Company and launched Flutter became one of the highest profile internet businesses in the UK after it merged with in 2001. Tim became the Commercial Director of the newly merged business and launched Betfair globally.

In 2010, Tim returned to London to start his next venture. He founded Augmentum Capital with the backing of RIT Capital and Lord Rothschild. The team focused on finding talented entrepreneurial teams in the Fintech industry that were bringing fundamentally disruptive products or platforms to the European market. In 2018, Tim and Richard successfully launched Augmentum Fintech on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, in the process becoming the first publicly listed Fintech fund in the UK.

Tim was made a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2012 and for several years advised The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry on digital strategy and innovation. Tim was elected in March 2017 to The Court of Common Council in the City of London to represent the Ward of Bridge (as an Independent). Tim is also a Governor of The City of London School.

Outside of the office, Tim has a young family and has been a Chelsea FC season ticket holder since 1979. He remains a keen footballer, golfer and skier although operating at a more sedate pace than in recent years.

You can follow Tim on Twitter @timlevene.

Alison Rose

Alison Rose is the Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Corporate, Commercial & Private Banking business and joined the Coutts Board on 1 October 2015.

She is a member of the RBS Executive Committee, leading over 16,000 people and accountable for market-leading brands such as Coutts and Lombard.

She has worked at RBS for over 20 years. Prior to her current role, she was Head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Markets & International Banking. Previous roles with RBS also include Head of EMEA Corporate Coverage & Client Management, Head of Non–investment Grade Origination and Head of Leveraged Finance for the UK and Europe.

Previously shortlisted for the ‘most influential woman in investment banking’ award by Financial News, Alison is a passionate supporter of diversity and is executive sponsor for the bank’s employee-led networks. She also champions RBS’s partnership with Entrepreneurial Spark, an innovative initiative that is supporting start-up businesses across the UK.

You can follow RBS on Twitter at @RBS.

Adam Toms

Adam Toms is the European CEO of OpenFin, the Operating System (OS) of Finance, which brings the application interoperability we have all come to love on our mobile devices onto the financial desktop. OpenFin has just closed their Series C funding round, having raised $17m from Barclays and Wells Fargo.

During his career, Adam has led numerous high profile businesses and large-scale integration projects resulting in a reputation for delivering industry change.

Before joining OpenFin, Adam served as CEO of Instinet Europe. Under his leadership, the firm ranked #1 for customer volume on the London Stock Exchange, #3 for Pan-European equity customer volume, achieving record market share and profitability.

Prior to Instinet, he was Co-Global Head of Electronic Trading at Nomura having joined as part of the company’s acquisition of Lehman Brothers, where he headed the Market Access Group. Prior to this, Toms was a trader at Barclays Global Investors specialising in index and quantitative trading.

You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamT_OpenFin.

Series Five, Episode One Transcript

Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking equality, diversity and inclusion in financial services. On each episode we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus and offer plenty of ideas to inspire change. To kick off series five, we have gone right into the heart of the FinTech community, as this episode has been recorded at the Annual Innovate Finance Global Summit at the Guildhall in the City of London.

Innovate Finance is the independence not-for-profit membership association representing the UK’s global FinTech community. The Global Summit plays host to hundreds of exhibitors and speakers and thousands of delegates. They get to hear from regulators and policy makers, business leaders and commentators across multiple streams, packed with panels, debates and workshops. Sitting high on the agenda of this summit is the question of talent. Does the UK FinTech industry have the talent it needs today and is it set to attract the talent it needs tomorrow?

To set the scene, let’s hear from Charlotte Crosswell, Chief Executive of Innovate Finance talking diversity and talent from her opening remarks on the main stage.

Charlotte: Diversity has rightly become one in the most crucial areas for improvement in financial services in FinTech. It has been shown that it is 35% more likely for firms to have higher profitability if they are in the top quarter of ethnic and cultural diversity. Only 17% of senior executives in UK FinTech are female, and financial services continues to be one of the worst industries for equal pay. In 2018, female-led startups received only 3% of total available funding in the UK. We need to develop more programmes, funds and opportunities to support and channel diverse talent.

