Coder, Broker, Music Producer: Hellenic Bank’s Natasha Kyprianides is Inspired by Constraints

This article was first published on FinTech Futures on May 3rd 2017.

Music producer, broker, coder, and a leading influencer within fintech, Natasha Kyprianides is not short of experiences and skills. Group Head of Digital Banking & Innovation at Hellenic Bank, she gives us a window into her fascinating path into fintech and some expert advice for other women in fintech paving their ways.

How did you start your career?

My first interactions with digital technology were through hard-disk recording for audio and music production in the late ’90s. I even built a professional recording-studio facility that I had briefly turned into a commercial one, but it was short-lived because I didn’t feel at the time that this was what I was looking for in a career.

I stumbled into banking 17 years ago, by accident. It was at a time when the stock market was booming in Cyprus, and I joined the banking sector as a broker. I then gradually started to unravel my resourcefulness in seeing things from a creative angle, and combined it with my passion for technology. I spent the early years of my career being more hands-on, by coding and building web interfaces of all sorts, as well as project managing in the digital space.

What sparked your interest in fintech?

In 2008, I was given the opportunity to set up the Electronic Banking department (a “dated” term as these days it’s been renamed to Digital Banking) from scratch, and acted as country product owner for the Cyprus subsidiary of the biggest bank in Greece (Piraeus Bank Group). That’s how I entered the world of innovation in banking!

I was able to blend three components that I’m mostly passionate about: Creativity, Technology and Entrepreneurship. This is also how my obsession began – about putting the customer experience first. I then went on to build an impressive portfolio of cutting-edge digital banking products.

The term “FinTech”, or financial technology, was not on the rise at the time.  It only started to gain real traction in 2015.  That was the year when I joined Hellenic Bank with a mandate towards the digital transformation roadmap.  The capacity of my current role enables me to fully harness the power of fintech to deliver fundamental innovations that disrupt and challenge the business model of a traditional financial institution.

What was your lightbulb moment?

My light bulb moment came in 2014. A year after the financial crisis had hit Cyprus and business was no longer as usual. I was starting to become rather restless, lacking motivation and enthusiasm. I had embarked on a journey to look for a new role and relocate (if necessary), somewhere where I could realize my vision of building impactful digital products to shape the future of payments, and thereby bring about social change.

What inspires you?

It’s probably a crazy answer, but I am inspired by constraints.  When there is less of a cushion between oneself and failure, innovation becomes a necessity.  I have come to discover that constraints can improve my agility and get my synapses firing at lightning speed.  Our perceived limitations may give us direction on where we might play, or want to play.

Why is the #WomenInTech movement important?

It’s tough to prove gender bias is real but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.  In fact, I have personally experienced it throughout my career but choose to brush it off.  I think of myself as a “person” and not a “woman” in tech or fintech.  I have observed reactions to my male peers at the workplace (who are not necessarily more capable) as being more authoritative and better-respected figures. That type of perception also affects differences in compensation and grade.

Overall, a diverse workplace is confirmed to get better results, more accurately reflects the customer/client base, and ensures a wider range of experiences.  Having said that, the best person should be hired for the job and not just to satisfy a statistic.

What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in FinTech?

If you are passionate about leaving your mark and making an impact, a career in fintech will provide opportunities so that you can get in on the action.  These avenues have the potential to change your life and maybe even the world.  This alone, can motivate and inspire the right type of person (whether a woman or man) to choose this industry.

Throughout the year we will be profiling women in fintech, not simply to celebrate their success but also to hear what has worked for them during the course of their careers. Click here to read more inspirational stories from fintech’s leading women >>

Cyber Risk is Real. How to Stay Ahead of the Curve

This is an interview with Mark Weir, Regional Director – UK & Ireland at Fortinet. Fortinet is a global cybersecurity firm based in California.

How real is the threat of cyber-attacks to the financial services industry?

Weir: Financial services are about as big a target as the cybercriminal community has, if the pure amount of attacks in 2016 is anything to go by. Due to the sensitive nature of its data and the value it holds for the cybercriminal community, it will likely remain in the crosshairs moving into 2017 and beyond. As the attacks grow in both number and complexity, financial institutions will have to prepare to better detect and mitigate threats in order to protect their organisation.

What is the level of understanding of cyber risk in financial institutions?

