Tips & Trends of Fintech Leadership

Julie Muhn chats to Rita Martins, FinTech Partnerships Lead – Innovation Finance and Risk at HSBC about her experience as a woman in fintech, trends she’s seeing across the industry, and what can be done to encourage more female founders.

Tell us about yourself and your career path to your current role.

Rita Martins: My career started with an internship at Santander in Asset Management managing mixed portfolios. After a few months, a great opportunity came up to join the consulting world. Working at Ernst and Young and later at Accenture, I travelled the world driving large scale transformation projects and advising C-Suite on the applicability of new technologies in finance. During this time, I started diving into the fintech world and noticing first-hand how fintechs were making a difference in developing countries (despite challenging conditions, everyone had a phone and used it for payments).

In 2018 I moved to HSBC, where I currently Lead FinTech Partnerships for Finance and Risk. I am responsible for managing relationships with third parties and driving collaboration between fintechs and traditional financial services SMEs.

What trends are you seeing driving fintech this year? Are they different to previous years, or when you first started in the industry?

Martins: Nowadays, fintech companies are much more mature than when I started in the industry. Fintechs discovered where they can have an impact and when to partner with others in the market.

This year we continue to see fintechs emerging in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cloud spaces. Additionally, there is a new trend in ESG (Environment Social and Governance), with many new fintechs researching and developing solutions in this space. 

In your opinion, what is the secret to a successful partnership between bank and fintech?

Martins: There isn’t one factor but a combination of factors that lead to a successful collaboration. Before a partnership is created, both parties need to understand if their culture, goals, and strategy are aligned. An ideal partner will be someone who complements the other and brings new ideas to the table to ensure continued innovation.

After papers are signed, there needs to be an open and frequent dialogue to ensure issues are quickly solved, targets are met, and any changes needed are settled.

What is important to you to see from a fintech leader/ founder of a new start-up you’re looking to work with?

Martins: A fintech-bank partnership is much more than finding great technology; human interaction is vital. When looking for new partners, the fintech leader or founder is often the one representing the company, so in the initial discussions, we would be looking at a combination of factors:

  • 1. Their knowledge of the technology and industry
  • 2. Their values and how they connect with our team
  • 3. How innovative they are and what new ideas they bring to the table
  • 4. What their goals for the partnership are, and how flexible they are

Do you see many women leading fintechs or in senior positions? Is there enough diversity across the board in these roles?

Martins: No, there is still a noticeable lack of women and minorities in senior positions and even fewer women founders. 

Typically, women who work in fintech will have roles in sales, communications, or marketing with a noticeable gap in the technology and senior roles.

So, what can the industry do to better encourage women to get involved with fintech?

Martins: I would challenge the industry to do more at the senior level. Those changes will empower young women to join the industry, retain existing leaders, and decrease the pay gap.

Two key areas that need immediate change are:

  • More investment needs to go into female-founded fintechs. In 2020, only 2.3% of VC capital went to female-only founded start-ups (according to Crunchbase)
  • Banks and fintechs boards and leadership need to be more diverse. In 2020 women represented only 14% of fintech boards (according to Oliver Wyman)

Listen to more from Rita as she looks back on her experience at FinovateEurope 2021 below