There are incredibly talented women FinTech. Our annual women in FinTech power list received an unprecedented response and this year, 40% of our speakers over the next two days are female. This is not just about gender diversity. New product development requires diverse ideas on people from different backgrounds. FinTech and financial services can not continue to both push boundaries if we do not widen the talent pools, enhance recruitment practises and educate from an earlier age or retrain our teams through the digital revolution.

The UK is a global centre for talent with over 100,000 FinTech employees and 3,200 FinTech firms predicted by 2030. Recruitment, especially in technology and data science focus roles remains a priority for many businesses seeking to expand. I’m delighted to announce that Innovate Finance has launched a FinTech jobs board; a dedicated online resource to promote job vacancies, reaching into schools and universities and promoting FinTech opportunities across the country.

We must also inspire the next generation. FinTech should be a force for good in educating young people to see the importance of finance in their lives as future users of FinTech as well as a viable career choice. We should be teaching about savings and investments, affordable credit, loans, taxes and mortgages, as well as encouraging the next generation of innovators. That is why we have created ‘FinTech for Schools’, a campaign to help young people understand how to use FinTech, how to work in it, and how to influence the future of finance.

Julia: I caught up with Charlotte afterwards.

Charlotte: Skills and talent continues to be an issue for everyone across the market. We are constantly seeing this squeeze on people coming out of schools, out of the universities.  Have they got the right skills? Have they got the right talent? Have they got digital skills? And guess what, the employers want digital skills and so what we have to do is sit there and say, “how do we inspire that generation in schools, in universities to look at tech roles, to look at FinTech roles, to look at financial services in a different light than they would’ve before and retain those skills they had at university but also continue to relearn, retrain in the workplace as well?”

Julia: By 2030, how many people will be in FinTech?

Charlotte: The latest census has said that there is going to be 100,000 people working in FinTech. In my perspective, we’ve already got over 75,000. The rate of innovation coming through, we’ve got to think we’re going to be probably through that target before 2030 from my personal view. Companies are getting bigger, they’re expanding, they’re hiring more people, they’re getting smarter on going into universities, so I would love us to beat that target.

Julia: How are we going to find that talent?

Charlotte: We’re going to find that talent because everyone seems to think that if you want to work in FinTech, you have to have digital skills, you have to be an engineer. Yes, there are a lot of roles that are tech related, but you could argue that AI and machine learning will take some of those rolls over. I’ve talked to people and entrepreneurs who have come from marketing backgrounds. One of our members was doing woodwork, sculpturing, history. You look at people’s backgrounds, anyone could work in FinTech, you just have an open mind of what your idea is, what you’re trying to solve, and you want to go and solve that problem and take whatever talent you have.

Julia: Looking at across the UK, presumably there’s enormous potential of untapped talent across the UK. What are you doing regionally?

Charlotte: I constantly say, “you have to solve your talent problem through diversity and you have to solve your talent through a national strategy.” It is ridiculous that we only look within the M25, at people who are already here who already understand financial services and FinTech and sit there and vet your talent pool. No, it’s not. There’s such great innovation coming out across the country.

From the universities, I was in Manchester a couple of weeks ago, sitting there and you talk to them and innovations are bubbling out of the university: Leeds, Edinburgh, Bristol, Cardiff, you see FinTech wells being created, and so what we said is we will try to tie up that network. So we’ve decided to do deal with FinTech North and FinTech Scotland to create the national network. We’re inviting as many hubs as possible to come into that network where we exchange best practises, connect up the ecosystem, and most importantly, look at that talent.

On the back of that, we then announced a jobs board where we are now going to start advertising the jobs from our members, but also for non-members to sit there and say, “where’s the one focal place you can go to, where if you want to get a job in FinTech, you want to understand what the companies are doing that are hiring in FinTech? Come and look at that jobs board and get involved.”

Julia: If I think about schools and school’s initiatives as well, I know that’s one thing you’re really focused on at the moment. What are you doing there?

Charlotte: FinTech for Schools was launched by Innovate Finance a few weeks ago with John Glenn, Economic Secretary to the treasury, and that is sitting there saying “why should school children look at FinTech?” Is there a potential career for them? Most people wouldn’t be inspired at school with finance or technology, but they might be inspired by FinTech that’s because it’s entrepreneurial, it’s innovative. There’s careers out there they might not have even considered or probably don’t even know exist. We wanted to go back into schools to actually say, “what is FinTech?”