Weir: Whilst financial institutions are generally quick to adopt new technologies, every large retail bank is still hamstrung by legacy infrastructure and applications. To address that, they need to start examining their technology from a base level. This means understanding which platforms are under threat and ensuring they are fully up to date with security patches. But that is just a first step. What banks need to ensure is that they build upon that initial perimeter defense and start putting a ring around key applications. It is web applications that have long been favourite targets of hackers because they have access to valuable information and they are relatively easy to exploit.

Is enough being done across the industry to protect against cyber-attacks?

Weir: Industry players, their partners, big players in other verticals and vendors; all of them have little pieces of the jigsaw making up the bigger picture of protection against cyber-attacks. Only by them all being more co-ordinated and collaborative will defense be on par with the levels of attacks. Cybercriminals are certainly very well-organised, well-funded and well-regimented. They also benefit from having more time to prepare their attacks than those defending, so a more co-operative partnership between sectors, where organisations share intelligence is key to counteracting the threats.

As cyber threats are continuously evolving, what can financial institutions do to stay ahead of the curve?

Weir: Cyber threats evolve continuously, much like a fashion collection. Last year, Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks were in vogue and financial institutions are scrambling to ensure applications are protected from a DDOS point of view and ensure that the perimeter is fully patched and up to date. This way they can mitigate financial loss resulting from customers being unable to access their accounts and make online transactions.

And yet this can’t be done at the expense of more granular layers of application level security. Even if a hacker gets through those perimeter layers, there must be protection at the application level, for services such as checking your balance on a banking application. Cybercriminals can be hiding malware at this level, behind what would appear to most people to be legitimate requests.

It’s important to ensure a fully comprehensive response, as cybercriminals will already be working on the next big thing to attack your organisation.

What should the role of regulation be in ensuring that the FS industry is cyber resilient?

Weir: Banking is heavily regulated, and rightly so, but sometimes banks can wrongly go down the path of simply trying to meet compliance. That can all too easily become a minimum standard for security. It becomes a tick-box exercise. But the issue is, it may or may not be what is actually required for a particular application. Banks need to go on a security journey that is not only cost-effective and helps them towards compliance goals, but this journey first and foremost needs to be pragmatic. Cyber threats change on an hourly basis and cybercriminals are a moving target. Meeting the minimum standards of compliance can only go so far in helping financial institutions combat them. 

In the past few years, we have seen increasing levels of collaboration between large financial institutions and fintechs. What security considerations should banks and insurers have in mind when looking to work with fintech start-ups?

Weir: Large financial institutions are always looking at new ways of fixing problems and fintech start-ups can provide innovative solutions to these issues. However, security forms part of a bigger business consideration which needs to be made when collaborating with a start-up. The future for that particular organisation needs to be considered heavily. A financial institution may build a strategy based on a particular start-up’s technology but you need to make sure they’ll still be in business for years to come. Is there a likelihood of them going bust?

Another consideration is their global footprint. There may be some areas of the globe you may not want to work and do business. Do they have a footprint in the right geographic locations, and do they have security operation centres in the geographies you operate in? We should embrace new ideas and new technologies from new companies, but also consider the security implications.

What are the most exciting trends in cyber security sector?

Weir: Due to the sensitive nature and value of the data associated with it, the financial sector will undoubtedly remain a top target for cyber criminals in 2017. Whilst typically the finance industry has lagged behind other industries when it comes to moving data to the cloud, we expect to see more and more financial services institutions making the move. We have already seen some large banks and organisations making the move to public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. But they shouldn’t forget basic principles around the security of public clouds, and whether or not they have the ability to audit these services.

In 2017, we should also expect malware to get smarter. At the moment, malware can hide in a device or a network, but it is only programmed with a specific objective. A hacker simply points it at a target, and hopes that it will accomplish its goal. But now, threats are getting smarter and adapting to operate autonomously. We should expect malware designed with adaptive, success-based learning to improve the success and efficacy of attacks. The new generation of malware will be situation-aware, meaning that it will understand its environment and make calculated decisions based on this. Such as evading detection, choosing methods of attack and identifying targets.

How do you think the tech landscape will have changed in 5 years’ time: will the FS sector be more cyber resilient?

