MEA Women in Fintech with Madalina Rotaru in Abu Dhabi UAE

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is generally an up and coming region with respect to its wider economic development. Specifically, the region has seen a growth and importance in fintech, producing its own unique innovations, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the space. As The FinTech Times in September celebrates the Women in Fintech we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading female leaders in both the Middle East and Africa. One of them is Madalina Rotaru who currently is based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Madalina Rotaru currently occupies the position of Chief Executive Officer of Key Way Markets Ltd based in Abu Dhabi

Madalina Rotaru currently occupies the position of Chief Executive Officer of Key Way Markets Ltd based in Abu Dhabi

Madalina Rotaru currently occupies the position of Chief Executive Officer of Key Way Markets Ltd based in Abu Dhabi

Madalina Rotaru currently occupies the position of Chief Executive Officer of Key Way Markets Ltd, the operating company of the leading online broker, Having attained a wealth of experience in the financial services domain, she is proficient in the various functions pertaining to online trading, including compliance, marketing, management and regulation. Madalina currently oversees the entirety of the Key Way Markets workforce and manages its global operations, playing an integral role in the enterprise’s continued growth and development. Her current role as CEO has exposed her to exciting and progressive ecosystems across the world, taking her on a journey from East to West. Madalina’s current place of residence, Abu Dhabi, has proven to be an exceedingly interesting environment and a thriving hub of investment potential.

Describe your career journey

I began my career journey years ago as a junior associate at a brokerage house, serving as the basis of my progression, eventually working my way up to the senior executive role I occupy today. My early years provided me with a robust understanding of how an investment company operates. At a young age, I learned the innerworkings of the investment industry profession, how regulations are placed at the starting point and marketing at the centre. I played a role across various departments and have worn multiple hats throughout the years, starting from back office agent to head of the firm’s back office operations, and from chief operating officer to chief executive officer. My career trajectory was defined by consistent hard-work which has resulted in my appointment as the CEO of Key Way Markets, and ultimately reinforces the many years of dedication I’ve spent refining my skills and enhancing my competencies.

As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?

It is no secret that the realm of finance is a sector largely dominated by men. As such, I faced a world of difficulty as I attempted to break the proverbial glass ceiling that defers most women from achieving their career aspirations. Seeing as there were only a handful of women occupying key positions across my industry of choice, I was determined to prove myself as a worthy contender, able to place myself amongst a pack of leading women executives. I would like to position my journey as a testament to the significant ability women in the financial industry attain to overcome the hurdles inherent to achieving leadership positions within a corporate structure. My personal progression has only further proven that a woman can be considered a true colleague to any man.

What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?

It is evident that Abu Dhabi is a leading destination for financial and investment activity, with robust international financial centres, such as Abu Dhabl Global Market (ADGM), to reinforce this stature. In line with this, I believe that the appetite in the region for financial services, and specifically progressive digital services, is strong. I expect more entities of this nature to partake in the industry and elevate the nation’s established portfolio of international, regional, and local companies. By that accord, the UAE’s competitive landscape is set to progress significantly, adopting institutions from across various sectors, ultimately looking to the reap the benefits provided by the region.

What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region?

My most valuable piece of advice, and one that I’ve placed as the basis of my career is: don’t wait for things to happen and actively seek out opportunities you are keen to undertake. An individual’s career journey, and specifically those of women, will not be spoon-fed to them. I encourage women to set their goal and take matters into their own hands in order to seize the opportunities most valuable to them.

Also, I would like to extend an insight that proved to be significantly helpful when enduring difficulties throughout my career journey, one particular to failure. Failure should always be taken as a learning experience, as opposed to a detriment, and be used to fuel one’s drive to continue to succeed.

  • Richie Santosdiaz, Contributing Reporter for Middle East and Africa

MEA Women in Fintech with Nejoud Al Mulaik from Saudi Arabia

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is generally an up and coming region with respect to its wider economic development. Specifically, the region has seen a growth and importance in fintech, producing its own unique innovations, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the space. As The FinTech Times in September celebrates the Women in Fintech we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading female leaders in both the Middle East and Africa. One of them is Nejoud Al Mulaik who is from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is an expert in fintech and the Director at Fintech Saudi. She was previously a banker.

Nejoud Al Mulaik is the Director for Fintech Saudi

Nejoud Al Mulaik is the Director for Fintech Saudi

Nejoud Al Mulaik is the Director for Fintech Saudi

Nejoud has worked for 10-years at JPMorgan Chase Bank in the corporate investment banking space.
She has vast experience in building client relationships and portfolios across finance, industry, and the
public sector, managing corporate sales portfolio for large corporates in Saudi Arabia, played vital roles in logistics, office management, human resource development, and event management, as well as business management and core banking services.

In early 2018 Nejoud joined the Small & Medium Size Enterprises General Authority (SMEA/ Monshaat) as International Strategic Partnership Director. There she managed international relationships for SMEs including
startups and entrepreneurs to attract and design the desired partnerships to achieve growth and economic contribution across industries.

In October 2018 Nejoud was appointed as the Fintech Saudi Director. Fintech Saudi is part of the Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP) and sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), helping enable and build the financial technology ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.

Describe your career journey

I started my career in early 2008 with JPMorgan Chase Bank in Saudi Arabia ,  I became the first female hired by the bank back then, where I started in an admin role supporting the CEO & other lines of businesses during the set-up phase for the newly established operational activities of the JPMorgan Chase branch in Saudi Arabia

As JPMorgan expanded locally with treasury, cash management & corporate banking services, in 2010 I had the opportunity move to a core banking role and cover relationships & sales management as an analyst, later an associate for large corporates & multinational corporations (MNCs).

After 10 years in the banking sector with JPM, in 2018 I had an opportunity to move to the Small & Medium size Enterprises Authority (Monshaat) as Director for International Strategic Partnership, which was an amazing opportunity and close up chance to be involved at the heart of one of the most important Saudi Vision 2030 venues to diversify the kingdoms economy. However, my background, expertise and my heart were still close to banking & the financial sector. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself I was extremely delighted to have been chosen to be part of the Fintech Saudi initiative to lead and support the efforts of the central bank (SAMA) in building the foundations of the ecosystem in Saudi.

As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?

I’d rather using the term “challenging ”, moving forward in banking & with my current role leading. The Fintech Saudi initiative was and still always an interesting learning curve that requires ongoing progress on developing industrial knowledge, defending a business cases, and deliver results, keeping up with regulatory & compliance requirements,  assess risks and learn how to make decisions, along with ensuring that my communication skills are effective and social and emotional capabilities are professionally demonstrated while working with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders.

The road to any career progression would be bumpy at times connecting with colleagues and mentors seeking a second opinion and advice was one the most important elements on overcoming challenges.

What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?

Even with the current economic conditions, payments and alternative lending will still remain pioneers within the fintech verticals. We already witnessed strong partnerships and investments from banks with some fintechs to capture market shares,  We will see more industrial fintechs enter the market, mainly in the healthcare and real estate sector.

I would expect that some central banks in our region will take further efforts in building use cases for CBDCs and test them for retail activities, with open data and open banking current movement in our region. We have already seen some progress driving big tech and telcos to navigate the financial sector in certain regulated activities, “interconnectedness”  will be the driver of new era in the financial sector

Despite the low overall global representation of female in leadership positions in the financial sector including the emerging fintech industry, we have seen growth in the number of fintech female founders in MEA. In our “Fintech Saudi Founders Network,” we are dedicating certain programs driven by collaboration between fintech hubs in the GCC to support women in fintech and the digital sector, which we believe will support the already accelerated women empowerment efforts in both the public & private sector. Fintech is one of the unique growing industries where we believe women can impact strongly in both financial solutions and decision making – by being founders, chairwomen,  board members and hold executive positions.

What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region?

As for female leaders in the field, mastering the ability to juggle between career progression and personal prioritization is key. Taking risks is “unavoidable” my advice is to mitigate risk carefully but without shying away completely, especially for female entrepreneurs in the field, and be visible in every venue that supports your goals and presents business growth opportunities.

For future female leaders in the financial  & digital sector , “change is constant” and  happens overnight, always approach & find mentors and be part of the networks within the field and actively voice your opinion with confidence.

  • Richie Santosdiaz, Contributing Reporter for Middle East and Africa

MEA Women in Fintech with Shanthini Raja in Bahrain

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is generally an up and coming region with respect to its wider economic development. Specifically, the region has seen a growth and importance in fintech, producing its own unique innovations, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the space. As The Fintech Times in September celebrates the Women in Fintech we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading female leaders in both the Middle East and Africa. One of them is Shanthini Raja who is based in Bahrain and originally from India and is a fintech expert.

