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June 3, 2023
Finance Technologies

Disruption through diversity and empowerment

Neela Das, Accuity: “Be bold. If you don’t value yourself, how can you demonstrate it to others?”

It’s easy to take for granted the benefits of being a multicultural and diverse organisation.

Creating a culture of empowerment for people of all backgrounds and genders takes time and considered effort, but is a crucial move for fintech companies to draw advantages for the company, its people and the industry. It’s important to listen, talk openly and help to cultivate the fresh new ideas that come from a diverse pool of talent.

Coincidentally, according to a recent study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), there was a statistically significant relationship between diversity and innovation outcomes, including an increase of 12.9% of innovation revenue.

Diversity and inclusion matter.

Dipping into the talent pool

Serving financial services and corporate customers around the world, it’s amazing when I walk through our London office to hear how many different languages are spoken. When you then include our teams across the globe, it’s energising to work with people from different professional and ethnic backgrounds and to be able to draw on this rich experience to grow the business. Whilst there’s still a lot to do to achieve parity, it’s also great to see so many female colleagues working in fintech.

When I first joined the company in 2016, I brought 16 years of experience working in disrupted industries. That meant coping with market changes, listening to customer needs, helping businesses evolve and making sure that we were constantly innovating.

My experience was not in financial services, but because I had that core skill set and the ability to look at changing landscapes and customer needs, there was real confidence that I could thrive in my role. In short, my employer valued my diversity of experience and I felt empowered from day one.

Today, my global team evaluates new technologies that can be integrated into our solutions to help our customers. We ask ourselves, “Can we build it? Can our customers use it? And most importantly, will it provide enough value that they’ll buy it?”

By exploring new technologies including blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) techniques such as machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), we can create new innovative financial crime compliance solutions that are tailored to meet the specific challenges our customers face.

A great example of how regtech solutions are solving diverse customer problems recently came to light when I heard a client from Afghanistan speak on a panel. He told the story of how de-risking had cut a bank off from the financial system. Our sanctions screening solution had helped the bank improve its compliance standards so it could connect with the outside world. It’s fantastic that the work we do allows people to be included – safely and securely – within the global markets.

Tips for women in the industry

There is much greater awareness now of the double standards that many women working in technology face. There have been examples of people experimenting on GitHub by posting the same code as a man and as a woman, and highlighting the differences in the responses received.

We are also seeing greater awareness of the gender pay gap. There are so many reasons for this, which I won’t begin to analyse here; however, having managed both men and women for a number of years, I do have one observation: women often undervalue their own contribution.

I have been lucky to have been supported by some wonderful role models of both genders and I think it’s important to carry this on.

One of the things I say most often over cups of coffee with colleagues is “Be bold. You have earned it. More importantly, if you don’t value yourself, how can you demonstrate it to others? There is no harm in asking.”

There are promising signs of things changing, but there is much more to be done to attract more women into the field – especially in leadership roles. By advocating for change, providing mentors and employee support groups, and embedding diversity and inclusion into core values, we can improve both the overall culture and the top line.

By Neela Das, head of innovation, Accuity

Disruption through diversity and empowerment
Disruption through diversity and empowerment

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