Weir: The FS sector is gradually starting to move towards the cloud to deliver the best customer service they can. Some organisations are moving entire systems and platforms to the cloud whilst others are opting for a hybrid approach. In five years’ time, I expect that a large majority of organisations will be operating in the cloud. With this increased migration, security is imperative, and with it comes many more factors to be considered when selecting a cloud security vendor. Data security, scalability, visibility and control as well as openness are necessities to be kept in mind in order to protect data, and mitigate reputational damage which can be devastating for any FS institution.

However, it’s important to note that the threat landscape from the last two years is unrecognisable now, and predicting the next big innovations in tech is impossible. In the cyber security industry, the fast-paced environment means that 5 years is equivalent to 20 years in any other industry! We will be more cyber resilient if we find better ways to communicate with other organisations and sectors and put data security at the heart of this.

If you could give one piece of advice to a financial institution on its cyber security strategy, what would it be?

Weir: For all financial institutions, every application and the data held within it is important, but it’s up to them to understand and prioritise what is important to customers. The trust financial institutions have with customers is critical to preserve brand loyalty and their reputation in the industry. They should build a security strategy around that trust, and the data held within their organisation.

If they don’t have an understanding of this, they need a plan to get there. In order to make this plan, organisations should pull together key stakeholders in the business, not just from IT and security but from all lines of the business. If the IT function acts in silo, without insight from other departments, this can lead to making an application which is unsuitable for particular use cases. This is why Line of Business representatives across departments need to be present in security workshops in order to create a high level plan which all stakeholders can buy in to. This is a problem which is particularly faced by financial institutions, the larger the business the more difficult it is to have these kinds of meetings to ensure that everybody is on the same page when it comes to cyber security.

Webinar On-Demand: Personalising Financial Services in a Customer-Centric World

On June 7th, Finovate hosted the “Personalising Financial Services in a Customer-Centric World” webinar. On the panel was Julius Abensur, Head of Industry Finance, Relay42, Simon Bloom, Director of Commercial Operations, Relay42, and Katelin Cwieka, AVP Social Media & Brand Communications Manager, Avidia Bank.

Listen to this lively discussion about the role that data, effectively leveraged, can play in designing and delivering financial services that are truly customer-centric. Understand how to create a single 360 customer view and how to enhance the customer journey and deliver personalized and relevant messages to your customers. Empower the ability to automate and orchestrate your activities – reduce key KPI’s like cost per acquisition by 50%.

We had insights from both a provider of data management services, Relay42 as well as from a financial institution, Avidia Bank that is on the front line of creating best-in-class financial services products for its customers.

“92% of marketers are confident their business is preparing for GDPR. Only 4% realise they’re responsible.”

This exclusive report explores how marketers need to move now, to turn data protection, into a real business opportunity: form.relay42.com

Stop Cyber Attacks Before They Happen: Three Easy Hacks

Written by James Stickland, CEO of Veridium (FinovateEurope 2017). Originally published in FinTech Futures.

Consider this terrible dichotomy: while the average person’s application count has gone up significantly, corresponding end user cyber-security measures have gone up little, if at all. Between the app store, social channels, and the multitude of devices in use, a person’s threat landscape – the number of points from which a hacker could target them – has increased dramatically. As a result, the end-user is enormously reliant on enterprise and application providers to keep their data secure when they use these apps.

Cifas recently reported that cyber-enabled identity fraud has hit record levels in the U.K. – with younger users amongst the top targets. This seems counter-intuitive, as this demographic is certainly more tech-savvy. However, someone aged 18-21 may not be as protective of their finances as someone in their mid-40s. The younger generation doesn’t have distinguished user behavior (i.e., they haven’t opened or closed credit cards or taken loans) so it’s difficult for banks to determine what’s normal for them.

Banks have an endless amount of sensitive customer data in their possession and are under pressure to generate increased revenue per user, which means multiple touch points with single clients. This is proliferating the problem by creating increasingly complex client maps and insertion points where hackers can find their way in. Companies are working furiously to thwart attacks, but there are some very straight forward approaches that institutions should be taking to stop the attacks before they occur.

Why aren’t banks doing anything about it?