We are aware of all the banks have national programmes going into schools, so we’re sitting there talking to them and saying, “Well, how can we make sure they also talk about FinTech?” By that you’re also helping education on financial literacy. You have too many people in this country, 16 million people in this country have less than £100 in savings, so we sit there and if we can show them that actually FinTech may be a better solution than their common banking provider or how the banks are changing, with the traditional high street banks, why they should go to them, why they shouldn’t go to a payday lender, they can go and get a loan from a FinTech or from one of the high street banks. We want to sit there and educate on financial literacy through FinTech, but also look at career as well.

Julia: Back in 2017, EY was commissioned to run a FinTech census to find out the priority concerns for the UK’s industry. This year a followup census has been repeated and we caught up with EY’s Head of FinTech, Tom Bull to explore some of the early findings.

Tom: We’ve been working on the census now for a few months. We’ve contacted over a thousand companies in the UK FinTech sector and actually got responses back from 224 of those at the moment, sharing data on their priorities, their growth and really what they’re looking to achieve in 2019. When we were designing the census this time around, we decided to put a particular focus on the skills and talent topic, explore that in more detail than we have in previous years. And therefore we asked a range of questions on that including areas people were focusing on in particular areas of skill need, the topic of digital skills in particular and head count and hiring plans for the year ahead.

Attracting qualified or suitable talent continues to be the number one challenge facing FinTechs in 2019 which is consistent with our 2017 study. The most important skills for FinTechs, which are also in the most difficult to hire are in software engineering, systems architecture and development. The second most important skill area is data analytics, which was also identified as the second hardest area of skills to hire.

Julia: Keen to hear whether this chimed with the concerns of his members, we went up to Canary Wharf to meet Ben Brabyn, CEO of Level39.

Ben: Finding the right people and recruiting them and retaining them and helping them to be as productive as possible to play their best game is the central challenge I think every entrepreneur based here. There’s such a diversity of companies here that the skills that people need vary, but clearly both business development and technology development are key areas. So the hunger for people who can help bridge the gap between early stage companies and big incumbent companies and help deal with regulators and investors, those are important skills, but so of course are the technical skills required to build the capabilities of the businesses.

One of the challenges that early stage companies face of course is that they are individually quite hard to spot. There’s a great deal of a challenge of being noticed and known for small, early stage companies. We help to mitigate that by bringing so many companies together. So 1,250 people from about 50 different countries currently work in Level39, so those are kind of benefit of aggregation. One of the things that early stage companies I think really benefit from is being seen for the purposefulness, the social value that they bring, the extent to which not only are they creating new capabilities for their customers, but also they’re creating new jobs and plenty of value to society at large.

We’ve all got to get better at articulating that purpose and making the case for business as a public good. One of the challenges of talent of course is figuring out where do you go looking for it and how you ensure that it comes looking for you as well? And of course, very often people respond to all sorts of patterns, and that’s one of the things that diminishes diversity, not just in early stage companies but throughout the economy. I would just remind everyone of the challenge of making sure that you recruit in a way which supports and welcomes diversity; the benefits are emphatically worth it.

Julia: As Ben mentioned, working with the VC firms is incredibly important, and I was pleased to catch up with the CEO of Augmentum VC firm, Tim Levene. We started by talking about the UK’s position globally, thoughts, post-Brexit, how we can tap into regional talents, but then also towards the end I asked him about his considerations of the importance of diversity.

Tim: I think we are part of an industry that has grown tremendously over the last five/six years, I think the number of both FinTechs, the amount of capital coming into the market and obviously the growth in people that’s being attracted to the sector, the tens of thousands of people that are going to be part of this industry over the coming years, there is a challenge for us as a country to continue to attract talent. What we don’t have is enough incumbent talent here in the UK, here in London. We need post-Brexit a very progressive immigration policy for skills and for talent. I think, without it the growth of a lot of our FinTech businesses will be challenged as a result. We have a unique opportunity here. We’ve built something truly world class. We just now need to build on that over the next 5/10 years. If we get the talent piece wrong, then we are at threat of allowing and other major Country, major City taking our crown as the global FinTech lead.

Julia: And of course that’s potential talent across the UK as well. What are you thinking about there?

