Celebrating Women in FinTech — a view from Hogan Lovells

What a TRULY Inspirational Evening.

It cannot have escaped your notice that it was International Women’s Day on Tuesday. We at HL celebrated by hosting the Innovate Finance (IF) ‘Women In Fintech’ evening.

How silly seem my concerns that we wouldn’t find many attendees (…we had struggled to find women panellists for our recent FinTech Summit and — unusually for us — ended up with a full set of men…).

I couldn’t have been more wrong. There were nearly two hundred attendees. More were turned away over capacity concerns. Although the ‘quantity’ was a relief, the amazing thing was the quality of the attendees.

The Keynote was given by Viola Llewellyn, Co-founder and COO of Ovamba. Ovamba is a marketplace lender which “helps Africans who can’t get finance to make their ideas work”. Viola inspired us to ask our children “what problem do you want to solve?”, rather than “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

The Panel (Startupbootcamp, Global Invest Her, LBG and Brolly) considered the issues of the day. The statistics are “awful”. The growth in the Sector is huge (136% since 2014) and yet the numbers of women remain small. Women make up only 5% of leadership roles at the top 50 European Fintech companies. Amongst the IF community — a small but significant increase at 8%. The Women Co-founders that do exist struggle to get finance. This is perhaps unsurprising when less than 4% of venture capitalists in the UK are women.

Does this matter? Oh my, yes! If we have 22% female representation on Boards, return on investment jumps to 15% or more. If we closed the $285bn gender gap in credit, global GDP would increase by 12%. These are not small numbers.

Perhaps the most important thing that we can do is to make the amazingly successful women who are out there more visible.

That is where IF come in again. On Tuesday, they highlighted the 21 Women Founders or CEOs amongst the IF community. The final session of the evening comprised pitches from six of those women entrepreneurs. They each had two minutes to talk about their business and to make a pitch. There was a healthy representation of innovation, disruption and, of course, financial inclusion. Six very impressive performances. Their ‘asks’ were varied, some wanted money, some advice. I hope they get both. My favourite ask was from Marta (Azimo). Her ‘ask’ was selfless. It was for everyone to identify a woman and commit to helping her. So whether you are a Woman in FinTech or a “Manbassador”, please fulfil Marta’s ‘ask’ in this International Women’s Week and go help a Woman in Fintech.

Thank you to Lawrence and the IF team for organising this event. It is now for all of us to step up to the plate and keep the spotlight shining on this issue. Read IF’s five recommendations.

Watch this space…And in the meantime, make your nomination to the 2016 IF Female FinTech Power List.

This blog post was originally published on the Innovate Finance Website on 11 March 2016

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