Shanthini Raja is the founder, chairperson, and CEO of Rsquare Technologies

Shanthini Raja is the founder, chairperson, and CEO of Rsquare Technologies

Shanthini Raja is the founder, chairperson, and CEO of Rsquare Technologies IMAGE SOURCE PROVIDED

Shanthini Raja is the founder, chairperson, and CEO of Rsquare Technologies. She is also a committee member of Women in Fintech, which is the initiative of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), a dynamic public agency with responsibility for attracting inward investment into Bahrain focusing on target economic sectors in which the country offers significant strengths. Key areas include manufacturing, information and communication technologies (ICT), and logistics and transport services.

Shanthini is also an active member of Bahrain Businesswomen Society. Having lived in Bahrain for the past 23 years, Shanthini has had different job positions including the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce ICT committee member, Former President of the Indian Ladies Associations, Former Vice Chairwomen for the British School of Bahrain and utilising her expertise on fintech solutions.

Describe your career journey

I am a postgraduate in Computer Applications. I had worked as a lecturer for an engineering college in Bangalore, India. Another role I had was an EDP manager at Gulf Exchange Company in Qatar. At present, I am currently the CEO and founder of Rsquare Technologies for the past 10 years, having 19 innovative fintech products with around 400 clients throughout the Kingdom of Bahrain
I had also been a delegate representing the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce, EDB, Bahrain Businesswomen Society; these were at various conferences like IISS Manama Dialogue, Gitex, Singapore Fintech Festival, Jordan Chamber of Commerce, Vizaq Sunrise Conference, CII conferences at India etc – to name a few.  Regularly conducting workshops for graduates through the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce SME committee and through the Northern Governate for job seekers and also mentorship for University and polytechnic students is something I have done in the past and present.  I have conducted seminars and participated in various panel discussions in many conferences inspiring young entrepreneurs. Finally, I have been a speaker in many fintech forums in Bahrain and also in India, Dubai, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore.

As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?

Negotiations was an important challenging task during the initial stage of career.

The challenges would be finding out the right partner who will have the same passion towards our commitment and goals. Being a women with all our other responsibilities at home and at work place if the right mind set partner is not obtained – that will be great challenge.

The other challenge is getting into other markets and finding the right channel partners and fixing the pricing model as per the market. This becomes difficult when you do not get a right reseller having good experience in the market.

What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?

In the region, we are having more importance for fintech where the focus are fintech workshops, conferences, exhibitions, and seminars. I predict in the region that more fintech companies will start investing and knowing the opportunities and importance given for fintech initiatives at Bahrain mainly in the regulatory perspective. Here, Bahrain is always supportive and a leader in fintech innovation.

We are truly blessed to have a market where logistics is very easy, client satisfaction can be maintained so well, and the right ecosystem to support entrepreneurs especially in fintech. These are all the advantages of the Middle East market. As we have good skilled hardworking local resources the quality and timely delivery is always a plus in the region. As the client also prefers local companies to always have constant touch with the vendors this is another advantage of having a local presence in the region.

What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region?

As in the Middle East we are focusing more on technology and on health care the innovative solutions will have more demand so female leaders and entrepreneurs should focus more on creating more innovative automatic tools. To help automate the manual processes is the future opportunity in both the financial and healthcare sectors.

As female entrepreneurs we should focus more on expansion once we have a good product and if we know that the product can be marketed very well in other markets with the support of Export Bahrain or other entities they need to start their marketing around the region. The focus should be more on client base and by increasing the revenue which will certainly increase the valuation of the company and its products.

  • Richie Santosdiaz, Contributing Reporter for Middle East and Africa

MEA Women in Fintech with Fatema Ebrahim from Bahrain

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is generally an up and coming region with respect to its wider economic development. Specifically, the region has seen a growth and importance in fintech, producing its own unique innovations, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the space. As The Fintech Times in September celebrates the Women in Fintech we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading female leaders in both the Middle East and Africa. One of them is Fatema Ebrahim from the Kingdom of Bahrain, an expert in fintech and financial technology.

Andra PR and Corporate Communications is based in Bahrain

Andra PR and Corporate Communications is based in Bahrain

Andra PR and Corporate Communications is a Bahrain-based Public Relations & Corporate Communications firm that specialises in Strategy, Digital Communications, Media Relations & Training, Community Relations, and CSR Development. They have a primary focus on fintech, startups, financial institutions and real estate IMAGE SOURCE ANDRA

Fatema is the CEO & Founder of Andra Public Relations – A Bahrain-based Public Relations & Corporate Communications firm with a prime focus on Financial Technology and specialised sectors. Under Andra’s initiatives, the team runs the annual FinTech series in partnership with the Capital Club Bahrain. The 2nd Edition was launched in June 2020 with Brinc Batelco for their 6th session.

In February 2018, Fatema was appointed by HRH Crown Prince to be part of the new board of directors for the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), for the term 2018 – 2021. In addition, Fatema is a Board Member and the Public Relations Director of the Women in Fintech Initiative (WIFBH). She is also a Committee Member in the Technology committee under the BDSMES in the Chamber of Commerce.

Fatema is heavily involved within the fintech scene in the Kingdom leading several initiatives in the sector. She was selected on Lattice80’s list of top-100 female fintech leaders and was recognized as Bahrain’s most influential woman twice in a row. Fatema has a Master’s in Public Relations & Corporate Communications from New York University (NYU) and a Professional Development Certificate Program in fintech from Georgetown University.

Describe your career journey

Back in 2015, I was heavily involved in the startup ecosystem in Bahrain and I was the Founder of a payments startup that catered to instagram businesses before the fintech sector boomed. At the same time, I was a Country Manager of a global public relations company  handling several clients and overseeing their initiatives in the kingdom. A few years later, I had decided to shift my role and focus on consulting fintech startups and corporates within the sector so I started my own niche public relations and communications firm called ‘Andra Public Relations’. I’m quite passionate about creating key initiatives and opportunities for startups and small businesses to extend their vision and contribute to their community and economy with their innovative solutions.

It’s been almost two  years for Andra Public Relations. We now have a diverse pool of clients with a niche focus on the specialised  sectors in Bahrain. In addition, we had started the fintech Series in partnership with the Capital Club which were quite successful. Our second Edition kicked off this year with Brinc Batelco and we are now planning our 7th series with a special focus on Ed Tech for the first time.

As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?

  • Because Andra PR is a niche firm focused on fintech – it took me time to establish that message and make an imprint in the ecosystem. Also, we are currently a small team and the company is led by 3 women. We are now just starting to have our name recognized via regional partnerships and collaborations.
  • Not having many women in the sector at the beginning but that’s different now. We are seeing more women involved, we are hearing more conversations and addressing this gap. Each woman triggers other women to share and do
  • Being intimidated by the sector itself since fintech is thriving more than ever, and especially in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. You feel like you need to catch up constantly. You need to be focused and create your own pace. We work with new startups in the edtech, open banking,

However, I’m blessed to be part of a country that is at the forefront of creating endless opportunities for women. There are several initiatives and programmes that have been in place to support women economically in diverse sectors.  We as a nation really value women’s achievements, and highlight those to lead and empower others.

What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?

The virtual shift is interesting. The way we work, eat, pay and more is changing. All of these changes have been triggered to the max by COVID19. We have also shifted to engaging more virtually, and that has unlocked various ways of engagement.

  • People have been banking differently especially amidst the crisis. Especially, when it comes to Neo banks – we see more people who have shifted their way of thinking when it comes to banking and realising the simplicity when it comes to managing various transactions, bill payments and more.
  • Online communications such as chatbots and other smart tools are at the forefront right now. We have several in Bahrain that are re-defining the customer service arena when it comes to virtual bookings, chat platforms for food and shopping applications and also virtual resources and help desks to support the current situation

What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region?

  • Create a niche for yourself. I think that’s really important – know what area you can contribute to, and what makes you stand out to offer something to the ecosystem or to the organization that they don’t have
  • Create your voice within the community and share your experience. I started writing articles sharing my thoughts, my insights early on in my career and made that consistent so people associated me with certain topics or an industry – so basically creating your voice within the ecosystem for relevant subject matters
  • Join smaller groups where you can meet similar key people in the industry – this is also a way to test yourself in larger groups and to learn different perspectives
  • Educating myself whenever I can. I didn’t wait to be taught; you have to be self taught for many things in a fast paced and hyper connected world.
  • Connecting with people who weren’t afraid to take the plunge. You need to surround yourself with those that take risks, and are curious. I had that mindset around me, and it was valuable
  • Build a network with people who are better than you. I had to learn from those who have achieved great milestones, and learned from their stories journeys and stories to build my own
  • Richie Santosdiaz, Contributing Reporter for Middle East and Africa

Diversity In Crypto

By Amy Barker of Wirex

As someone who has been in the finance industry for over 20 years, being a woman in a typically male world still feels unbalanced. As employers, we are making progress, as diversity and inclusion are firmly on the agenda for organisations – now more than ever. We have a duty to ensure that opportunities are open to all. We genuinely need to start looking at the skills and perspectives an individual can bring to the table irrespective of gender, race, religious belief, sexuality, etc. We are all diverse and unique because of who we are and the experiences we have had along the way; we have so much to offer by virtue of this.

