January 29, 2019
With the Paris Fintech Forum – a major international event in finance and tech – set for the end of January, the European initiative fintexx – women in finance and insurer BNP Paribas Cardif have invited numerous female heads of startups on 28 January 2019 to discuss the fintechs that are transforming our daily lives and in particular the role and contribution of women in finance and tech. See bellow the interview with Nathalie Doré, Chief Digital & Acceleration Officer of BNP Paribas Cardif and Carolin Gabor, Managing Partner of finleap and founder of fintexx – women in finance.
What is fintexx – women in finance? And could you tell us a little about the event you are organizing during Paris Fintech Forum with BNP Paribas Cardif?
Carolin Gabor : fintexx – women in finance is a finleap initiative, founded by me in 2016, with the aim to give women working in the tech and finance industry more visibility and networking opportunities. It consists of an exclusive circle of C-level women, who up until now have built a strong network within the financial industry. We usually meet for lunch or dinner. The fintexx women events have already been to London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Zurich. The focus is on networking, finding joint business opportunities and supporting each other. What is also important to me is the opportunities the initiative provides to the next generation of women, interested in a career in finance or tech, as well as continuing to strengthen and support successful females in financial services. These young and tech-savvy women are close to my heart. At finleap, a European company builder for fintechs, we foster diverse teams and are very proud to have as many women as men in leading positions.
I was really looking forward to the event with BNP Paribas Cardif. Nathalie and I have been in contact for a long time and I’m very excited to bring fintexx to the Paris Fintech Week and to meet great and inspiring women with different backgrounds and from different nations.
Why is BNP Paribas Cardif teaming up with the fintexx – women in finance initiative?
Nathalie Doré: We’re delighted to be partnering with the fintexx – women in finance initiative. We’re very involved in the startup ecosystem, since open innovation is a pillar of our strategy. Through our C. Entrepreneurs investment fund, which was created in 2016 and is managed by Cathay Innovation, we provide funding for a dozen startups. In addition to funding we support them by helping them establish a framework that will drive their growth. We pursue a project with every startup we invest in. We make this a condition both to accelerate our own transformation and to let the startups test the appetite of new markets, since we work with more than 500 partner distributors and we count 100 million policyholders.
We also work with many other startups without necessarily investing in them. Clark, a insurtech startup supported by finleap, is a good example. I met Caroline at the Women’s Forum. We were speakers on the same round table about women in fintech. We quickly discovered shared business interests around platforms and we now work together via our project with Clark in Germany. We also share a desire to make the banking industry and fintech more accessible to women. In general, the higher you go on the organization chart, the rarer women become. In finance there is a balance if you look at the overall numbers, but when you get to top management the proportion of women drops to 15%. I’m proud to be working at a company where this is not the case: our executive committee is close to gender parity. It’s important to push for change to introduce better gender balance in our industry. We know that insufficient diversity has a negative economic impact and a negative impact on society. We believe it’s important to support initiatives that contribute to gender equality such as those proposed by fintexx – women in finance. And one way to change things is to make women in finance more visible, to mobilize engaged networks such as fintexx and reach out to women leaders in the industry and invite them to share their experiences during events such as these, because they serve as important role models.
fintexx – women in finance encourages dialogue between the heads of startups. How prominent are women in online and digital businesses today?
Nathalie: A recent study by Syntec Numérique showed that women account for just 27.5% of the employees in digital businesses, and that they are even rarer when it comes to technical positions such as development or data science. And this is the case in other countries as well. I realized the scale of this issue when I was living in the United States. The good news, though, is that we can all make a difference by taking actions within our companies. Although diversity is low among graduates of schools where digital skills are taught, it’s essential to make sure people are aware that they can change their career directions by exposing them to role models, and by promoting greater gender balance.
The fourth industrial revolution will see changes in a host of different skills in order to evolve and adapt to the new needs of businesses and to new modes of consumption. There will be growing demand for people with tech skills. This is why last year BNP Paribas Cardif teamed up with General Assembly, a pioneer in education and career transformation, specializing in today’s most in-demand skills to prepare our teams for this major change. We’ve committed to training 1,000 employees by the end of 2022 and to opening these training sessions to the employees of our partner distributors and to the BNP Paribas Group. During the second half of 2018 over 100 employees were trained in UX Design, agile methodologies and data science. Plus, we had an almost equal number of men and women from the company, which is very encouraging.
Carolin: The proportion of female founders is still very small when it comes to founding tech start-ups. Even though the number of women starting a new business has risen in recent years, the male "entrepreneurs" still dominate. For me, the critical stage is childhood. Women must be shown early on, at school or university, that an entrepreneurial career can be an attractive option for them. And this is where economic policy initiatives come in. Although there are privately initiated women networks, such as ours, there is also a need on the political side to increase the visibility of female digital entrepreneurs and to support their networking. If young women see female entrepreneurs as role models and an inspiration for success, this takes away their fear of such a career and motivates them. In addition, women have to overcome many more hurdles when it comes to setting up a business, e.g. raising capital. I know many stories of women who report on the challenge of pitching exclusively in front of men and convincing them.
Carolin spoke about her various commitments through the fintexx – women in finance initiative. Nathalie, what are you doing to encourage and recognize women in digital professions?
Nathalie: I’m quite proud to have co-organized with Clara Terrien, a French executive who is very active in the Silicon Valley tech sector, and in conjunction with Chiara Corazza, Managing Director of the Women’s Forum the first delegation from Silicon Valley to attend the Women’s Forum in Paris a year ago. It gave me a chance to make my voice heard on the issue of the position of women in fintech. The Women’s Forum is a very influential event that has an impact on a variety of diversity issues. When I was head of the Atelier BNP Paribas in San Francisco I was also head of the French American Women Executives Community, which provides opportunities for co-development and networking.
Today I’m the sponsor of a mentoring programme for the BNP Paribas MixCity association, which was created by female executives from the BNP Paribas Group to facilitate the rise of women to top management positions and to promote better work/life balance. As part of the programme I’m mentoring a young woman manager, a role that I find tremendously motivating. It’s important to speak out on this issue, because women are the founders of only 20 to 30% of new businesses in industrialized and developed countries. This situation is very closely linked to education and culture. Women tend to create more barriers for themselves and have a tendency to practice self-censorship. So it’s important to support initiatives that encourage diversity and to promote awareness of these issues among younger generations.