The cybersecurity problems are clear and the news headlines tell the story. In fact, in 2016, the five biggest data breaches all involved compromised, weak or reused passwords. So why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? One of the key drivers is a risk aversion to putting off customers, or complicating employee access. Anytime you require a change in behavior you can expect a backlash. For example, what would you do if suddenly your expectation of what was required to use an online account changed? Institutions think they are making passwords safer by requiring them to be more complex. In the end, this approach is self-defeating and delusional. It’s not making us safer, it’s putting us at a higher risk and defeating the original plan.

What can we do in the finance industry?

Financial companies are filled with high-value assets and have been making the attack landscape more complex through better and more intelligent firewalls, managed rules, and policies. There has also been a segregation of the data, isolating high value content and adding end-point and data-specific security. Yet, security is never a finished project; it is an ever-evolving beast and hackers have an incentive to keep getting smarter. So how can we stay alert and act?

1. Take away the easy entry points

Passwords are an easy entry point. Enterprises set rules and requirements in an attempt to maintain security:  increase the number of times a user needs to change their password, set guidelines that say the password can’t have been used before, or it must include seven characters. Yet, adding rules doesn’t change the issue behind the password.

2. Update security questions

Previously, companies didn’t have to consider the social aspect. It wasn’t a concern that someone could find out your mother’s maiden name or your high school mascot just by checking your Facebook; personal details were less accessible. This is not the case today. Consider how simple it is for hackers to research and uncover those answers.

3. Kill the password

Weak and compromised passwords continue to be a major attack point for hackers, and the costs for maintaining them are high. Even with these issues and if your password policy hasn’t been compromised, passwords don’t prove you are you – they just prove you know something about who you say you are.

Biometric authentication allows you to prove you are who you are through a variety of methods – face recognition, iris recognition, fingerprint scanning, and behavioral authentication. It offers your customers the ability to quickly and conveniently access their accounts, avoid forgotten and misplaced passwords, while increasing security and a fit for the digital age.

How to Make it as a Woman in FinTech: “Don’t Wait to Become a Leader”

This article was first published on FinTech Futures on May 18th 2017.

Adding to our stellar line up of leading women in FinTech, we speak to Alex Foster about how she has become Head of Insurance & Finance Sector & Post Trade Services at BT, and what she would suggest if you were just starting out as a woman in tech.

How did you start your career?

I always had a fascination by what makes the cogs turn in the financial markets world. I started my career on the trading floor — initially working in sales trading which was at that time more voice based.  Over time, the markets started to morph and automation and algorithms evolved.  With this ‘electronification’ of the markets came the need for more than just traditional trading skills.  The role started to require greater market understanding, as well as market structure and technology knowledge.

To have a true understanding of how things work, I developed an appreciation of the effect of technology, such as the impact of proximity and algorithms.

My current role is at BT, a move I made to get a better view as to what was ‘under the bonnet’ of the infrastructure underpinning the global financial markets. I’ve found this has made my skill set more rounded. I’ve been able to provide first-hand knowledge of customer requirements. This helps us to develop technology solutions that anticipate the needs, and support the aspirations of, the full spectrum of BT’s financial services customers.

What sparked your interest in FinTech?

I have always enjoyed the tech side of financial markets and have always strived to act as an agent of positive change. FinTech has so much potential to deliver new ways of working. The possibilities that can evolve from a perfect synergy of new technology, collaboration and regulation are incredibly exciting.

Consider the process – new regulation comes in, start-ups develop the necessary technology to manage it, and collaboration between firms sees the process through. Fintech is an integral tool for moving financial markets forward.

What was your light bulb moment?

My light bulb moment came about four to five years ago, when I began working with bankers, some who were friends, leaving their traditional roles on the trading floor to create new and exciting FinTech, RegTech, and InsurTech companies. As we know, these start-ups are a growing source of innovation in the financial markets industry.  But their small size can create challenges around market adoption, delivery and meeting the stringent contractual or compliance expectations of large financial institutions. We started to work with these companies to help them scale-up to obtain a global reach. I realised the monumental impact that these technologies and FinTech firms could achieve when the right partnerships are in place.

What inspires you?

I find the drive and nerve that start-ups have when they decide to give their idea a go very inspiring. That willingness to try something different is so exciting because you see human ingenuity, courage and hard work at its finest.