It is well publicised that fintechs are disruptors and innovators of the finance and technology industries, by combining forces to drastically change the landscape of finance as we know it. But this relatively ‘new’ industry does not only inspire clever solutions or great products, it also affords fantastic opportunities to those looking to work in this space.

Women and men have proven again and again that they can be equally as successful in business. So why are we still having this conversation about diversity? Because conscious and unconscious bias still exists, and workplaces are still broadly unequal. The Gender Pay Gap is still a thing. Women in senior positions have arguably had to work harder to get to the same levels as their male counterparts in many instances, just because they are female. They must be even better and strive even harder just to get the same recognition and opportunities. One thing is certain, we are not looking for sympathy or pity, we are simply asking for equality. This must be recognised. Nonetheless, the relentless quest to be treated as equal has sculpted us into resilient, adaptable, determined, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer individuals, who deserve every place at the top table.

I know this first-hand, because despite gaining over 20 years of experience in my field and obtaining accreditation from a chartered institution in my profession, I’ve had to use sheer grit and determination to fight through prejudices and stereotypes in order to get where I am today. It has been far from easy. The narrative is changing though, I am pleased to say. The topic is out there and widely spoken about; workplace bias is being challenged; pay gaps are being publicised and questioned; and improved flexibility regarding how, when and where we work is becoming commonplace.

I am proud to now work for an organisation that recognises talent over and above anything else. Exceptional talent, a positive attitude and a firm belief in our core values – these are what open doors at Wirex. We are on track to reaching a 50% female-strong headcount globally. Multi-discipline, multicultural and multilingual!

I never expected to be working for an organisation that is associated with crypto. For many years, my background consisted of traditional financial institutions, investment banks and brokerages. My knowledge of digital currencies was fairly limited and what I did know of them was mostly gained from negative press on the subject. However, when I came to interview with Wirex, I was blown away by the passion and vision the CEOs had for the future of the organisation. Their desire to make cryptocurrency open to all resonated with me. Understanding the mission and objectives shattered my initial perception of what working in this industry would be like – in a positive way.

I was hired for my experience and skills, to do a job that was very much required – and of great importance. As a senior HR professional, I feel the weight of responsibility to ensure that we are doing everything possible to be an inclusive employer and continue to build a diverse workforce. I joined at a pivotal time in Wirex’s history, as the first woman to be appointed to the Senior Leadership Team. But I won’t be the last! It’s a tough role but I was given the support and autonomy to get on with it. I was trusted to do the job I was hired for. The CEOs’ belief in me made me want to be the very best I could be for Wirex.

A year down the line and Wirex is profitable, we continue to grow our customer-base and team, and we’re expanding our operations globally. We have a great company culture and a hugely talented bunch of people across the globe who have made this all possible. I feel extremely proud to be a part of it and to have been instrumental in some of the initiatives that have made a real difference to our culture. Not once have I felt as though my gender is holding me back in my current role. I do feel, however, that experiencing this in the past has made me more resilient and thick-skinned, and ultimately got me to where I am now.

We have an amazingly talented, multicultural, diverse, international team at Wirex. Our focus is on high performance and results – the way it should be. Half of us are women, with professions ranging from developers and engineers, to marketers and financiers. We hold positions of varying levels of seniority, yet every one of our contributions is what has made Wirex the success it is today.

We are not stopping there, however. The key to being successful and competitive is to continually innovate, and for that to happen we need to nurture and retain our skilled workforce, whilst continuing to hire the very best people for the job. Wirex’s vision to make cryptocurrency “open to all” is not just aimed at our consumers, but at our current and future talent.

Women in fintech and crypto are a force to be reckoned with. Watch this space!

WIREX Women crypto

WIREX Women crypto

A Review: Copenhagen Fintech Week Global 2020

Copenhagen Fintech Week Global 2020 was held this week. It’s the latest in a series of post-summer Fintech events being held around Europe. As with the other ‘Fintech Weeks’, it was held in a fully virtual way. Attendees are likely getting to grips now with how these events work, how agendas can be accessed, and live streams watched. 

Copenhagen Fintech, a non-profit organisation, states that they aim to shape the future of finance, by creating unique connections between startups, corporates, investors, and academia. The goal is that innovative and compelling fintech solutions will emerge as a result of these connections.

Taking advantage of the virtual platform, the two-day event was truly global in nature, with over 150 speakers from six continents and 30 different countries in attendance. Sustainability, Smart Cities Fintech Partnerships, Big Tech, Data Ethics, and more were all on the agenda. A particular prominence was given to the Global Sustainability track, along with Nordic-based Fintech companies.

Global Sustainability

The Nordic countries are often seen as global leaders when it comes to sustainable practises, environmental-friendly policies, and forward-thinking programs. And at Copenhagen Fintech Week, the ‘Global Sustainability Track’ was put front & centre, along with the Fintech & Research. Speakers from across the world were addressing how companies can be sustainable & what innovations are required to improve global sustainability as a whole. Indeed, the event’s tagline was “Shaping a sustainable Future”

Some of the key backdrops that played a part in the discussions over these two days included the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations and, of course, the Covid-19 pandemic. Both of these ‘events’, whilst very different in nature, are ones that serve as a reminder that modern problems require global solutions & co-operation. Therefore it is telling that, in an event which gives such a high prominence to sustainability, is also one that takes time to be globally inclusive, and that focuses on collaboration with the Tech sector as a whole.

Funding Sustainability 

Highlighted in the opening discussion for the event, the role that Finance & Asset Management has to play within the larger picture of sustainability. Funds that manage many billions of dollars in capital can end up having a big say in this field. Who they choose to invest, or not invest in, partner or not partner with, is a choice for the company, the fund managers, and the shareholders. In this keynote talk Erik Alhoej, CEO at Engagement International, highlighted that many investors they work with are taking it upon themselves to align with firms, funds & startups that “have a good track record in terms of sustainability,” along with clear plans for a more sustainable future. And it’s not just for altruistic reasons, as firms can benefit from a PR boost whilst tapping into emerging trends. And, of course, an unsustainable future does not benefit anyone within the global economy. 

Sustainability in Practice

There were a variety of different talks, outside of the keynote, that aimed to tackle the question of sustainability. One of these was titled “Building a System for Green Finance”. This talk featured an intriguing double act: Henrik Madsen, Professor at the Technical University of Denmark, presented an explanation of how AI and other tools can be utilised to increase and maximise energy optimisation, and Jonas Bjarke Jensen, Senior Economist, at Copenhagen Economic, gave examples of how this research could be used, and where it is most needed.

Again reflecting the global focus on the Copenhagen Fintech Week, the rest of the talks & discussions on sustainability were region-specific. For example, with the Americas, Valerie Smith, Chief Sustainability Officer at Citi, posed the question as to whether sustainable organisations & innovations have now become a necessity, especially in those regions most affected by unsustainable practices. Diversity & Inclusion, Digital trends, and social change were also discussed, in relation to both Sustainability, and different regions.


Copenhagen Fintech Week 2020 was a great example of how events and organisations can adapt to the new climate created by the ongoing pandemic. This was done in two ways – firstly by marketing this as a truly global event, with different sections tailored to different regions, and secondly by using the ‘New Normal’ as a basis for discussing the next fintech innovations.

With its focus on sustainability, this event is a clear sign that the Copenhagen fintech community recognises that fintech companies, and in particular Nordic ones, are uniquely positioned to lead the way on sustainability efforts. Due to the interconnected nature of modern society, any goals must be achieved on a global level, with a high level of collaboration. Fortunately, that is something that the Fintech community is well known for – and many of these attendees are likely to have appreciated the talks, discussions & networking that was based around this.

Emirates Digital Wallet’s Digital Cash Platform, klip, now Live

Emirates Digital Wallet LLC, along with First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), Mashreq Bank, National Bank of Fujairah and Mastercard have announced the launch of klip, Emirates Digital Wallet’s Digital Cash Platform.

klip offers a simple way for users to transfer money to others via a mobile number and allows users to seamlessly pay for goods in-store using the existing merchant reach offered by its partner banks. klip further enables small businesses to start accepting digital payments via mobile phones, meaning more businesses can tap into the digital economy. klip is the only interoperable solution designed to seamlessly provide digital payments between all consumers and merchants in the UAE.

The robust, secure and interoperable Digital Cash Platform aims at eradicating the use of physical cash and helps UAE transition into a truly cashless society by providing a digital equivalent for physical cash that is tuned with the lifestyle of its users.

Hana Al Rostamani, Deputy Group CEO and Head of Personal Banking at FAB, said: “Consumers are demanding digital options across a multitude of industries and that includes banking, payments and purchases. The introduction of klip for customers and merchants across the country will drive the cashless objective of the UAE and will help in bolstering the UAE’s financial ecosystem. FAB is always committed to providing futuristic and interoperable solutions that drive the digital payments journey and improve customer experience.”

