FintekNews Celebrates #WomenInFintech – Meet Andrée Simon of FINCA Impact Finance

Photo credit ©Joanne S. Lawton/Washington Business Journal

We’re pleased to present our latest installment in our feature series – “FintekNews Celebrates #WomenInFintech“.  This week, we’d like to introduce you to Andrée Simon of FINCA Impact Finance, a global network of 20 microfinance institutions and banks that provides socially-responsible financial services and enables low-income individuals and communities to invest in their futures.

NAME:  Andrée Simon
President & CEO
FINCA Impact Finance

1) What does your financial technology firm offer?

My firm, FINCA Impact Finance, is a responsible finance institution that partners with fintechs to expand and improve the services we offer. That means leveraging technology to make our operations more efficient and to make banking more affordable and accessible to low-income people. Specific innovations we’ve implemented include digital field automation (DFA), credit scoring and central underwriting, agency banking and new mobile and online banking solutions.

2) What was the personal motivation for you to join your firm?

I chose to pursue a career in finance because I wanted to make an impact. In the right hands, finance can do a tremendous amount of good. Financial inclusion is essential for economic development, especially in places where access to a bank account or mobile wallet can dramatically change someone’s life. I joined FINCA Impact Finance specifically because I believe in the organization’s purpose: to profitably and responsibly provide innovative and impactful financial services to low-income people.

3) As a business leader, do you feel any advantages/disdvantages in being female as you are a) managing your business & team internally and b) growing your business competitively?

The fintech space is driven by talented people with innovative ideas, and a lot of women obviously fit that description. Gender bias is still a problem, though, despite it being proven that diversity leads to better performance and profitability. I think that’s because in addition to active bias, we also suffer from unconscious bias.

4) Do you feel you are at a competitive advantage – or disadvantage – as a female fintech business leader– or neither.

I didn’t think about my gender at all for most of my career, but since I took the position of CEO it comes up all the time. I suppose that’s a good indication that we still have some major work to do on parity! Sure, I think that being a woman can be a competitive disadvantage if your partners have a bias against women. In the case of our work, however, I think it’s actually been an advantage more often than not. It distinguishes us from other firms both from an internal and external perspective.

5)  Do you feel there are more women in financial technology leadership roles than in other business sectors?  If so, why or why not?

Unfortunately, the numbers tell us that fintech is behind the curve on gender equality. A widely-cited 2017 study by EY found that the fintech space tends to be unequal in general, and the gender disparity increases as we move higher up the management latter. In the UK, for example, 29% of total positions at fintech companies are occupied by women—and only 17% of executive management positions. If we look at the founders of companies listed on the FinTech 50 list, there are 118 men and only six women. This is partly driven by women being underrepresented in STEM fields. It’s also driven by gender-biased hiring, promotion and funding practices. Women face undue challenges when trying to attract funding for their fintech projects.

6) Do you think the trend will continue where we will see more women in leadership roles in fintechs (Yes/No) and why?

I think we will see more women in leadership roles. Gender bias is a problem, but the emphasis on gender equality is gaining ground. It’s more widely understood that firms need to attract and cultivate women talent to be successful, especially in fields like tech and finance that have traditionally been viewed as male-dominated. For individual women trying to break into the fintech sphere, my advice is to focus on generating and demonstrating value. It’s very difficult to ignore anyone who is generating value visibly.

Andrée Simon is President & CEO of FINCA Impact Finance, a global provider of responsible financial services. She has devoted nearly her entire professional career to expanding financial inclusion in emerging markets.