At BT, I see so much innovation first hand. I also get involved with this as a non-executive director or simply as a noisy advisor. From these positions, I get to see the talent that it takes to take an idea and make it grow. The absolute focus you need to achieve this is exemplary.

Why is the #WomenInFinTech movement important?

The digital age is here and with it we can already see that new technology will pervade every part of our global economy. STEM is a big part of this growing field and one where more top talent is needed, but where female representation is still too low.  It’s so important that we see more girls taking STEM subjects in their school years. And it’s equally important that we attract, retain, develop and progress female talent in these careers.

At a personal level, I have always loved tech – my school was one of the first that offered a Computer Studies O Level and it has been a huge part of my professional life. And I studied mathematics, statistics & computing at university. That’s why the movement is so important; it encourages women to take up the opportunities which have made such a difference to me.

I’m encouraged to see that this is actively promoted at BT through initiatives like ‘Step into Stem’ and ’BT TechWomen’ which aim to increase the presence of women in technology. Again, partnerships are essential – we are working with a number of our clients, start-up hubs, schools and business partners realise our ambitions together.

What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in fintech?

Make sure you have great mentors, both within your firm and externally. Never be afraid to ask questions, this will help you to continue to learn and flourish. Don’t wait to become a leader – start this at whatever stage of your career you are in. And finally, always aspire to be the leader that you yourself would want to follow.

We hope you enjoy our Women in Tech Series, where we celebrate the accomplishments of women in the technology industry, and learn more about what it takes to succeed. For more insightful stories from fintech’s leading women, check out our previous Women in Tech interviews.

Do you know a woman in fintech whose achievements we should know more about? Contact us at sophie.cater@knect365.com.

Webinar On-Demand: How Start-Ups Can Make it in the Fintech Industry

On May 17th, Finovate hosted its first-ever webinar: “How to Make it in the Fintech Industry: 3 Startup Success Stories.” On the panel was Moven CTO Kumar Ampani, Clinc founder and CEO Jason Mars, and Jeff Cain, Director of the Envestnet | Yodlee Incubator as they share insights on what fintech entrepreneurs what they need to know in order to turn their innovations into the solutions, apps, and services of tomorrow.

What does it take turn your fintech startup into one of the industry’s great success stories?

The growth of fintech worldwide is creating more opportunities than ever for entrepreneurs and startups. The same industry that is making it easier for the underbanked to build a financial future is also making cross-border payments cheaper, safer, and more transparent for the world’s largest financial institutions.

And from crowdfunding platforms to chatbots, fintech is the place where the social and the “artificially-intelligent” are partners in helping us save, spend, and invest.

How can startups harness this global opportunity in fintech and turn it into demand for their own innovations and solutions? What does it take to separate your fintech startup from the rest of the pack?

Watch on-demand >>

Webinar: How to Make it in the Fintech Industry – 3 Start-Up Success Stories

What does it take to turn your fintech startup into one of the industry’s great success stories?

The growth of fintech worldwide is creating more opportunities than ever for entrepreneurs and startups. The same industry that is making it easier for the underbanked to build a financial future is also making cross-border payments cheaper, safer, and more transparent for the world’s largest financial institutions.

And from crowdfunding platforms to chatbots, fintech is the place where the social and the “artificially-intelligent” are partners in helping us save, spend, and invest.

How can startups harness this global opportunity in fintech and turn it into demand for their own innovations and solutions? What does it take to separate your fintech startup from the rest of the pack?

On May 17th at 11am Eastern, Finovate will host its first-ever webinar: How to Make it in the Fintech Industry: 3 Startup Success Stories.” Join Moven CTO Kumar Ampani, Clinc founder and CEO Jason Mars, and Jeff Cain, Director of the Envestnet | Yodlee Incubator as they share insights on what fintech entrepreneurs need to know in order to turn their innovations into the solutions, apps, and services of tomorrow.