Subroto Som, Senior Executive Vice President – Group Head of Retail Banking Group, Mashreq Bank, said: “With a legacy of innovation lasting more than half a century, Mashreq has repeatedly shown its commitment to embracing technology that improves the customer experience. Our support for klip underlines our fundamental belief in the Government’s vision of establishing the UAE as a digital leader and we are excited to be able to bring this unique digital wallet to our customers.”

Vince Cook, CEO of National Bank of Fujairah, added: “As a National Bank, we are proud to play a leading role in the digitization of the country’s banking services and its wider economy and are honored to be one of the launch partners in this significant milestone. The rollout of klip at this time will help further accelerate the use of digital solutions in place of cash and open a wealth of related services for the unbanked. In recent months we have seen increasing take up of all our digital channels and klip provides a further enhancement in our offerings with its efficient, cost-effective, and most importantly, secure and safe platform for cashless payments.”

“Growing the domestic payment ecosystem is crucial for the development of a robust digital economy that positively impacts communities. We are proud to come on board as a trusted partner and technology provider and join hands with leaders across the UAE to deliver Mastercard’s expertise and help drive inclusion to support the UAE’s vision of a connected, digital future,” said Khalid Elgibali, Division President – Middle East and North Africa, Mastercard.

“We are delighted to be launching the new digital cash platform, klip, with our three pioneer partners and applaud their commitment in working with us to transform the UAE’s digital economy. Eliminating physical cash will result in huge savings for businesses and allow smaller businesses to flourish,” said Mohammed Al Jayyash, Chairman of Emirates Digital Wallet LLC.

“In addition to our launch partners, more banks are in the testing phase and will soon be offering klip to their customers. In parallel, we are developing a klip-branded mobile app to be released in the fourth quarter of 2020 to allow anyone across the UAE, visitors and residents alike, to switch to digital cash, regardless of whether or not they have a bank account,” Al Jayyash added.

  • Editorial Director of the The Fintech Times

Islamic Finance In The Global Digital Economy

Islamic Finance plays a significant role in the global economy and continues to do so in the increasingly global digital economy. Its importance spans across many parts of the world and is also embracing fintech and wider digitalisation solutions.


Cities like London are often regarded as hubs for Islamic Finance

Cities like London are often regarded as hubs for Islamic Finance

Cities like London (pictured) as well as others like Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, to name a few, are often regarded as hubs for Islamic Finance IMAGE SOURCE GETTY

With an estimated 1.9 billion Muslims according to World Population Review, Islamic Finance has a large global reach. Islamic Finance is one of the fastest growing financial industries, even though it is still a small share of global finance. Its total assets have exceeded $2 trillion and it is expected to reach $3.8 trillion by 2023.

According to the Union of Arab Banks, ten countries accounted for 95 percent of the world’s Sharia-compliant assets with Iran at 30 percent of the global total, followed by Saudi Arabia at 24 percent, Malaysia at 11 percent, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at 10 percent, Qatar at six percent, Kuwait at five percent, Bahrain at four percent, Bangladesh at 1.8 percent, Indonesia at 1.6 percent and Pakistan at one percent.

Even though Islamic finance existed in the seventh century, its formalisation began gradually since the 1960s. Islamic finance refers to how businesses and individuals raise capital in accordance with Sharia, or Islamic law. This also includes the types of investments that are permissible under this form of law. Islamic finance can be seen as a unique form of socially responsible investment.

With regards to fintech, there are at least 127 Islamic fintech firms that offer Sharia-compliant financial products that had been launched, globally, from this past June. According to IFN Islamic Finance, the United Kingdom has the most Islamic fintechs with 27 companies followed by Malaysia with 19 companies, third is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with at least 15 Islamic fintechs, fourth is Indonesia with 13, fifth is Saudi Arabia with 9 and tied with the USA which also reportedly has 9 companies.


The world’s financial hubs such New York City, London, Dubai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore – to name a few – have various levels of degree when it comes to its status as well as being global Islamic financial hubs. That list changes slightly with some cities such as Kuala Lumpur being added, alongside for instance global hubs like London and Dubai, as global Islamic Financial Hubs.

the Middle East. Middle East, Africa and South Asia’s (MEASA) region continues to be an important player in an industry worth more than $2.1 trillion

the Middle East. Middle East, Africa and South Asia’s (MEASA) region continues to be an important player in an industry worth more than $2.1 trillion

The Middle East. Middle East, Africa and South Asia’s (MEASA) region continues to be an important player in an industry worth more than $2.1 trillion – Pictured is Dubai IMAGE SOURCE GETTY

The Middle East is a notable region of activity for Islamic Finance. The Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region continues to be an important player in an industry worth more than $2.1 trillion, fuelled by the growing popularity of Islamic Banking. Sharia-compliant assets represent 14 per cent of total banking assets in MEASA and 25 per cent of banking assets in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), suggesting that Islamic banking continues to be systemically important in these countries. There are many cities in the region – such as in the GCC from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi to Manama to Kuwait City to Doha to Jeddah and Muscat – that are growing their reputations as Islamic Financial hubs; the GCC consists of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the UAE.


One example is the UAE. “Dubai’s Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) saw an increase in the volume of Islamic assets being managed, recording a 21 per cent growth year-on-year,” according to Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC Authority. Arif adds, “Malaysia’s largest lender and fifth largest Sharia-compliant bank in the world, Maybank Islamic Berhad, set up in DIFC last year; DIFC has one of the largest centres globally for Sukuk (sharia-compliant bonds) listings by value at $72.6 billion, with $70.4 billion listed on Nasdaq Dubai. Islamic Fintech start-ups are also choosing DIFC as their home to access the region and will help nurture innovation in the sector.”

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), another major financial services hub in the UAE and the region, has also supported Islamic Finance. This has included the likes of recent partnerships the past few years such as with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank in an effort to support Shariah-compliant fintech-related measures including the development of online banking, artificial intelligence, distributed ledgers, blockchain – to name a few.

According to Mohammed Dawood, Head of Islamic Finance, Global Banking & Markets, HSBC Middle East, “We’ve witnessed very strong growth in the international Sukuk market this year, with Middle East issuers continuing to drive issuance volume. With the ample liquidity 2020 has already broken records in terms of issuance volume, with more than USD 30bn of global Sukuk supply so far this year. The key growth markets for Islamic finance will be focused around countries in the GCC – namely UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – and Malaysia. These countries continue to benefit from supportive regulatory frameworks and from housing a large number of domestic players across the sector.”

An example a company embracing digital in the UAE has been UAE-based aafaq Islamic Finance which recently launched its core banking, Islamic banking and payments platforms, which have been developed by Infosys. Recently, SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE, the first Islamic compliant crypto ecosystem announced that it is building technology solutions and infrastructure on Tezos, a leading decentralised public blockchain.


With Africa, there are more than 80 Islamic financial institutions in Africa. The greatest numbers are in northern Africa, particularly in Sudan. Other countries such as Nigeria, Senegal and Kenya have implemented banking, legal and regulatory frameworks to be Sharia compliant. Also established banks have set up Islamic departments where they provide Sharia-compliant products which include: Absa Bank of South Africa, Ecobank Chad and Sterling Bank Plc of Nigeria. Islamic banking assets are set to increase 10 per cent over the next five years in total African banking assets, according to Moody’s.

In terms of innovation, an example has been Amana Bank, a leading Islamic bank in Somalia, who announced that it has selected iMAL, the AAOIFI-certified core banking platform from Path Solutions to replace its legacy IT system and deploy a single, cloud-based digital banking platform to underpin its banking operations. This follows from the company also working with Premier Bank and MyBank Ltd in Somalia.


Kuala Lumpur, the capital and largest city of Malaysia, is a major Islamic Financial hub in the global economy IMAGE SOURGE GETTY

Asia, in particular Southeast Asia, home to millions of Muslim such as in Indonesia and Malaysia, also has a very active Islamic Finance sector. Malaysia accounts for 82 percent of Southeast Asia’s total sukuk outstanding and 72 percent of the region’s issuances. Kuala Lumpur, in particular, is often regarded as one, if not the main, centre for Islamic Finance in the region.

Malaysia’s Islamic finance marketplace is served by the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) Community, founded on the launch of the MIFC initiative in 2006. According to its website, the MIFC Community is a network of the country’s financial sector regulators, including Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia), Securities Commission Malaysia, Labuan Financial Services Authority and Bursa Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange), Government ministries and agencies, industry players from the Islamic banking, takaful, re-takaful and Islamic capital market industries, human capital development institutions as well as professional ancillary services companies ranging from legal firms and Shariah advisories to tax and audit firms and research companies.

A recent example is IBF Net (L) Ltd embarking on a blockchain-based initiative to create a Relationship-Based Transactions (RBT) ecosystem under Digital IBF Lab, its newly created flagship. Explaining the nature of Relationship Based Transactions (RBTs), the concept note prepared by IBF Net asserts that RBTs take place in all sectors of the economy – philanthropy, not-for-profit and for-profit – that are necessitated by recurring nature of client needs. RBTs through repeated interaction among the actors induces trust, commitment, loyalty and a long-term relationship between them. IBF Net is a leading education provider that was founded in 1999 as the maiden online community in the field. It was awarded the Global Excellence Award by International Islamic Finance Forum (IIFF) in 2007 for its pioneering initiative in developing the first ever suite of certification programs in Islamic banking, insurance and investments. Currently, it operates as a Labuan International Company with its corporate office in Kuala Lumpur.


