Update - February 2017

What skills do women need to be successful leaders in the Fintech and alternative finance industry?

Can emerging companies offer an opportunity for women to do something different? Can technology revolutionise conventional financial services? These and other questions were debated by a panel of high profile leaders from the European FinTech and alternative finance industry to discuss opportunities and challenges for women in this growing area as part of Cadwalader’s Women in the City Programme, a series of seminars designed to inspire more women to take leadership roles in their organisations by offering open dialogue, useful insights and practical guidance.

Five takeaways from this inspiring discussion:

1. The industry offers real opportunities for young women – the key is having a good mentor.

The good news is that with the rise in new technologies and solutions, as well as increased attention from policy makers, legislators and regulators, leaders in the innovative FinTech and alternative finance sectors are recognising that promoting gender balance has important economic benefits. However, there are still too few women leaders in this field. Some companies are introducing initiatives such as mentoring - finding a good mentor is a great way to help build your career!

2. Leadership teams greatly benefit from the ‘female touch’.

Senior women in finance and technology could benefit from collaborating within their own organisations and across industry to inspire changes as well as the next generation of female leaders. Men have a critical part to play in helping to break down unconscious bias and the subtle barriers that can often prevent leadership teams from being more balanced and including women – which in turn can lead to the perception of an ‘old boy’s network’. Decision makers across the industry could benefit from being more aware of gender bias to ensure a level playing field in which women are considered fairly for prospective senior roles.

3. Girls benefit from learning STEM skills as soon as possible.

Some European jurisdictions – including the UK - are lagging behind in encouraging girls to study STEM subjects (science, technology, enginnering and mathematics) at any early age. For example, in Italy, many girls are actively discouraged from studying maths and science. Members of the panel regretted that they were not given the opportunity to develop their interests in either finance and technology until a much later age (post their formal education). Understanding differing cultures will go some way towards encouraging diversity but stereotyping begins at an early age and this cycle needs to be broken. For countries across Europe to become more economically successful in developing FinTech products and solutions, both boys and girls should be encouraged to study STEM subjects at an early age.

4. Take advantage of grassroots educational initiatives such as Women Who Code.

What can young women now do to find support entering this industry? The panel encouraged the audience to enter an “exciting industry”, and recommended that young women seek out role models and mentorship. Developing STEM skills, taking advantage of mentoring programmes and joining initiatives such as Women Who Code which offer extra-curricular learning opportunities for children and women who want to learn more are ways to build your career in finance and technology. Many firms are now offering internal training and mentoring for young women which is a positive sign.

5. Attitude and approach makes all the difference!

“Ask how the industry can work for you” was the takeaway advice from the panel. They recommended that women who believe they can take a risk and have the confidence to know they can do something different will go on to develop successful careers in the finance and technology sector.

The panel was moderated by Jeremiah Wagner, Partner, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and included, Gen Ashley, Director at Women Who Code, Emanuela Campari Bernacchi, Partner at Gattai, Minoli, Agostinelli & Partners, Elisabeth Noble, Senior Policy Expert at the European Banking Authority, Dipali Sahni, General Counsel & CCO, MW Eaglewood Europe and Lucy Vernall, Global General Counsel at Funding Circle.

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