Register now for your place on the webinar >>

Meet your speakers

Panelist: Kumar Ampani

Chief Technology Officer

Moven

 

 

Panelist: Jeff Cain

Senior Director

Envestnet | Yodlee Incubator

 

 

Panelist: Dr. Jason Mars

Co-founder and CEO

Clinc

 

 

 

Moderator: David Penn

Research Analyst

Finovate

 

Blockchain – a Revolution for the Patient

Written by Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy, Finovate

The excitement surrounding blockchain or the somewhat less jazzy sounding Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT – in all its forms and incarnations) has been much discussed and taken up many column inches over the past few years. The conversations around the potential of the technology to upend entrenched processes has extended well beyond financial services and use cases have been explored across a broad range of industries – from music and entertainment copyrights to the provenance of organic coffee beans. And what has followed, more recently, is the almost inevitable questioning of whether it’s all been overly hyped. A recent estimate from Gartner indicates that 90% of enterprise blockchain projects launched in 2016 and the first half of 2017 will fail within two years.

“Most revolutions occur over time rather than in a high profile moment and whilst commentators may be impatient for results, there is a lot of activity going on,” Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy, Finovate

Operating from the assumption that the broad range of stakeholders involved haven’t collectively lost the plot or the ability to apply an economic calculus to an assessment of technology, interest is clearly being propelled by some powerful drivers. The potential to make significant cost savings, streamline processes and create more secure and, indeed, tamper proof systems, are powerful incentives to explore and invest in use cases and proof of concepts. High levels of failure are not therefore a signal that the technology has a weak use case but rather that interest remains high and the potential rewards considerable.

Given JP Morgan’s recent exit from R3, following other large players like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley last year, it is easy to yearn for the tangible and believe that the ‘trial’ stage will continue for the foreseeable future. Yet, we need to follow the practical implementations that are happening and there are a good many examples across financial services.

“Identity is an area where DLT is being explored by many financial institutions in partnership with start-ups,” Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy, Finovate

Ripple [FS13] has recently added 11 new banking members to its network and now has 75 bank customers using its Interledger protocol. Whilst still far off from overtaking Swift’s 11,000 member banks, it is creating the standards for financial institutions to follow and use DLT. Creating a new process in a new institution is likely to be far easier than attempting to get agreement on changing incumbent processes from 11,000 members. Enabling financial institutions to connect to payment networks and distributed ledger technology to send and settle international payments among one another in almost real time presents a powerful alternative to the current model.

Identity is also an area where DLT is being explored by many financial institutions in partnership with start-ups. SecureKey [FF12], for example, is creating an identity and authentication network underpinned by DLT. It has signed up a number of financial services institutions to its network and received grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security in the US. There are many start-ups operating in the Identity space and beyond (think KYC/AML), harnessing blockchain technology to provide RegTech solutions to the financial services industry where the opportunity to cut costs and provide more robust regulatory compliance is enormous. Regulators at the national, supranational and international levels have taken notice and are compounding interest rapidly.

“Central to the potentially transformative potential of DLT technology is not simply to replace old tech with new but to fundamentally change processes in ways that have not yet even been formulated,” Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy, Finovate

Looking at a newcomer, blockchain based start-up banki Humaniq, which is targeting the unbanked across emerging markets though a mobile app, recently received investment from Deloitte. It also raised funding through an Initial Coin Offering. Included in its ambitious objectives to harness the blockchain for good to meet the needs of unserved communities are to leverage biometric, voice and location technologies to overcome the hurdles of a customer base who often lack conventional identity proofs.

Big tech is also forging ahead with the creation of blockchain products and services and with both IBM and Microsoft creating blockchain-as-a-service applications for businesses, one can assume that DLT technologies are no flash in the pan. It takes time to work through both the use cases and practical implementation of new technologies; legacy technology cannot be simply replaced in short order. Central to the potentially transformative potential of DLT technology is not simply to replace old tech with new but to fundamentally change processes in ways that have not yet even been formulated. Most revolutions occur over time rather than in a high profile moment and whilst commentators may be impatient for results, there is a lot of activity going on.

“I have lightbulb moments all the time – doesn’t everyone?” The rise of women in Fintech

This article was first published on FinTech Futures on April 18th 2017.

Liz Maguire, Head of Digital & Transformation at ANZ reveals the secret to her success within fintech and #WomenInTech.

How did you start your career?

I started in a bank graduate programme straight out of university in a frontline role. I’ve since worked in lots of different departments and roles across several companies and time zones. I’ve held leadership roles in products, marketing, business support and channel management, and now lead a fantastic Digital and Transformation function at New Zealand’s largest (and best!) bank.  

What sparked your interest in fintech?

I’ve always worked in areas which are trying to do things differently and better – and this has really motivated me.