Finally, quoted as ‘Islamic finance hub of the West,” London is another major hub for Islamic Finance. The UK was the first non-Islamic country in the world to issue a sukuk when it raised £200 million ($256 million USD) in 2014. As of last year, over 20 banks in the UK offer Islamic services, and five of these banks are fully Sharia-compliant, including Al Rayan Bank. Assets of UK-based institutions that offer Islamic finance services totaled more than $5 billion.

According to Akmal Saleem, the Co-Founder & CEO of Rizq, the UK’s 1st Alternative Islamic Digital Banking App, “We are definitely at a tectonic moment within the global Islamic Finance industry and people working within the industry are very excited. With the emergence of new technology in the past few years, the execution of sharia compliant models has become easier to structure whilst still integrating into global banking systems with flexibility and more transparency.

There is a convergence within Islamic finance in a manner which hasn’t been seen before, this goes across banking, wealth management, investment, trade finance and all the key facets of Islamic finance. Previously these facets operated in isolated ways, connected to counter-parts in strategic alliances. With the advancement in technology a deep rooted appreciation to how customers (both retail and business) want to operate globally can be visibly seen.

The evidence of this is the emphatic growth of Islamic Fintechs globally which proves the low barriers in this initial lifecycle of market development. As the first batch of Islamic Fintech establish the realisation of the global potential will also establish. Recent investment into brands such as Wahed and even our own current fundraising experience within Rizq has shown the clear appetite investors have to capitalise on the global potential.
In more of a traditional sense the recent issuance within the global sukuk markets have been landmark and the trajectory shows only further growth. There is confidence that Islamic finance can if structured correctly help markets come out of the impending recession in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Islamic finance plays a growing role in the global economy, which has also been adopting to the wider digital transformation happening as well.

  • Richie Santosdiaz, Contributing Reporter for Middle East and Africa

The Fintech50 2020 Releases This Years 50 European Fintech Companies to Watch Out For

The Fintech50, the first list in the world to recognise innovative European fintechs, has announced the 50 companies named to its 2020 list. Leaders from Silicon Valley Bank, Accel, Mastercard, Augmentum Fintech, Schroders, Xero and Commerzbank selected this year’s 50 from over 2000 European companies.

The list, in its 8th year, features established brands, alongside 19 companies new to the list, reflecting this year’s focus on innovation, a relevant topic to people, business and financial services at the moment.

Identity, payments, open-banking, banking-as-a-service emerge, unsurprisingly, as hot spaces, alongside innovation that makes business easier at a challenging time for SMEs. In addition, alternative investing, pensions and savings, services that save consumers money on existing credit (rather than selling it at point of sale), the emerging data economy, sustainable finance, and making shareholder voices heard all feature.

This year’s list is in three parts: The Top Ten, The FinTech50, and The Hot Ten, which recognises early-stage companies. This is to add nuance, rather than bundle together companies still in beta with those who have developed a global client base under one umbrella called ‘Fintech’.

The FinTech50 2020 – Top Ten

  • Onfido
  • Tink
  • Revolut
  • Raisin
  • OakNorth
  • WeFox
  • Thought Machine
  • Solarisbank
  • 10 Comply Advantage

The Hot Ten 2020

  • Cledara London, UK
  • Cerebreon Donegal, Ireland
  • Doconomy Stockholm, `Sweden
  • Finteum London, UK
  • Fronted London, UK
  • Kalgera London, UK
  • PQShield Cambridge, UK
  • Primer London, UK
  • Tumelo Bristol, UK
  • Tomorrow Hamburg, Gemany

The FinTech50 2020

  • Alan
  • Anyfin
  • Apiax
  • AQMetrics
  • Archax
  • bunq
  • BUX
  • Clark
  • ClearBank
  • ClearScore
  • Cleo
  • Cloud Margin
  • Credit Kudos
  • Datamaran
  • Dawex
  • Eigen Technologies
  • Enfuce
  • Everledger
  • Farewill
  • FintechOS
  • Fluidly
  • Form3
  • Habito
  • HQLAx
  • IDnow
  • Liberis
  • Metaco
  • Modulr
  • Monese
  • Monzo
  • Moonfare
  • N26
  • PensionBee
  • Pleo
  • Previse
  • Privitar
  • Qonto
  • Railsbank
  • Rapyd
  • Salary Finance
  • Sharegain
  • Snoop
  • Starling Bank
  • Tessian
  • Tokeny
  • Tractable
  • TradeIX
  • Truelayer
  • Yulife

Women in the Crypto World – Celebrating the Achievements and Opportunities to Narrow the Gender Gap

By Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer, Partner and Gauss Ventures

If cryptocurrencies today are anything like the early days of the Internet, it’s crucial that women become more involved in this new frontier. With women making up half the world’s working-age population, and crypto being the future of money and investment – they should play a role in shaping it.

Fortunately, progress is being made and women are steadily becoming more interested in this new asset class. In 2017, only 5% to 7% of all cryptocurrency users were women. Yet two years later, Bitcoin fund operator Grayscale revealed that 43% of survey respondents that were interested in bitcoin investments were women. In places like India, women even make up the majority of crypto investors.

Why the sudden interest? As more women hear about the potential upsides of cryptocurrencies, more are getting involved. An increasing number of women are learning how to trade digital money while others are getting involved in tackling wide-ranging topics: from education and financial inclusion and empowerment to the digital chamber of commerce, crypto and banking nexus. Women are also becoming developers and strategists across blockchain, AI and big data.

There’s been a notable increase in female staff in key crypto firms like Coinbase, as well as Binance and Banco. These latter two exchanges were established by women and have a workforce that is now 40-50% female.

As more women get into the crypto space, we are also seeing some standout stars rising the ranks and making inroads in their careers. One recent story is that of Amiti Uttarwar. After studying at Carnegie Mellon, majoring in Information Systems, Uttarwar worked at a few startups in the Bay Area before introducing herself to Bitcoin. She then worked at Coinbase before being accepted for the Chaincode Residency for 2019 through Chaincode Labs. She is now the first confirmed female developer of Bitcoin Core and ‘the face of the New American Dream‘.

Other female employees are going on to front industry initiatives, such as Amber Baldet. She was the blockchain lead at JP Morgan, and was responsible for exploring how financial institutions could use technologies like blockchain. She helped to spearhead the Blockchain Center of Excellence at J.P. Morgan and acted as the chair of the financial industry working group of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.

Baldet now sits on the board of the Zcash Foundation and leads her own blockchain startup. Clovyr helps consumers, developers, and enterprises explore the world of blockchain-based technologies – and advances the development of decentralised tools and products.

Women are also supporting the infrastructure for cryptocurrencies and using it to dominate their professions, notably the legal world, where female blockchain and cryptocurrency lawyers are taking on practice leadership roles at various major law firms in the United States, breaking the male-dominated leadership moulds in two fields at once.

A few years ago, law firms that practiced regulatory or securities work began fielding blockchain or cryptocurrency-related questions, but it wasn’t clear, inside the firms, as to who was best placed to answer such queries. These women had the foresight to assume that the position was open. They took the initiative to educate themselves, and eventually came to fill those roles.

As women become more comfortable in the crypto space we are seeing a steady birth of female founders stepping up to the plate and coming up with exciting business ideas that cater to women.

One such entrepreneur is Emmanuelle Collet, cofounder and chief marketing officer of Arianee. This French blockchain project is aimed at eliminating fraud and counterfeiting in the luxury market. She learned about cryptocurrency and blockchain while still working at the Swiss luxury watch brand Omega and completing an MBA. She could see this had the potential to change the customer experience, especially in the Asian market, and Arianee’s mission is to build a global standard for the digital certification of valuable objects.

We also see women helping at the philanthropic level. Connie Gallippi is the founder of BitGive, the first nonprofit in Bitcoin – which has also evolved into one of the most significant Bitcoin projects, in terms of its success and longevity. While at a Bitcoin conference in San Jose in 2013, Gallippi was struck by inspiration: she reasoned that the Bitcoin community needed a philanthropic arm, and that she would lead it. Now, BitGive is the top place to go if you have Bitcoin and are keen to give some of your digital cash to charitable causes.

So how do we get more women into the space? Education around blockchain and cryptocurrencies should be more readily available. Community building is also essential to bringing women into the world of crypto.

We are already seeing some excellent initiatives. Women blockchain pioneers and thought leaders banded together in 2017 to form Diversity in Blockchain – a nonprofit organisation committed to empowering people from all walks of life to engage with blockchain technology, through education, discussion, and engagement. There is also EWPN, which is dedicated to building a community for women in cards, fintech and payments in Europe.

