Diversity & Inclusion Roundtable: How fintechs can go from words to action
Charitable diversity & inclusion (D&I) initiative Fintech Finishers has recently hosted an executive roundtable in partnership with FinTech Futures to explore how we can go from words to action with regards to more diversity and inclusion in our sector.
The panel was made up of three fintechs at different stages of their growth journey as well as a fintech investor:
- Jim MacDougall, VP of people, Revolut (2,000+ employees)
- Danielle Devine, HR manager, Divido (50 employees)
- Sara Hjortstig, chief operating officer (COO), Captec (15 employees)
- Manuel Silva Martínez, general partner, Mouro Capital
What does D&I mean to you?
The group agreed that it is easy to think about D&I just as statistics but in the end of the day it’s about making sure you mirror the society in which you operate and service. Making prospect employees feel they can relate and current employees that they belong.
Captec’s Hjortstig explained: “We want our colleagues to know that their opinion matters and that we are shaping the future of our business together.”
This was echoed by Revolut’s MacDougall, who said it’s about building trust, openness, ability to challenge and also a willingness to have tough conversations to knock down barriers and question the current way of doing things.
Mouro Capital’s Martinez said that one of the main challenges is how diverse you want to define diversity. “Beyond creating a feeling of feeling part of the team, it’s easy just to think this in terms of gender and ethnicity, but this topic obviously goes much deeper, like migration status and educational background.”
Why should fintechs care about D&I?
Despite decades of progress towards more workplace diversity across the financial services industry, the fintech sector is lagging behind.
At Captec, for example, both the CEO and COO are women so they are breaking the mould and leading by example.
Divido’s Devine pointed out that having a D&I strategy used to be considered an optional extra, today it is fundamental to build an attractive employer brand, “more and more people ask about it during the interview process”.
If you’re a fintech looking to raise venture capital you might want to pay extra attention to D&I because Martinez sees a correlation between great performance and having a culture that embraces diversity. His fund actively looks for this when evaluating potential investment opportunities.
When should fintechs make this a priority?
There is consensus that this is something that should be considered from the inception, and over time dedicate more support and resources. Even for a large player like Revolut, this is still relatively new, MacDougall explained: “We launched our first ever diversity data capture in November last year and continue to look at ways we can drive up completion rates to inform our diversity initiatives and measure success.”
It is important that it is not just empty words but followed through in real actions that the team, and wider stakeholder group, can see and understand. For this to be a success it has to be endorsed and promoted from the top down, but Devine stresses the importance of making sure that each employee understands why this is important and what active role they personally can and must play to achieve this goal.
What are you doing to practice?
Encouragingly, there are a lot of different activities happening. Divido recently engaged a group of MBA grads from London Business School to work with HR and the executive team to do an audit of best practices around the world, interview employees and ultimately develop a two year roadmap to embed D&I across the organisation.
Martinez explained that they have partnered with Included VC, a venture capital fellowship, offering internships at Mouro Capital to people with backgrounds that are underrepresented in the VC’s community, including former prisoners and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Hjortstig added: “We literally just created our first ever D&I policy. For us, a big focus this year will be around additional support for mental health and doing more around inclusion, e.g. around better onboarding and social activities.”
Earlier this year, Revolut launched a company-wide programme focused on creating a best in class employee experience, and one of its key work streams is D&I. As part of that workstream, Revolut has begun the development of a “Women in Leadership” programme, aimed at increasing the percentage of women in leadership positions within the organisation. This includes a mentorship programme that will involve senior male and female colleagues mentoring female employees, and fostering an environment where they can progress and grow in their careers.
In conclusion, the theme for all panelists this year is to turn words into action. For Revolut, Captec and Divido, it’s about implementing their new policies, strategy and activities, making it come alive. At Mouro Capital, the gender balance is split equally, so now the company is in a position to broaden its definition of diversity and embrace more aspects to become truly diverse. Mouro Capital is specifically looking to invest in founders that come from a diverse background.
Christer Holloman is the chairman of Fintech Finishers, which was set up to raise awareness, inspire action and introduce accountability for more diversity and inclusion in the fintech industry.
He will regularly share his thinking via FinTech Futures’ upcoming Diversity & Inclusion Hub.