Tim: I think what we’ve done very well here in London is create the centre of gravity for FinTech. We’re sitting here in the city of London, 800 years of commerce. We have a huge amount of talent across the country and what we haven’t done as well as tap into that network, whether it’s in the north of England, in Manchester, whether it’s Edinburgh or even in the SouthWest as well. I think it’s really important for us as investors to spend more time outside of London. Yes, the centre of gravity is here. Yes, the pots of capital are here, but increasingly we’ve got a great business that’s now based in Manchester, an interactive investor that has several hundred people and will continue to grow, and there are some very exciting pockets of talent. We just want these pockets to become much more significant in real clusters.

Julia: We’re hearing much more that investors are looking closely at firms in which they are thinking about investing and asking more key keenly about their diversity numbers and their dynamics. Is that your experience?

Tim: What we’re seeing now in terms of diversity is a real sea change in approach. Perhaps this was an area three or four years ago where people talked about it, but I would certainly say in the last 12 to 18 months, we’re seeing real call to action. There is a genuine behavioural change. It’s certainly important for us. We need to be better at it, we need to ask the right questions, we need to work with our companies so they really understand the importance of it. I’m really comforted that we are seeing the start of a sea change, but it will take some time as well. Financial services industry, unfortunately when it comes to diversity hasn’t had that at the forefront, and there was a long way to go, but I’m feeling very positive about the steps that are being taken today.

Julia: As a female founder and entrepreneur in the FinTech industry and also of course, as host of this podcast, it was interesting to hear what people had to say about the value of diversity and inclusion. I thought it’d be helpful to go back to EY’s head of FinTech, Tom Bull, to see what the census might say.

Tom: Well, we know that one of the things that actually really turns people off looking at jobs in industries is a lack of diversity. In our 2017 FinTech census, they showed us that women represent just 29% of the workforce within UK FinTech despite 47% of the workforce overall being female. As for women in leadership positions, the same study found that only 17% of senior roles within the sector are held by women.

When I think about the 2019 census, I actually expect to see quite similar themes coming out in respect of women’s representation in the overall FinTech workforce and in terms of the trends at the senior leadership level. So it really shows us there’s a lot more work to be done in this area.

Julia: It was very interesting to hear that on one hand we have an irreversible trend, we have a growing appreciation of the value that diversity and inclusivity brings to the industry, and there’s a very key need to tap into that talent pool. On the other hand, the research is showing, the early insight into the census is showing that we have some way to go. I was delighted to grab some time with Alison Rose.

Alison Rose is the deputy CEO of NatWest Holdings with a responsibility for corporate, commercial and private banking for both NatWest and RBS. In addition, Alison was commissioned by the treasury and the Prime Minister to explore the central and essential question, “Why do we not have more female entrepreneurs?”

Alison: The Rose Review was a review commissioned by the Treasury into the opportunity and barriers facing female entrepreneurs in the UK. What we were looking at was, why are more female entrepreneurs not starting up and really trying to get underneath what the facts were and also what the barriers and potentially some interventions to really help solve this. The findings were pretty stark.

We did a lot of detailed research, lots of interviews, looked at previous reports and also looked at best in class around the world. What we found was that in the UK, only 33% of our entrepreneurs are female compared to over 40% in best in class countries. More shockingly, only 1% of VC funding goes to female entrepreneurs. Male-led businesses are 50% more likely to have almost four times the amount of capital at scale up.

If you look at all of that and say, “if we can solve that problem, get the level of female entrepreneurship to male entrepreneurship, which best in class countries can and have done, you’re talking about a 250 billion pound opportunity to the UK economy.” That’s really at the time we’re talking about productivity and growth, that’s potential we can unlock and support by intervening.

Julia: In terms of the opportunities and the barriers, where do you see the sticking points and where do you see the unlocking moments?

Alison: The barriers really, we try to distil it down to what are the really core barriers that affect women. Lack of awareness and access to financing and capital is a fundamental point. That 1% VC funding statistic is shocking. There is also for women a higher risk awareness, so they’re not risk averse, that’s not the issue, they’re more risk aware. Primary care responsibilities are definitely a barrier. Lack of relatable role models came out very strongly and relatable local role models. Actually if you can solve that, it really does help, and a perception of less experience and less skills which we identified as being not true.

