LEADING LADY IN FINTECH
What's your story? What drew you to FinTech?
When I was in university my plan was to earn my CPA, work at a local accounting firm, and follow a traditional career path and then I found Bench. As a child of small business owners, I had seen first-hand the impact of a lack of accessible and affordable accounting services for entrepreneurs. I remember my mom staying up late at the kitchen table, pouring over receipts for hours and I could see that Bench was solving a real problem. With a service like Bench, entrepreneurs would not need to worry about their bookkeeping at all. I wanted to be a part of that. I guess I could say that Bench drew me to FinTech.
Since then, my perspective of FinTech has broadened. Entrepreneurs and small business owners make up a significant part of the economy - 99% of employer businesses in the United States are classified as small businesses. That’s 27.9 million small businesses! Helping those businesses thrive will have an enormous impact on the economy. Beyond what is already available today from Bench and other FinTech companies, I imagine a future where people have the resources at their fingertips to launch a company, from banking services and lending to tax and compliance. How different might the world look if turning a business idea into reality was accessible to anyone? I work in FinTech because I want to play a role in democratizing entrepreneurship.
What do you think are some of the most exciting FinTech trends likely to influence the Financial Services industry?
Collaboration between legacy institutions and start-ups. At the risk of oversimplifying: legacy institutions have regulatory expertise and customers, start-ups have the culture to drive rapid development of new products that address customer needs, in particular customers in underserved markets. This kind of collaboration has already generated really compelling activity, such as MasterCard’s Start Path program, which partners with FinTech start-ups to help scale their business.
Can you tell us a little bit about your job function? What are some of the solutions that your company offers?
Bench exists to help entrepreneurs master their finances. Right now, that means providing bookkeeping services to small business owners like my parents at an accessible price. We take your business’ financial information and transform it into a format that’s easy to understand, and provide you with the information you need to file your taxes at the end of the year. I lead the Operations team, which is responsible for delivering this service to thousands of small businesses every day.
What career advice would you give to recent college graduates?
Know what your priorities are and commit to them! Early in your career, you make decisions that have trade-offs. For example, pursuing a role with a company that has a mission you’re passionate about, but that might not pay as much, or accepting a role at a company carries a high risk of failure. Take time to really know what you want to prioritize, and then commit. Step into the driver’s seat of your life and your career and take responsibility for it rather than being buffeted by circumstance. It’s a really powerful place to be.
If commitment sounds scary, the good news is that your priorities can change. Take time to check in and be honest with yourself - am I prioritizing the things that I really want? Are the actions that I am taking in line with those priorities? If and when you find that things have changed, be bold enough to take action.
What is essential to ensuring FinTech companies attain gender equality?
I think these are non-negotiable: Interview gender-diverse candidates, have a gender-diverse hiring panel for internal and external hires, and provide mentorship to underrepresented employees. If your candidate pipeline and hiring panels aren’t diverse, your workforce won’t be diverse. If underrepresented employees do not have access to opportunities for training, mentorship, and coaching, then your leadership will not be diverse. Changing this course takes action! If your candidate pipeline is not diverse, ask your team to recommend qualified women that they have worked with previously. If your hiring managers aren’t diverse, consider including junior members of the team in interviews. If you are a leader and you do not regularly mentor people outside of your direct reports, get at it!
Equality is not self-sustaining, but it is certainly easier to sustain than to build from a non-diverse team. At Bench, out of an Operations management team of 25 employees, we have a 52% male / 48% female split, and that parity has persisted year over year. This doesn’t happen by accident. Actions have to be taken every single day to achieve that outcome and to maintain it.
If you did not need to sleep, how would you spend the extra eight hours a day?
I like to think that I’d spend that time (finally) learning to code.
In Brittany Hamilton's own words, exclusively for LADIES iN FINTECH.
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