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 >>