Those are the five real barriers when you distil it down. That makes it much easier because then you can actually do something about those. What we were trying to come up with was a series of recommendations where public and private sector can work together to come up with practical interventions because there’s no silver bullet here. I can’t wave a magic wand and say, “Okay, look, everyone go and do this.” The interventions can really be around raising that awareness and access to capital.

I think transparency here is really important. We’ve launched a voluntary code for both banking partners to actually say how much money they put to help female entrepreneurs as well as we’re looking at a code of practise for VC and private equity so we can be transparent and raise awareness.

Julia: Are they coming into effect immediately?

Alison: Yes. We’re developing the code in banking. We signed up to that obviously at RBS and NatWest and Lloyd’s and Santander have also signed up, the UK Association of Angel Investors have signed up as well. We’re developing now the metrics. We’re working with Barclays and HSBC to encourage them to come in as well. I think what that will create is transparency. I’m a great believer if you have transparency in a target, you can actually make a difference. That’s being developed.

The code for VC’s, we’ve set up a task force backed by the Treasury that’s being run by Alexandra Daily and she’s developing that task force to explore how we can raise awareness of VC funding and get more women in front of VC’s as well.

Julia: Because you set this great ambition by 2030, talk us through the ambition and talk us about what we must be mindful of to be successful?

Alison: The ambition is to get more entrepreneurs, more female entrepreneurs and we’ve set a really ambitious target. Actually, that was set by the Prime Minister and the Treasury. I think the Prime Minister and the Treasury have really got behind this report, it’s their report and recognise that actually they’re leaving potential on the table. They’ve committed to more female entrepreneurs. By setting a target great, but how do you do it?

We need to encourage more young girls to think about starting businesses. Get in the pipeline at the very beginning. I think that that’s the issue. This is a pipeline issue. Put more helping relatable role models, more visibility of how to get access and support, more opportunity to scale up and the right intervention to encourage people to have the right skills and opportunity and then the funding partners to intervene at the right point with the right type of funding to help entrepreneurs.

I’ve said very publicly, one of the things I was concerned about is a lot of entrepreneurs start their businesses by using their credit card or been borrowing money from their family. That’s not the right answer. The other side of the problem is they end up giving away all their equity too early. How do you create visibility of what financing, what support you need at the right point in your journey? I think if we can solve those interventions across the pipeline and make this an area where people can really deliver their potential because there’s no lack of ambition out there. That’s the really exciting thing about this. If you can unlock that potential in that pipeline, then you’ll get to those targets.

Julia: Does that includes going right the way back into schools?

Alison: I launched a programme last year called Dream Bigger. What we’ve done is we’ve taken our Entrepreneur Development Programme, which is what we put the entrepreneurs who go through our accelerator hubs, and we’ve packaged it to get into schools and I’m specifically focusing on girls. We’ve taken that as a training programme. We’ve taken some of our sports sponsorship and taking these amazing female athletes who have really positive body image strength, packaged that, with that programme and some of our creative writing sponsorship to create a Dream Bigger around building entrepreneurial mindset, resilience and ambition.

We’re piloting that in a number of schools in rolling that out now. There are lots of private sector companies who do tech courses. We have Girls Can Code that go into schools, Microsoft, Dell, all of these companies do great things. I think the more we get into schools and actually open that opportunity of you can do this, the launch- preneurship, running your own business is a real opportunity. Because if you are in an area where you don’t come across entrepreneurs, your parents are not entrepreneurs, there aren’t the role models, why would you consider it?

Getting into schools, getting the ambition, that gets the pipeline at the beginning, but that’s not enough. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got to intervene right the way through the pipeline to make sure people have the support when they need it.

Julia: Tell us about the regional initiatives?

Alison: We have local Relationship Managers sitting all around the UK supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs, and that regional local support is so important and we’ve seen that through how we support business. For entrepreneurs that’s really critical. What they say is they want local, relatable role models who understand their economy, who are connected into the ecosystem – that ecosystem that provides huge amounts of support.

One of the initiatives that we’ve done and launched is our Entrepreneur in Residence and our Banker in Residence Programme. Working with the LEPs (Local enterprise partnerships), so public private sector working together to make sure support is accessible and local. I think that’s massively important. Sometimes everything centres to London or centres to the big city centres. You want to make sure people can get the support when they need it and in a way that is relevant to them. Because what we found is when they get it, it makes a disproportionate impact on confidence, risk awareness and where to go for help. I think that’s a critical element.

