EXCLUSIVE: FinTech is Female Too – Discussions With Sophie Winwood
FinTech is female too, and whilst I know this statement may seem fairly obvious to most, it cannot be denied that at times it may appear to the average eye that FinTech is an industry mostly founded by men and mostly run for men.
Finance and technology are industries which already struggle with gender diversity so when merging the two industries together, lacking female representation within FinTech was almost inevitable. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the Fintech world is making a valiant effort to change this and are working to celebrate women within the industry. For instance, the ‘Women in FinTech Powerlist 2020’ was designed to shine a spotlight on the women leading innovation in financial services and it is this list that introduced me to an abundance of talented and successful women within the field, one being Sophie Winwood, an individual with a story that stuck out to me and one I wanted to share.
Talking to Sophie Winwood
Most of us were all asked as children ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ and the classroom would usually erupt into screams of ‘Police Officer’, ‘Chef’, ‘Superhero’, or sometimes even ‘Dinosaur.’ Kids can be strange, but perhaps not as strange as a child declaring ‘I want to work in FinTech!’ To newcomers working in FinTech doesn’t even seem to be an actuality and it begs the question, how does one enter a FinTech career?
I asked Winwood the same question and was intrigued to find out that Winwood started off studying science at University ‘but quickly discovered working in a lab wasn’t for [her]’. Winwood instead wanted to learn more about business as both Winwood’s parents both owned their own companies. Winwood soon followed a career in audit which she realised she hated and therefore quickly moved into M&A within banking and speciality finance.’ Winwood then branched out into working on one FinTech and InsurTech deal and it is from there that Winwood thought ‘this is the future, I need to be part of this.’
Winwood goes on to explain: ‘I could see technology was going to have a huge impact in financial services, driven by inspiring teams who wanted to disrupt the system for the better- how could you not want to be part of that? ’Winwood questions, and it appears Winwood couldn’t resist to be a part of it either and went onto work for Innovate Finance, the industry body for UK FinTech and then joined Anthemis as a ‘FinTech and InsureTech focussed investor three years ago.’
Winwood’s Career at Anthemis
Winwood works for Anthemis as an Investment Principal and to those well versed in the FinTech stratosphere this may be pretty self explanatory, though to newcomers, not so much. However, who better to explain what Winwood does than Winwood herself?
When talking to Winwood she elaborated on her role at Anthemis: ‘My role at Anthemis involves finding and evaluating early stage startup founders with the view to making great investments.’ Winwood then with great pride states ‘I love my job, and feel very privileged to be able to speak to amazing founders every day about projects and products they feel passionate about.’ A rather refreshing response which exudes Winwood’s admiration for the industry and love of what she does at Anthemis.
When asked about Anthemis Winwood detailed the company’s goals : ‘When Amy [Nauiokas] and Sean [Park] started to build Anthemis ten years ago, they set out to transform the financial system for the digital age by convening an ecosystem of incumbents, entrepreneurs, market innovators and influencers.’ However, within those ten years Anthemis have gone on to achieve more than changes in financial services but through authentic collaboration have strived to achieve financial capital diversity and inclusivity.
This is something that Winwood reaffirms ‘had never been done before.’ Winwood goes on to say that [Anthemis] ‘are excited to broaden and strengthen our ecosystem.’ Winwood then puts forth the notion that togetherness helps build resilience; these businesses and teams will also work to counter some of the intrinsic social negatives such as ‘growing inequality.’ The topic of inequality is something Winwood and many others, not only in the FinTech field, have strived to eliminate, in consequence opening up a broad discussion of diversity within the workplace.
Diversity in FinTech
Louise Brett, Vice chairman at Deloitte UK reports that in 2021 only 30% of the FinTech workforce are female and of that percentage, only 17% of senior Fintech roles are held by women. Sophie Winwood is more than proud to make up that 30% and goes onto implore fellow women in her field: I have been very fortunate to have had some incredible females bosses over my career including Janine Hirt, now CEO of Innovate Finance and my current, Ruth Foxe Blader, Partner at Anthemis, who is an incredible investor and human being. They have been great role models for me, and shown me that the sky’s the limit within FinTech.’
The sky definitely isn’t the limit, as proved by the successful careers of not only Winwood herself but Anne Boden (CEO and founder of Starling bank), Samantha Seaton (CEO of Moneyhub Enterprise), or Judith Erwin (CEO of founder of Grasshopper Bank) to name a few. Though, the sky may not be the limit, there will always be a few cloudy days that can cause obscurations to overall vision. Hence, Winwood addresses the difficulties of being a woman within the industry: ‘As you might imagine, being a woman at the intersection of finance and technology means you are often the minority, and being heard and respected is an uphill battle.’
But why is this? There are a multitude of talented people within the ever changing and fast-paced field of Fintech, men and women. There seems to be gaps within the industry, I posed this thought to Winwood and she responded: ‘The gaps are everywhere unfortunately, it starts in school, where a minority of women study STEM subjects [and progresses] to the lack of funding that goes to female founders (Only 3% of the total capital invested in 2018 in UK FinTech companies went to firms with female founders.)’
Nevertheless, Winwood points out that even within the last five years that she has been in FinTech there has been change, ‘for example, gender pay gaps and female representation on boards. This is extremely important[…]I’ve also seen an increase in groups, networks and initiatives to promote diversity within FinTech.
Wrapping Up With Winwood
When wrapping up my interview with Winwood, conversation turned to her predictions concerning her career and FinTech in general. Winwood stated:I am really excited to keep doing what I’m doing, finding and investing in great companies that will fundamentally change the financial world for the better. My hope and goal is that more of these companies will be founded by women and people from a diverse background.’ Winwood also references the positives of being a minority within FinTech: ‘the networks you form are strong and very supportive. I feel so privileged to count some absolutely incredible women as peers, colleagues and friends. I hope in the future I can continue to pay it forward to new women coming into the industry.
With this positive and sentimental conclusion, much like Winwood’s belief system, to any female in or wanting to pursue a career in FinTech, remember the sky isn’t the limit.
– Taylor Griffin, Fintech Finance
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