LEADING LADY IN FINTECH
What's your story? What drew you to FinTech?
Making financial services more inclusive is what motivates me. There are two billion people in the world without any access to formal financial services. Imagine if financial services could actually help everyone live a better life and reach their goals. Imagine if income did not determine access. Over my career, I developed banking products for low-income people, from mobile savings accounts in Nigeria, Malawi, and Tanzania to loans for women-led businesses in Kenya. I also helped establish microfinance banks in Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe, including the first bank to open in Kosovo after the war. Through this work, over 1.2 million people have accessed bank accounts, many for the first time.
For me, the appeal of FinTech is that it is the most powerful vehicle for change in financial services. I jumped at the chance to join Mylo, the Canadian savings and investment app that helps people achieve their financial goals. I truly believe that technology is revolutionizing the way that financial services are delivered, and that innovative products like Mylo will pave the way.
What makes FinTech an exciting area to build your career in?
FinTech is growing quickly and innovating. There are many new opportunities to test and learn, to try new things, and to grow professionally. Regulations are also evolving, which will open up even more possibilities. What I like best about FinTech is its great potential to make a real impact by solving problems that are central to well-being and touch the lives of millions of people
What do you think are some of the most exciting FinTech trends likely to influence the Financial Services industry?
The next generation is looking for a new way to manage their financial lives. They want a mobile-first experience and they’re looking to create accounts without having to speak to anyone. They need an easier way to save, invest and find better financial products. More people than ever before have access to their own financial data, and through artificial intelligence we can deliver more timely and relevant recommendations. Millennials understand that tech can make this possible, and companies who know how to make these tasks really easy will win.
Can you tell us a little bit about your job function? What are some of the solutions that your company offers?
Mylo is on a mission to help millions of people achieve their financial goals by rounding up purchases and investing the change. Say you buy a coffee for $2.25? We’ll automatically round up that transaction to the nearest dollar and invest the difference in a diversified, fully-managed portfolio of ETFs according to your financial goal, time horizon, and risk tolerance. Once a user has connected their bank accounts to Mylo, we are able to identify when they are in market for financial products and make recommendations for the right financial products and services.
As Chief Operating Officer my job is to build the team, systems and processes to deliver on this vision, and at a fast-growing start-up like Mylo this means rolling up my sleeves. My day-to-day includes everything from sprint planning with the Engineering team, jumping on a call with a vendor,finding a fix for downtime notifications, or running team meetings. A special focus for me is to bring the voice of our users into strategic decisions for Mylo. I directly oversee our Customer Success team and I spend time talking to users personally each week.
What is essential to ensuring FinTech companies attain gender equality?
To build more diverse teams—including women, people of colour and LGBTQ people—it is essential to invest in smarter recruitment and hiring practices. The main challenges are building a more inclusive pool of candidates and reducing bias in hiring. To attract diverse candidates most FinTech companies need to extend their networks, understand what their target candidates are looking for, and adapt the way they tell their story.
To reduce bias in hiring, interview techniques are a powerful tool. Unlike the traditional focus on experience, behavioral questions (“Tell me about a time when X happened and how you handled it”) highlight competencies. Competencies are a better predictor of performance, so these techniques give better results while leveling the playing field for candidates from other industries, which is critical for diversity.
Most women working in FinTech today have a non-traditional background, and their experiences, skill sets and perspectives are incredibly valuable. FinTech needs more of them! Finally, getting to gender equality will take allies who are ready to listen and to support women, and commitment from leadership to make change.
What are some of the ways in which you have personally helped further the gender equality cause?
Women are 50% of our potential client base and drive 80% of consumer decisions for households, yet they are underrepresented in the financial services industry and their needs are not taken into account. In my previous role, I led product development at Women’s World Banking, a global non-profit focused on women’s financial inclusion. We advised banks and other providers about how to design financial services that work for women, to remove barriers and to speak their language. In my role at Mylo I am working on ways to increase diversity in our team and bringing my expertise to continue to develop our product so it meets women’s needs.
If you did not need to sleep, how would you spend the extra eight hours a day?
I would love all those extra hours for more family time to play board games with my kids, to catch up on reading, and to go back to a passion from my earlier life: dancing tango!
In Jennifer McDonald's own words, exclusively for LADIES iN FINTECH.
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