Julia: So having heard what Alison had to say, I thought it would be important to go and find a female founder. I caught up with Karen Rudich. Karen is the co-founder and CEO of a business called FireDrake. I asked her what inspired her to leave the world of corporate life to become an entrepreneur.

Karen: I’ve been working in financial technology for 18 years and I’ve always loved the size, the complexity and the diversity of the industry and particularly the corporate digital transformation challenges that it poses. I’ve been involved with traditional models, used internal and external resources and just kept thinking there’s got to be a better way. Unfortunately the challenge for firms out there was only becoming more and more complex, the urgency becoming more and more pressing and the need to make change and true transformation for improvement, bigger and bigger and more material for them.

I thought, “Why not me? Why not now?” I like a challenge, so I went ahead and set up FireDrake as a firm to go and help the banks transform and the financial services industry transform. There are so many talented women on these platforms and there is a lot of support and advice out there. The best support I ever received was, “If you’re unsure, ask for help.” The next generation needs to understand that they’re not alone and this is a great industry to come in and set up and really help them develop their skills.

We want them to consider being entrepreneurs. We want them to come to the industry. There are so many opportunities, not just in technology but in financial services and digital marketing and marketing and understanding customers across many, many very different areas. We need that young talent. We need those new minds. We need people who reflect our customers and the DNA that makes up our beautiful country in the UK. So yes, anything that could inspire the future generations I think it’s important, particularly if the UK wants to stay at the top of the league for attracting talent.

Julia: As we headed to series five of DiverCity Podcast and for the many interviews that we’ve now done, there’s always a message that comes across loudly and clearly; if you want to drive change, the tone must be set at the top of the organisation. So we were keen to hear from two CEOs, two Innovate Finance members, to see what they’re doing in their organisations.

Husayn: My name is Husayn Kassai and I’m the CEO. I’m one of the three co-founders at Onfido. Onfido helps businesses verify their government IDs of the users that they’re onboarding by making sure it’s a genuine ID and that the photo on the ID matches the person’s face.

Julia: We’re here talking about growth and scale, and many congratulations on raising your 50 million, which is fantastic. We imagine a proportion of this will be dedicated to scaling out the team. What sort of roles are you looking to fill?

Husayn: Across the company, there are a fair few vacancies we have to fill. The key two. One is growth, which includes sales, marketing and things of that nature. Second is technology, which includes engineering products, design, machine learning and so on.

Julia: Are you finding it easy to hire people?

Husayn: Hiring is not easy. It never has been, having a recognised brand helps a little bit, but it is tough, absolutely. I would in fact go ahead and say it is actually the toughest thing for us anyway, for I would suspect for most startups. Fundamentally, any business is the sum of its people. There’s talk about being in the right market, with the right products and the right time and so on and that’s fine. But for me it’s very much always been the right people.

When you look at anything that we have done that has worked out well, you can very clearly attribute that to a team lead, or an individual contributor in all likely the whole team that have delivered that. We from the outset, we are very fortunate to have a strong team and I’ve really worked hard to build on that ever since.

Julia: Do you think that leadership is changing in terms of being able to take that talent and nurture it and drive it forward?

Husayn: Yes, insofar as the way we approach it, because we’re now just over 240 people. There’s no way you could scale by just having a traditional recruitment function bringing people in and put them in a team. Every team lead now has 50 team leads, they all drive their recruitment process and everything from sourcing to interviewing, we have a recruitment team that assists, but it’s ultimately the team lead, the hiring champion, so to speak, that drives the process.

They are then tasked when a person joins to have a development programme, a training programme, a coaching programme and so on. We have a pretty strong philosophy on what we mean by a team lead and it’s not necessarily a manager, where the manager’s has connotations of controlling you, whereas a team lead attracts followers and is able to always set an example, always care for their team and most importantly be a coach to that team. And that’s in particular why it works well the way that we’ve structured it for our particular needs.

Julia: Clearly culture matters. When you think about the culture as you grow, what are the big things you’re thinking about?

Husayn: We thought of culture quite early on and it’s core to everything that we do. We have five cultural values in particular that are represented by a sort of animal logos and we celebrate them and we ensure that every new team member not only is a competency fit, but very much so is a cultural fit, it’s just as important.