Aside from community building, mentoring and profile-raising can go a long way to attracting more female talent and narrowing the gender gap. It’s also essential for each woman to establish a network of other women in the world of business, and in particular crypto: Wirex and myself are here and ready to help develop that network.

We know that it’s important that we recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in the new frontier.  As the old saying goes, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ – and more female role models in this space will help to shepherd in the next generation. We know that diversity in teams improves decision-making, shapes strategy and helps focus on essentials.

When it comes to participating in this new form of wealth creation we must level the playing field and not leave it all to men. Crypto is the future of money, and money matters to everyone. Women should play a role in how it will transform the world we live in.

WIREX Women crypto

WIREX Women crypto

Women in Fintech: What Success Looks Like and How They Achieved It

It’s still very much a man’s world when it comes to fintech, but that’s not to say women aren’t out there. Despite often facing greater challenges than their male counterparts, many are making waves across the industry and we continue to highlight their success stories this month.

What unites them is a desire to make financial services more accessible to everyone – regardless of background. Key to achieving this is diversity and women have the power to disrupt the traditionally male-dominated financial space.

Here we meet the women making an impact in fintech and the wider financial services sector, and find out how they did it.

Lizzie Chapman, CEO and co-founder at ZestMoney
ZestMoney is the largest digital point of sale finance provider in India, where less than 30 million people out of a population of 1.4 billion use credit cards. “What we do is provide an alternative that we think is better, fairer, cheaper, more transparent, low and, quite frankly, a nicer experience,” says Lizzie Chapman, now living in Bangalore. Her interest in the Indian financial space started while working in finance for Goldman Sachs in London. She then became an investor and eventually moved out to India as country head for, where they created a bespoke PayLater product. When Wonga ended, Chapman and her colleagues spun out and created ZestMoney. “Anything in fintech is really satisfying and exciting because you’re basically designing the future,” she says. Something she is particularly proud of is that while less than 5% of credit cardholders in India are women, ZestMoney’s users are a near 50-50 split – meaning women can avail themselves of products and services that they otherwise would have limited access to.

Sara Koslinska, CEO and co-founder at Limitless
Sara Koslinska became fascinated with fintech having worked in a tech start-up in Tel Aviv, before going on to set up two companies offering services to corporates. “I was excited about the possibilities of creating new products for users in fintech, because back then, there weren’t that many solutions for bank customers,” she says. In 2015, she met her co-founder and Limitless – a financial wellbeing and micro-investment app licensed to corporations, banks and insurers – was born. Although clearly passionate about her work, Kolinska – who is based across London, Poland and Singapore – has faced challenges, particularly when working with banks. Much of this is to do with mindset and their perspective that they’re the ones who know best, as well as their focus on short-term results, Koslinska explains. But she also faces a lot of sexism. “A CEO of one of the European banks told me that if I don’t succeed in finance, I could go into modelling,” she says. “It’s hard to believe someone would say something like that in a corporate setting, but it does happen.”

Lebo Mokgabudi, South Africa country manager at Catalyst Fund
Catalyst Fund is an accelerator for inclusive fintech start-ups, working in its core markets of Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India and Mexico. Leading operations in South Africa is Lebo Mokgabudi, who had a long history of working in mobile payments for emerging markets in Africa and Asia – “from Pakistan to Nigeria” – before going on to work with fintech start-ups, including a stint in Kenya. All that experience then culminated in her current role, where she helps fintech start-ups with partnerships and fundraising. Her passion is making what she calls a “social impact”. “How do we leverage technology – and digital technology specifically – for innovation to create solutions that enable underserved communities to get access and appropriate and relevant solutions?” she explains. When it comes to supporting women in fintech, Mokgabudi says: “We’re making a conscious effort to find female founders – because they are there somewhere – and support them.” Such support includes access to capital, venture building support and developing relationships with investors. “We need more women to operate and succeed in the fintech sector, a difficult and exciting sector to operate in.”

Ylva Oertengren, COO at Simply Asset Finance
Swedish Ylva Oertengren would never describe herself as working in fintech, but as COO for SME lending start-up Simply Asset Finance her experience is similar to that of many women working in the sector. A lawyer by trade followed by years working with large financial companies across the world before settling in London, she has seen first hand how technology debt and niching could hold back the customer experience. “The thing about Simply was an opportunity to build a finance company and get it right from the beginning, when it comes to technology,” Oertengren says of its launch three years ago, when she had a newborn. But what was as liberating as building a company from scratch, she adds, was being able to start with a blank piece of paper when it comes to defining culture and inclusivity. “We want to innovate and you can only innovate if you have a diversity of ideas, and one quick way of getting there is by having a diverse workforce.”

Laura Keturke, product manager at AAZZUR

Having started as an intern, Laura Keturke worked her way up to product manager at AAZZUR – a Berlin-based fintech company which aims to be the fastest and most personalised way to build or monetise banking services. She started out at Lithuania’s DNB Bustas – a real estate company owned by DNB Bank – before joining AAZZUR start-up bootcamp in Vienna, where her husband worked as a developer. Keturke soon became an invaluable member of the team herself – most notably as a point of contact between management, the software guys and the designers. She loves the diversity of the role – particularly travelling when she gets to represent the company at industry events. “But sometimes I get a weird feeling,” she says. “As the more conferences I go to – especially in the start-up community – I’m often the only woman in the room. That’s kind of crazy.”

  • Natalie Marchant is a Manchester-based news, tech and travel journalist with more than 15 years’ experience working in the UK press. She works as a writer and editor on a range of publications – from compiling feature galleries for a global internet service provider to writing articles for a B2B publication and sub-editing a weekly fintech briefing. She also works as a content writer for a number of tech start-ups, both at home and abroad.

Outward Insight: Navigating an Investor’s Pipeline

As a London based fintech investor, Outward VC Fund are in a fortunate position of having access to a large pool of suitable companies. D’Arcy Whelan is an Analyst with the team, here she gives her insight into how to navigate an investor’s pipeline.

Across our team of six, we see around 1,000 relevant start-ups per year of which less than 1% join the portfolio – that’s a lot of ‘no’s’. If we put ourselves in the founders shoes, its understandably a tough process. However, it’s one that can’t be avoided and so we’ve come up with some recommendations on how to benefit from investor engagement, regardless of the outcome. We have also highlighted examples from founders who we think are worth taking note of, in regards to managing the investor relationship.

The first thing to note is that most VC deal funnels are divided into two buckets: ‘no’ and ‘maybe’. We’ve experienced first-hand from founders that there is value to be made on both sides.

Part I: For those in the ‘no’ camp

I.I : Ripping off the band aid

This step is about accelerating the time it takes to receive the ‘no’. By asking proactive questions you open the floor for instant, honest feedback. For example, after the first meeting, one founder asked us:

 “On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to invest?

By putting us on the spot, he accelerated the feedback process and left the meeting with clarity on where he stood – an outcome that may have otherwise taken days to get. VCs have nothing to lose by not being firm, founders however have a lot to lose.

I.II: Squeeze every ounce of juice out of it

If anything is unclear upon receiving a ‘no’ from investors, we’d recommend digging deeper (especially if you’ve spent a lot of time with them). The relationship you build and the feedback you take on board can hopefully make up for the time spent speaking to them. The following questions are a good place to start:

  • Where can I/we improve?
  • Is it a ‘No’, or a ‘Not right now?’ If so, what milestones do I need to hit to re-open the dialogue?
  • Is there anyone in your network for whom you think this opportunity would be better suited?

I.III: A lasting impression

As investors we’ve been on the receiving end of all kinds of responses from founders after passing on an opportunity. All are completely justified – no judgement here. However, what we will say is founders who end things on a positive note are the ones we tend to keep tabs on or help in future. The best way to illustrate the power of this point is by referring to examples we’ve come across in the past:

Example 1. Follow-up from a founder after a few introductory calls:

“It is never nice to be told your baby is ugly but I also appreciate that it is also hard to share that news. As a result many don’t bother, so I am therefore very grateful for you taking the time to talk to me this morning as without that detailed feedback, I can’t learn. So thank you. I mean it…”

The lasting impression is threefold: they have clearly have a stubborn determination to succeed which is balanced by the ability to be self-critical whilst demonstrating high EQ – all important qualities in a founder.

Example 2. Follow up email to a major tier 1 VC from a founder in our own portfolio:

We met November last year…You wanted to sleep on it (things do look different in the morning), and decided to pass (‘too small for across the pond’).  We have since quadrupled our…

Several VCs have already started to speak with us on our next round. However, admittedly, all I can think about is you.  

This is not a love note. I’m looking for a partner with dissent and a true experience scaling companies globally, and who can help us make less mistakes. Rightly or wrongly, my intuition tells me it’s you, and whenever I didn’t follow my intuition – I failed.  

This email didn’t change the outcome at that point in time, however this relationship is still very much alive and the answer may one day be a ‘yes’.

Part II: For those in the ‘maybe’ camp

As the funnel narrows, you want to ensure your company not only remains in the race but that it is front of mind. We’ve come up with four considerations that may be useful in achieving this.

