Making FinTech more diverse and representative
Rise, Barclays’ FinTech ecosystem, is spearheading diversity and inclusion in the sector. This wide-ranging topic is the subject of the latest edition of Rise FinTech Insights, a regular publication from the bank.
This blog was written by Clare Whitehead, FinTech Platform Lead, Rise London
Building a more diverse future for FinTech
Working towards a more equitable future starts with addressing the wealth gap created by unequal access to resources by underepresented communities. Bridging the gap starts in the very early years from focusing on STEM eduction to the later years by providing FinTech resources for the baby boomer population.
The next generation is very evidently making great strides in FinTech when you watch Stemettes in action. Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and her remarkable organisation allows girls and young women to get creative with technology and see the opportunities available to them in joining one of the fastest-growing (but still male dominated) UK sectors.Pre-lockdown, Stemettes, their siblings and their parents would regularly take over our Rise London building to work on ‘Future of FinTech’ hackathons. Based on the energy and enthusiasm of that crowd, we should be seeing more women in our sector in the years to come.
Rise community leading the way
We call the Rise ecosystem the #HomeofFinTech because it fosters such great technology and talent. The latter includes several diverse pioneers, and they deserve a shout-out. To name just three from our sites around the world:
- Kevin Barrow is a Black founder in our community and CEO of Mark Labs, a London-based FinTech company that shows how money can be used as an instrument for creating positive social and environmental change at scale.
- Nadia Sood is the female founder and CEO of CreditEnable, a Mumbai-based credit insights and technology company that applies proprietary data analytics, and AI to build solutions to the world’s biggest financial challenges.
- David Beatty is a co-founder of Gaingels, a New York-based company focusing on co-investing with leading venture funds in companies that embrace LGBT leadership.
Building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment are at the heart of Barclays’ values: Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence and Stewardship. The global corporate and investment bank is a better, stronger and more successful organisation as a result of it.
As Jes Staley, Group Chief Executive Officer, Barclays said recently: “We are deeply committed to empowering the next generation of leaders, providing access to enterprise, employability and financial skills.”
A call to action
Personal empowerment is perhaps the main driving force in any diversity initiative, and these leaders demonstrate how effective it can be. Empowerment of a different kind can come when underrepresented communities come together to effect change in a system – like the Latinx community in banking. Ramona Ortega, Founder of My Money My Future, argues the case with a FinTech call to action to create a more diverse FinTech sector. Speaking for that community, she calls on us to:
- Help more FinTech founders of colour get funded. Get to know them and open up your network to them.
- Partner, support or even acquire small diverse companies and, as a result, add value by reaching new markets (because existing products doesn’t fit the market for people of colour).
- Give Black and Latinx folks a seat at the table. If you’re launching a diversity campaign or coalition, make sure to have them involved.
And, if you’re a FinTech VC, take the time to research the opportunity and make a pledge to fund a Black or Latinx founder.
In case you were wondering, supporting the Black and Latinx community in these ways makes great business sense because the future will be even more diverse than it is now, with 2020 being the year when more than half of all Americans under seventeen years old are from a minority background and with Latinos making up 35% of Gen Z.
AI – the part diversity plays
Does technology have a part to play in making FinTech more diverse and representative of our societies? It certainly does. A great example is how we can use technology to design out bias in the many AI algorithms at the heart of so much data analysis and business decision-making. The way that financial decisions the algos make can be intrinsically unfair, and this bias is now seen as the biggest risk in data-driven technology. Bias can creep in at any point in the development process, but technology and regulation both play a part in mitigating it. But a number of tools can measure bias and the trustworthiness of algorithms. Some are open source, some commercial. Furthermore, there are considerable efforts across academia to enhance these tools and provide improved algorithmic transparency and ‘explainability’.
However, technology alone is not enough. As Ana Perales, AI Horizontal and Conception X Lead at Barclays Ventures, explains in the Rise FinTech Insights report, other factors are key to minimising bias. These include design and regulation. Designing ethics into algorithms requires, among other things, the very teams (of data scientists and developers) that create the code to be diverse. Additionally, developing a culture of frequent testing to collect data in an unbiased and systematic way should be part of any design.
Tracking changes to government regulation is key. Regulatory consultations and frameworks for AI highlight the close link between fairness and bias, on the one hand, and transparency and explainability on the other. For example, the European Commission, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Information Commissioner's Office have all issued guidance that includes principles of fairness, bias, explainability and accountability. Check out Rise FinTech Insights for examples of how bias can creep into AI and of startups that specialise in analysing and reducing bias.
The distribution of AI companies across the Rise ecosystem
Download all editions of Rise FinTech Insights here.
 Report: AI Barometer by the Centre of Data Ethics and Innovation