Fintechs need to take the lead on mental health
What are the three words that come to mind when you hear the word ‘fintech’?
I’d bet ‘innovative’, ‘fast-paced’ and maybe even ‘hype’ are among the first words that entered your head. But many of those working in fintech would probably also add ‘pressure’.
The rush of working for a fintech can be exhilarating. But it can also take its toll on mental health, and the last two years have only exacerbated this problem.
Also, it’s not just those who are new to the industry at risk of burnout, either. The departure of Tom Blomfield from Monzo last year highlighted that stress can affect everyone, with founders under enormous strain to hit targets and create a sustainable and high-growth business.
What was surprising about Blomfield’s departure was his willingness to discuss how struggles with his mental health played a big role in his decision to step away from the fintech he founded in 2015. Wellbeing and mental health is not commonly discussed by those at the top in fintech, with (largely male) leaders perpetuating a persona that’s fuelled by qualities like tenacity, ambition and strength.
More often than not, employees are expected to model themselves on these leaders in order to climb the internal career ladder. While on the surface this creates a ‘buzzy’ start-up vibe, in reality it can lead to a counterproductive workplace culture that causes chronic burnout.
Some fintechs are open about the pressures of working for them. But surely no office-based job should come with a health warning? Fintech firms cannot simply disregard the risk of poor mental health among their workforce as ‘just part of the role’. Especially as a recent study from BIMA found that people who work in technology are five times more likely to be depressed than the general UK population. Finance is also notoriously stressful as an industry, so those working at fintechs are undoubtedly at high risk.
What’s more, those that do ignore employee mental health run the risk of high employee turnover and low productivity. It’s a well-documented fact that happier workers work harder and add more to the bottom line. And with the war for talent continuing to rage as firms struggle to find the right candidates, fintechs need to take the lead on mental health.
Just as fintechs have put customers’ issues at the heart of their solutions, tackling mental health in the industry requires putting employee wellbeing at the heart of businesses. Employees need to feel they are supported, both personally and professionally. But crucially this culture of openness has to come from the top down. Mentioning a therapist appointment or anxiety about a project is still considered taboo in many workplaces. Leaders and managers need to change this narrative by being more open and honest about their own struggles themselves.
Mentorships are another really organic way to encourage those who feel out of depth or are stressed in the workplace to get support. As someone who’s been there and got the t-shirt, they can help put things into perspective and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by the fintech buzz. Anyone struggling with anxiety or burnout should look to their network to find a mentor who can help.
Chronic workplace stress won’t leave the fintech industry overnight. But if leaders become more open and employees start to lean on mentors for more support, we will start to see tangible change for the better. Hopefully, in the near future, the only words that come to mind when we think of ‘fintech’ will be innovation, financial inclusion and a great industry to work in.