Consideration #1: What makes you stand out?

It may be the founding team, the market opportunity or the traction to date. Whatever the answer, double down on it.

Consideration 2: Honesty is the best policy.

Transparency and openness are the most refreshing qualities to see in founders. At the early stage, we invest in, we don’t expect you to have a fully developed business or team. In fact, we need to understand where the gaps are in order to assess whether we’re the best partner to help you fill them. There is no greater red flag than finding out in late-stage due diligence that you spun the numbers, embellished a client relationship or omitted important details (eg. a large director’s loan). It puts the validity of every conversation at stake.

Consideration #3: Persistence pays off.

Every touchpoint is an opportunity to either deepen the relationship and/or incite interest in the business or market opportunity. Some examples include sending helpful information (i.e. research reports, product updates) or even by connecting the dots with another company or investor where synergies may exist.

Consideration #4: Relationships are key.

This extends to the whole team. There may be a scenario where you’ve been in touch with a junior member of the team who isn’t upselling you or vice versa with a senior down selling it. Try to get as much buy-in as possible.

Relationships are a good note to end on. Let’s not forget that this is a two-way street. It’s just as important for the founder to use the process to learn more about the Investor and assess if they are the right fit. After all, these are the individuals who will be partnering with you in the long term. Financial capital is just one of many elements

  • Gina is a FinTech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

Weekly Wrap: Consumers don’t need branches, and bank incubators stay busy

Share It seems consumers need bank branches less than before. A Plaid study showed 80% of consumers now say they can bank without a branch. Banks like Citibank and Silicon Valley Bank, meanwhile, are launching new platforms out of internal incubators. “We have seen from the research we have done with our clients and investor …Read More

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FinovateFall 2020’s Final Day: Collaboration, Mobile Security, and Fintech’s Bright Future

The morning’s first panel, Strategic Partnerships and Collaboration Between Banks and Fintechs, brought insight into what large banks look for when it comes to partnering with a fintech. The top suggestions for fintechs looking to make themselves more appealing to banks included offering scalability and using industry standards for things like data sharing.

Google’s Mike Burr took the stage next to deliver the keynote: Redefining the Approach to Mobile Security in FinTech (and why it works). Burr considered the root concern that banks struggle with when it comes to protecting Android devices. He examined the top ways data becomes exposed and how to get the tools to ensure data security for compliance needs.

The afternoon breakout stages tackled issues on topics across payments, future technology, wealthtech, and banking. These recorded panels, along with all of the content on the main stage, are available in the On Demand section of the event platform through next week so be sure to catch what you may have missed there.

Our afternoon panel, Latin America – The Future of Fintech, and the Dawn of a New Opportunity, considered the range of opportunities in Latin American markets. The group discussed that the region’s diversity makes it ripe for investors and explained how entrepreneurs are reinventing financial services at a local level.

Closing out FinovateFall 2020 was Neri Tollardo, Head of International Relations and Partnerships at Tinkoff, who spoke on how fintechs can remain profitable in a COVID-19 era. Tollardo’s address offered a ray of hope for banks and fintechs. He expressed that the path to profitability is not mutually exclusive of growth. His points of advice included embedding profitability in the culture and the organizational structure, understanding their business, investing in good talent, and searching out verticals that generate returns.

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated in the event, from our demo companies, to our speakers, panelists, and–of course– to our audience. We wouldn’t be here without you!

Photo by McKayla Crump on Unsplash

More Fuel for the BNPL Fire: Affirm Raises $500 Million

In a series G round, buy-now, pay-later company (BNPL) Affirm brought in $500 million, bringing the company’s total raised to $1.3 billion.

Leading the round were Durable Capital Partners LP and existing investor GIC. Other returning investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Wellington Management Company, Baillie Gifford, Spark Capital, Founders Fund, and Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC also contributed.

Affirm Founder and CEO Max Levchin referred to the new round as a “vote of confidence” that will help the company advance its mission “to build honest financial products that improve lives.”

Along with the funding announcement, Affirm also unveiled an interest-free and fee-free bi-weekly payment product for transactions over $50. The new product aims to help Affirm’s tools compete with credit cards. “Affirm is now an even more attractive payment option for everyday wants and needs,” Levchin added. “We can also now better support merchants who offer smaller ticket items and bring their customers a more transparent, flexible way to pay.”

Affirm’s BNPL tools reach 6.5 million shoppers across the U.S. and Canada. The company has 6,000+ merchant partners in the U.S., including brands such as Walmart, Peloton, Oscar de la Renta, Audi, and Expedia.

Affirm’s funding comes days after Klarna unveiled its $650 million raise, which brought its total funding to $1.4 billion and boosted its valuation to $10.6 billion.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Good business: Eco-friendly credit cards on the horizon

Share The plastic credit card consumers keep in their wallets may soon change. With more consumers demanding eco-friendly business practices, issuing banks could benefit from using more sustainable card materials, according to Aite Group’s report, “Eco-Friendly Card Material: Bringing Sustainability to Card Issuance.” “Not only is there approximately 150 million metric tons of plastic in …Read More

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LexisNexis Risk Solutions releases biannual cybercrime report

LexisNexis Risk Solutions cybercrime report, which tracked global cybercrime activity from January through June 2020, was released on Wednesday. The report explains how COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the global digital economy, regional economies, industries, businesses and consumer behavior, according to a press release.

The cybercrime report analyzes data from more than 22.5 billion transactions processed by the company’s digital identity network. Mobile device transactions increased, with 66% of all transactions coming from mobile devices in the first half of 2020, up from 20% in early 2015.

All industries felt the impact of COVID-19, and the increase and decrease in transaction volume coincides with global lockdown periods.

Financial institutions and financial service organizations benefitted from new-to-digital banking users, attributed to the pandemic. E-commerce merchants saw an increase in digital payments, as well as fraud attacks, that coincide with the lockdown period. These included account takeover attacks using identity spoofing and more first-party chargeback fraud.

“This is the first LexisNexis Risk Solutions Cybercrime Report to include data on the new reality of conducting business during a pandemic,” Rebekah Moody, director of fraud and identity at LexisNexis Risk Solutions said in the release. “The move to digital, for both businesses and consumers, has been significant. Yet with this change comes opportunity for exploitation. Fraudsters look for easy targets: whether government support packages, new lines of credit or media companies with fewer barriers to entry. We need to ensure that all consumers, especially those who might be new to digital, are protected. Businesses must arm themselves with a layered defense that can detect the full spectrum of possible attacks and is future-proofed against evolving threats.”

Women in Fintech: Sophie Guibaud from OpenPayd

As The Fintech Times celebrates Women in Fintech this September, we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading females in the industry. Here we meet Sophie Guibaud, Chief Growth Officer at OpenPayd has lived and breathed fintech ever since she joined the industry back in 2012.

Sophie Guibaud

Sophie graduated in 2007 and since then, she has enjoyed a global career which has seen her assisting companies with their strategic development, leading international expansion, and advising on growth plans.

In her year at OpenPayd, Sophie has delivered impressive growth and pushed the company into new market sectors including the crypto proposition which was launched in July 2020. 

Throughout Sophie’s career, she has been awarded a number of industry accolades, including being named one of Innovate Finance’s Standout 35 for the last two years. She’s also been included in Management Today’s 35 Women under 35, Digital Banking Club’s European Digital Financial Services Power 50, CityAM’s Fintech Most Influential Powerlist and Women in Fintech Powerlist.

Sophie, describe your career journey so far:

It’s been an interesting ride! Fresh from studying Corporate Finance in Canada (where I moved when I was 18 years old), I started my career in investment banking in New York before joining a growth capital fund in Paris. 

However, I quickly realised my true passion was in championing the growth of start-up businesses. So I then moved to London where I joined HelloFresh as Chief Marketing Officer and a founding member of its UK team. Later, I would be so proud to have shared in those beginnings that led to the company IPO-ing for €1.7 billion in 2017. 

Fast-forward to 2012, I was working at Bankable where I led product strategy and commercialisation. This was the exact moment I fell in love with the idea of transforming banking. My team and I chose to evolve the company’s prepaid corporate card platform into a full BaaS platform which would simplify access to banking and payments. Organisations could then access the services they need themselves and start to offer them to their end customers. 

In 2015, I joined Fidor Bank as their Managing Director of UK and VP of European Expansion and was promoted to become Managing Director of Europe of their technology subsidiary in under three years. It’s in this role where I was presented with the biggest challenge of my career at that point – launching Fidor’s retail bank subsidiary in the UK. Within six months, I’d recruited and appointed a UK team, managed the bank’s subsidiary’s launch, and orchestrated the expansion rollout plans across the EEA, completing the launch and beating both budget and timeline projections. I’m still recovering!