The Digital and Transformation area is a perfect fit for me – we’re part of an industry which is evolving around us and we’re using digital tools to drive the evolution.

I also love the people aspect of it. It all comes down to human behaviour – everything we do starts with people. We don’t just think up cool digital stuff and then try and get people to use it. We study the way people think, behave, work and live and design digital banking functions to make their lives easier – and that’s pretty satisfying.

What was your lightbulb moment?

I have lightbulb moments all the time – doesn’t everyone? For example, I had a real lightbulb moment about the so-called ‘disruptive FinTech companies’. The whole fintech industry is often positioned in quite a negative light for banks, but I think this ignores the fact that banks have a huge track record of digital transformation already.  There are fantastic examples of fintech enablers – those which help banks be better at a particular aspect of what they do. I see enormous opportunity in this.

What inspires you?

People with growth mind sets inspire me – those people who have the ability to take 1 plus 1 and create 3. I have tremendous respect for people who have overcome large obstacles to achieve their goals.

Also, on a daily basis I’m inspired by great customer experiences – whether that’s a story about how one of our bankers or digital tools have impressed a customer, or an experience I’ve had with a company that has blown me away.

Why is the #WomenInTech movement important?

It’s bringing together two important things. Women are half of the population and so we need to address the disparity in the industry. And it’s such an important industry – it’s a crucial part of society and the way we all progress. We need to get as many diverse brains as possible working on the opportunities that exist out there for technology.

What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in FinTech?

As a whole, society has come a long way in the gender equality stakes. But we’re definitely not there yet, especially in this industry. I think it’s important to ensure young women are supported and can learn from the examples of others. This might be simple things like learning to speak up in meetings, how to ask for help and how to be more visible.

Throughout the year we will be profiling women in fintech, not simply to celebrate their success but also to hear what has worked for them during the course of their careers. Click here to read more inspirational stories from fintech’s leading women >>

Women in FinTech: “Be brave and dare and you will succeed.”

Woman run to new opportunities

FrancoiseThis article was first published on FinTech Futures. Françoise Lamotte, SVP, Head of Direct and Digital, MetLife EMEA, tells us about her path to becoming a distinguished leader within the FinTech industry and gives some invaluable advice for companies and women aiming to give rise to Women in Tech. Lamotte is on the Advisory Board for InsurTech Rising 2017, the leading InsurTech showcase for the future of insurance.

How did you start your career?

I started my career 25 years ago in Japan – I was absolutely fascinated by the country after spending 18 months there as a scholar funded by the Japanese government. At that time there was no internet, no mobile or smart phones; it sounds like pre-history!

What sparked your interest in FinTech?

In 2007, I became the first chief digital officer of AXA group. I realized the tremendous challenge for a large multinational company to digitally transform itself and bring innovation to the forefront. Large companies have assets like brand, customers, data, capital, but often lack the agility and the willingness to experiment. Fintech is the primary stimulus for more customer centricity. More importantly, smart partnering with startups is, for me, the best way to prepare the future when you are a large incumbent.

What was your lightbulb moment?

I had the opportunity to work at a very successful start-up of the sharing economy and experienced how company culture is critical for success: sharing the same vision, strong values, leadership and transparency, customer focus – these are key ingredients that need to be seeded from the very beginning to ensure success and growth.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by courage and determination – a mix of “anything is possible” and “I can do it”.

Why is the #WomenInFinTech movement important?

Diversity in the workspace is very important. Organizations perform better when they are inclusive and when women are strongly represented at all levels. However, when you add “tech” to the equation, it seems it raises an additional barrier.  Right from the source, the pool of female talents is currently more limited – fewer female engineers, fewer female studying computer science, etc. The #WomeninTech movement will help inspire female students and young professionals to choose careers in that space and create an inclusive environment where they can thrive and succeed.

What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in fintech?

Choose the right environment for you, meaning the project that inspires you and the colleagues and leaders who develop a great company culture. Get support and coaching from a mentor. Join Women’s network. Give visibility to your work and achievements – speak up, promote what you do, share your opinion, get on stage. Be brave and dare.. and you will succeed.

Throughout the year we will be profiling women in fintech, not simply to celebrate their success but also to hear what has worked for them during the course of their careers. Read more inspirational stories from fintech’s leading women >>