Our specific cultural values; one is a penguin, which is about collaborating and working together. The second is a lion which is to be proud of your work. Third is a finch, a Darwinian finch so that you’re thinking outside of the box. Fourth is a chimp, so you’re learning and teaching others and the fifth is a bumblebee where you’re creating customer buzz or you’re always thinking of the customer needs.

These have been very pivotal to everything that we do because there needs to be a way of setting priorities, and as any organisation, the way you generate value is ultimately your resources are predominant people, the processes that is people putting structure to the ways of working, things that can be structured and then what you’re left with is priorities, and not everything can be structured into a process. A lot of decisions are basically ad hoc or just happen with the information that you have on that specific day.

So when you consider priorities, you really need the culture to drive those decision making processes so that you can have a decentralised flat hierarchy with everyone making the right choices without a grand CEO that is sort of omnipotent and knows everything and omnipresent and is able to sort of decide. The way that we do it is by having such a strong culture, we can trust the team will make the right decisions when we’re not in the room. By we, I mean what you traditionally classify as decision makers. For us, every single team member is the decision maker.

Julia: As you think about the next generation, how are you actually inspiring that next generation yourself?

Husayn: A big area for us is to ensure that we empower the team, it’s very easy to see that people tend to like it. They like to feel empowered, they like to learn. We’re living amongst lifelong learners, that’s a really core part of the job. And they like making decisions, and they like to see the progress and the impact that they have. If I were to say three things that people like the most is one is a sense of community, working together and teamwork. Second is to have impact on what they’re working on and delivering key results. And third is to be empowered to have an impact. When we get those things right, you tend to have a very inspired team.

Julia: Are there any other particular things that you’re growing or that you’ve learned in your journey about talents and in the context of diverse talent as well?

Husayn: In many ways the essence of startups and specifically entrepreneurship is to look for potential, and given how important the team are it’s to look for potential in individuals and the teams that you’re hiring. It’s not necessarily hiring based on someone’s grades because someone may have lower grades, but there may be a better fit because perhaps they’ve gone through adverse circumstances to get those grades. In a startup, given that things are moving at a fast pace, those with specific skill sets such as having been through adverse circumstances tend to do better, for instance.

Therefore, it is not just when you hire its thinking through who has the potential and most importantly setting up the right environment for those with high potential to be able to thrive, learn fast and contribute fast. We are also very conscious of diverse views as varied as possible. We have programmes whereby we do insights work to know if someone’s an introvert or an extrovert for instance. We consciously work in a boardroom setting or in a normal meeting to make sure there’s appropriate time for people to contribute. Team leads are trained to ask specifically if someone doesn’t contribute so much, ask them to contribute where appropriate and things of that nature so that you don’t necessarily just have those who are too talkative sharing their views but pulling from everyone in the organisation.

It’s only when you have a diverse range of ideas that you tend to work towards getting to what the ideal truth may be for that specific problem or challenge.

Adam: I’m Adam Toms, CEO of OpenFin here in Europe. OpenFin is the DOS of finance. The best way to describe that is if you think about your mobile phone, you get this amazing device that allows you to add and delete apps, discover them in a pretty unique way and also all of the apps work seamlessly together. OpenFin’s bringing that same experience to financial desktops.

Julia: From your perspective, what dominant skill sets are emerging in the industry today?

Adam: From a startup perspective, you can really think about the organisational culture and what are some of the attributes that come in fairly kind of not debt free, but certainly legacy free and very asset light. They’re very nimble and they can innovate. What does that lend itself in terms of the people that are successful in terms of those firms is people who can think they innovate, they’re more entrepreneurial, they’re more driven, they’ve got product and clients that are front and centre of their mind. That’s certainly true in large organisations, but particularly relevant for startup and new companies.

Julia: And did we have enough of that talent today?

Adam: I think this talent definitely exists. I think it really comes down to making sure that you get that diversity. One of the things that we’re very focused on is making sure we’re not just looking within capital markets, the old stomping ground perhaps of some of the management team, but really thinking about across the industry, where do we find these types of skill sets? Where do we find these types of people?