That brings us to today. I became OpenPayd’s Chief Growth Officer in 2019 which has me looking after marketing, sales, customer success, banking partnerships as well as corporate development – specifically, honing in on external product-based and territory-based growth opportunities. In that time, we’ve made a raft of incredible hires – including some great people I was fortunate enough to work with in the past – launched a crypto-focused proposition and signed an incredible partnership with Tap Global to boost our customer offering. These developments and the growth we’ve achieved even amid COVID has meant we have seen no slowing in our recognition within the industry. In January this year, we won the Prize of the Jury at Paris Fintech Forum and have recently been named in the top 150 cross-border companies globally by FXCIntelligence

This year has been tough for fintech. The situation with Wirecard and the pandemic has created pressures that have left the industry reeling. How do you think we can support the continued growth of the sector? 

For me, it’s about supporting the fledgeling organisations that will ultimately transform the future of financial services. Beyond the day job, I’ve taken hands-on roles as a mentor and advisor to many early-stage businesses and I sit on the advisory boards of a number of startups that I support on topics ranging from fundraising to business model iteration, go-to-market to international expansion. At PayU, the Fintech arm of Naspers, I am an advisory board member supporting the exec team in their corporate development and diversity efforts. At SuperCharger, I support the founder in the design and implementation of its growth strategy. At YouTrip, an APAC multi-currency solutions provider, I’ve helped with the overall product and geography growth strategy. It’s just a small way I can show my support to the continued growth and innovation of the banking industry. 

What’s next for you?

This year has turned everything on its head, including fintech. At OpenPayd, we’re ready to emerge from the disruption of Covid-19 and strive forward with our growth, development and expansion plans. Keeping morale high through this year has not been easy, but I’m fortunate to be part of a team that’s committed to making their mark, embracing the journey and growing together. 

  • Gina is a FinTech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

5 Questions with Mary Kate Loftus, Senior VP and Director of Digital for M&T Bank

Partnerships between nimble fintechs and trusted banks are essential as we look to build back our economy. Mary Kate Loftus, a panelist in our FinovateFall Strategic Partnerships session, knows this well. As head SVP, Director of Digital for M&T Bank, she fields potential partnerships each month. We sat down with her to discuss what M&T looks for in a partner and where she sees the industry going.

How do you determine your needs for a fintech partner?

Mary Kate Loftus: With all things, we start with our customer. Our teams dive deep into the customer experience through journey mapping, and from this, we can see the pain points and what we need to create. Going about our innovation and partnerships from this perspective, rather than looking at our competitors and building to parity, allows us to create a truly differentiated experience.

When it comes to partnerships, we consider if we are best suited to meet the needs of the client or if we need to turn to an outside source that’s already focusing on these needs very deeply. Banks, like M&T, are able to work closely with their clients in a way that many fintech organizations are not able to do. But often fintechs, free of a complex organizational structure or process, are able to innovate in a very focused way. This ying and yang – the bank’s customer expertise and the fintech’s area expertise – allows for a truly meaningful partnership.

Once we identify a partnership need, we see if we’re aligned in our corporate purpose. This step is critical – it ensures that our approach will be both effective and long-term. Our purpose is to improve the lives of our customers in a meaningful way, and we look for partners looking to achieve the same.

What makes you take a meeting with a potential fintech partner?

Mary Kate: Referrals from existing clients, friends, connections, or colleagues are always a great way to start a potential partnership. Beyond that, I get excited to meet those who come with a clear vision of the problem they’re able to address and a strong understanding of our corporate promise. For us, it’s not enough to simply have a capability, but rather, we build for measurable results and long-term partnership.

Once we’re in the meeting, it all comes down to talent. We want to work with creative, imaginative, curious people, and we’re looking to see those qualities on day one. Together we want there to be a good energy in the room and, equally as important, great ideas.

Lastly, we’re looking to learn from our partners. What can you teach us about what we’re not yet doing?

Can you discuss the PPP rollout and how you overcame the challenge?

Mary Kate: M&T’s successful PPP rollout was thanks to a strong set of existing partnerships and a creative team that was ready to scale nearly overnight.

Before the pandemic, we were working with Blend for our mortgage digital originations so we were already aligned in our purpose. The leadership teams from both organizations were just starting conversations on how we could work together more when the PPP program was announced, and so we knew they were the partner to tap. A cross-functional team brought in Salesforce and Docusign – two other existing partners – to complete the experience.

Within minutes of the program launching, we had thousands of applications. Together, we were able to lead the country in loan fulfillment– 96% of first round loans went through within days — giving $7 billion in funds to small businesses. More importantly, our partnership allowed us to still meaningfully vet the applications, and we’re proud to say that two thirds of the loans issued went to businesses with less than 10 employees.

Our PPP response was led by Eric Feldstein, M&T’s SVP who oversees Business Banking. It’s a success story about the importance of having strong leaders with digital expertise leading a line of business. I believe this successful rollout in a time of real crisis for many will create lasting loyalty in our customer base.

What near-horizon banking technology are you most excited about?

Mary Kate: I’m a big believer in the science behind behavioral analytics and how you motivate customers by understanding how people think.

Every customer is going through a different experience. If one client is going through a life change like having a child or going through a divorce, it’s important to be able to anticipate financially what that journey might look like for them. As we are able to embed more artificial intelligence and meaningful insights, we’ll be able to guide customers toward better decisions that then will improve the quality of their life.

This is why we’re so focused on experience mapping to identify customer journeys — from there we’re able to understand what the moments that matter most are for different segments of customers. When you apply data and insights against those experiences, you’re then able to build a personalized micro-experience. What we’re doing today is lightyears ahead of what we were doing in the past, and I can’t wait to see how much more we can do in this space.

The pandemic is only going to accelerate this. We’re seeing a blend of work and personal lives, and with this, I think the financial services industry will play an even bigger role in making a difference in people’s lives.

What role does the need for diversity play in banking partnerships?

Mary Kate: Diversity plays an absolutely critical role in these partnerships.

At M&T, we know the more diverse voices we have in the room the better decisions and outcomes you can drive for customers. As an institution, you must reflect your community and customers, so you need to draw from a broad range of experiences in order to drive the best business performance and outcome.

When choosing a partner, we look at who we’re working with. We look at what systems are in place and watch out for those that could create outcomes that we don’t want to drive, and, conversely, for those that will drive us further.

This goes back to what I was saying earlier about learning from a partner. Yes, we want cutting-edge technology that will solve customer pain points, but sometimes these pain points are solved through systems, processes, or approaches. We’ve found that by working with a diverse set of partners, we’re able to think in more comprehensive, customer-centric ways.

Mary Kate Loftus is the Senior Vice President, Director of Digital for M&T. She joined the Bank in 2018 as the Head of Strategic Planning for the Consumer & Business Bank. Mary Kate is a career banker with over 20 years in financial services with experience in Digital, Branch Management and Contact Center. Mary Kate holds an MBA from Canisius College, is a 2013 graduate of the Consumer Banker’s Association Executive Banking School and is a member of their Digital Channels Committee in addition to other industry forums

Photo by Photos Hobby on Unsplash

Swiss Stock Exchange Celebrates 20 Years of Exchange Traded Funds Growth

Today marks twenty years since the Swiss Stock Exchange launched a segment for Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) in 2000. Now the Stock Exchange, along with its issuers and market makers, offers investors more choice than ever trading ETFs in a liquid and secure marketplace.

In the two decades since its launch in 2000, the ETF segment has demonstrated strong growth. In the first eight months of 2020 alone, the ETF trading turnover amounted to more than CHF 80 billion and the number of transactions was up a staggering 62% compared to the same period in 2019, reaching 1.15 million.

With almost 1,600 ETFs from 28 product issuers, SIX provides access to a broad and diversified offering, which can benefit from continuous liquidity provision by 16 official market makers. This year alone, four new ETF issuers joined the Swiss Stock Exchange – Credit Suisse Asset Management, HANetf, PIMCO, and Rize ETF – as well as two new market makers, Credit Suisse Securities Europe and RBC Capital Markets. Since the beginning of the year, 129 new ETFs have been listed.

Alain Picard, head trading sales & management at the Swiss Stock Exchange, said “Every milestone we are reaching in our 20-year success story of ETFs at SIX is an opportunity for us to thank our issuers and our market makers. They make sure that investors have one of the biggest choices of ETFs and attractive trading conditions, which we support with our commitment to innovation and continuous improvement.”

Over the past 20 years, equity ETFs have been joined by asset categories such as government and corporate bond, money market, commodity and real estate ETFs. ETF products also encompass regions, countries, sectors, investment strategies and themes. Their variety and number have grown continuously as a consequence of various innovations. In May 2019, the range of ETFs on offer on the Swiss Stock Exchange reached the 1,500 mark, making the ETF segment a major contributor to the diversification in tradable securities on the Swiss Stock Exchange. Since just the beginning of 2020, a total of 7 actively managed ETFs and 122 new passively managed ETFs have been listed on the Swiss Stock Exchange.

The next milestone for the Swiss Stock Exchange ETF segment is already on the horizon and plans to meet the needs of its institutional clients. SIX will launch its new “ETF Quote on Demand” service towards the end of the year.