Women in FinTech: Lead the digital revolution and know your tech
InsurTech Rising (FinTech Futures’ sister compacy) spoke to Jennifer Hansen, Head of Global Sales Strategy and Execution & EVP at Saxo Bank whose 20 years’ experience in financial services give her a holistic picture of the state of equality within the industry. Like many other women in tech that we have spoken to, she sees education the starting point for end of inequalities within the work place.
Jennifer is responsible for Institutional Lines of Business and Sales. Jennifer has over 20 years’ experience in financial services, specifically asset management. Prior to Saxo, she was Global Head of Product Management for the fixed income business of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Jennifer also held a number of institutional sales roles at Credit Suisse Asset Management in New York, London and Zurich. Jennifer holds an MBA from INSEAD and a BA in Economics and Philosophy from Bucknell University, Pennsylvania.
How did you start your career?
I started my career in the asset management industry, initially in a large US insurance company and latterly, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs. In these roles I worked predominantly with institutional clients who had the best access to portfolio management, investment talent and portfolio construction. During this time, in the late 90s, I was involved in the initial digitisation of the US pensions savings sector, where regular investors were given insights and knowledge which would enable them to more effectively manage their savings.
This is similar to the way in which robo-advisers are starting to revolutionise asset management services today. It was very exciting to be part of the digitisation revolution back then as it was the first step towards understanding that the financial services industry could come up with better ways to serve its customer base by leveraging technology – which in those days was the internet.
What sparked your interest in FinTech?
It was the early exposure to the digitisation of the US pensions industry which piqued my interest in fintech as it signified an empowerment of investors who were able to take control of their financial future. That said, I didn’t return to this theme until ten years later when I was introduced to Saxo Bank. It was like no other bank I had ever experienced as it was driven by the goal of democratising trading and investment through the deployment of cutting edge technology.
What was your lightbulb moment?
My Eureka moment was when I saw the Saxo Bank model and I realised that technology should be the starting, not the end point in financial services. This theory continues to hold true as we are finally seeing the financial services industry waking up to the fact that the quality of the user experience is critical.
What inspires you?
There have been times in history where the customer experience has been reshaped – whether that be in music, travel or retail – and right now financial services is going through that reconfiguration. We are at the tipping point of the customer experience becoming the driving force in the financial services industry and I am very excited at seeing all the different ways that new players are trying to improve it.
Why is the #WomenInTech movement important?
I worked in Wall Street at a time when women were beginning to break into finance and we are at a similar stage in the technology industry. Women are currently under-represented in the technology sector and I believe this is best addressed by girls and young women in schools and universities being encouraged and inspired to view technology as an interesting and rewarding career path. In short, it will require a dedicated effort to attract more women in to the technology sector. When I was at university, there was the same under-representation of women in accountancy and sciences – this has been addressed to a certain extent and we now have better representation in these sectors.
What piece of advice would you give women starting their careers in FinTech?
It would be the same advice which many of my friends and I were given twenty years ago, which was that you should not shy away from pursuing a technical career. Many of my peers were encouraged to become technical analysts or portfolio managers for which they had to understand the technical side of things, now many of them are now running asset management firms. Understanding core technical complexities is best done at the start of your career and thereafter you have a technical foundation which helps to create future leadership potential. The technical base that you have will stay with you and be valid throughout your career.
The same goes for technology – if you want to be one of the future leaders in the technology industry you will need to have a deep understanding of the core deliverables of tech firms – from programming to tech strategy to open APIs. Embrace the technical part of technology and it will make you a better leader in the long term.