We’ve hired employees from very small firms, we’ve just a handful of people, 10 or 20 people all the way through to employees from Sony PlayStation or Goldman Sachs. It’s incredibly diverse. Talent definitely exists, you just need to know where to go and look for it.

Julia: How does the leadership team then think about diversity?

Adam: I think at the heart of a smaller firm, we have a drive and ambition to succeed and succeed as quickly as possible and make the company very successful both for our shareholders and clients. We want to create a great product, that really means that our drive is to find the best people no matter where they are and bring them into the organisation. I think the management team is always deeply engaged in that thinking and to think about the sources and where we can find particular talent pools. That’s why we act in a fairly unencumbered way when we think about sources of talent.

Julia: I know in the States, you’re doing some very exciting things going out into other pools of talent. Tell us about that?

Adam: Yes. We’ve been partnering with a firm called Code Nation for a number of years now. Code Nation are really focused on identifying children in schools in perhaps more deprived areas in New York and San Francisco and bring in tech and coding courses to the high school. That’s actually facilitated by volunteers from organisations like OpenFin, and is a very nice structured programme to introduce coding to children who perhaps might not have access or think that that’s a potential career for them.

The stats from Code Nation I think really speak for themselves. 74% of the alumni of Code Nation, if they completed the first two years of the course, 74% of that group are currently in some type of STEM work, and actually within that 63% specifically around computer science, which I think is an incredibly high number.

Julia: What’s the male-female ratio?

Adam: The gender mix for Code Nation is really quite impressive. Over 40% of the students are female, 60% male.

Julia: What should we really be focusing on then?

Adam: I think there’s really two elements that drive this diversity. First one’s going to be the senior management and leadership team of organisations really embracing diversity, setting that tone from the top. We’ve seen this before in financial services when the FCA for example had their drive around culture and conduct within firms by the senior management team setting that tone, it penetrated down through the firm, through various appropriate policies, forums, teachings, whatever it may be.

On the flip side point two, I really think is, how do we get this going from the grass roots, we talked earlier about Code Nation doing an excellent work. More programmes like Code Nation would certainly be welcomed. I think ultimately the government has a real role to play here. We know that the UK government, for example had their STEM White Paper and issued their recommendations some time ago, but there’s lots more that we could be doing.

Julia: I think a burning question is as an industry do we appeal to school age talent?

Adam: I think the connection with children is fairly simple, in some terms they have this great thing in their pocket called a mobile device, which is at the centre of their universe is delivering a great experience, product experience to them every day. The technology is improving all the time. They want the latest device, they want the latest application with the latest features and functions. So how do we get the children to understand they can be part of designing that journey.

Now, with the growth in FinTech and the need for technology globally and the numbers from Charlotte were really quite impressive this morning, I think it’s really incumbent on all of the technology providers from the newest of startups all the way to large organisations to really be nurturing that talent and spending time with school children.

Julia: That pretty much wraps up the special episode recorded at the Innovate Finance Global Summit in April 2019. I’d like to thank all our guests for being part of the show and to you for listening to DiverCity Podcast and for final comments, I leave them with Charlotte Crosswell.

Charlotte: I’m so encouraged when you look at kids sitting there, seeing them on the Tube and they’re using a smartphone. Now, some people might frown on that, but other people might say, “That’s a great idea. They’re getting involved in technology.” What you are seeing, children of 10 have grown up with smartphones and what we have to do is harness that power of technology and that’s across everybody here. Everyone around the world that’s unbanked, two thirds of them will have access to a smartphone, so how can we sit there and say, “You already have tech skills to operate that smartphone.”

How do we sit there and think right, let’s move that forward and let’s get those kids, whatever their background is, whatever their gender is, whatever their ethnic background is, to sit there and consider a career. It’s really important for FinTech companies to have a diverse workforce. I think we’ve gone a little, gone a little bit too far on gender and gender is really important, and we get huge amounts of support from some of the ethnic minority groups who work with over gender because they want us to tackle that first, but you could argue a 25 year old analyst coming out of university whether female or male is going to be probably thinking similar ways.

Let’s look at background, let’s look at social mobility, let’s look at the people on the spectrum. Autism is very common to be seen in computer science and data scientists because that’s the way their mind works and FinTech is much more open to that diverse workforce than maybe the traditional bankers.


Kieron: This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates.

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