LEADING LADY IN FINTECH
What's your story? What drew you to FinTech?
My path to FinTech is an unusual one. I graduated with a Communication Studies degree and a minor in Environmental Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University, and started my career with a small public relations/marketing agency in Waterloo. After two intense years working on several startup accounts and developing my foundational digital marketing skills, I knew I wanted to make the switch from account manager and join a startup myself. I also knew I wanted to move to Toronto.
I looked around at a number of opportunities and zeroed in on Hockeystick. It was exciting to see how an industry I had always viewed as a process-driven, old boy’s club, was being revolutionized. I felt that my distinctly non-finance education and job experience could be an asset. It was a risk, but after two and a half years at Hockeystick I can say it was the perfect decision for myself and the company.
What makes FinTech an exciting area to build your career in?
FinTech companies, like all tech companies are, by their very nature, inherently innovative. If they don’t keep evolving to meet the needs of their customers, their competitors will get ahead. As a result tech companies are focused, move fast and offer their employees a deeper sense of purpose and responsibility. In the world of FinTech, that ability to innovate quickly has been a great advantage. Banks tend to move slowly and aren’t generally regarded as technology innovators, so in the finance markets there is a lot of opportunity for new ideas, and startups are in a strong position to exploit this opportunity with a range of innovative applications.
Working at any startup, FinTech or otherwise, is hard work and also involves a certain level of risk-taking from a career perspective. Because things move fast, job security is not guaranteed. However the opportunities are growing, and for me, taking that leap of faith has to lead to an incredibly fulfilling career.
What do you think are some of the most exciting FinTech trends likely to influence the Financial Services industry?
Unbundling is a term used in financial jargon to refer to separating the complete offer of a traditional bank into dozens of separate services. This is the strategy that FinTechs have capitalized on until now: offering niche financial services. Now we’re starting to see a shift back to re-bundling — capitalizing by offering more services. A good example of this is the N26 strategy, something we’re also exploring at Hockeystick.
Can you tell us a little bit about your job function? What are some of the solutions that your company offers?
My role is to drive all marketing activities for Hockeystick. I work closely with my amazing marketing team. We collaborate with every department at Hockeystick, as we build tools for companies, investors, and governments, to leverage data to drive greater performance and better returns in the private market. Combining open data with proprietary data sets, we’re the only platform where data is owned and controlled by its users. Our service offerings include the largest open database of Canadian startups and investors, deal flow and portfolio tracking tools as well as private data portals for member-driven organizations. We’ve also started producing data visualizations to highlight patterns, trends, and insights in our sector. Our most recent data visualizations are of Canada's FinTech investment activity and the Toronto-Waterloo corridor startup ecosystem. To say there’s a lot going on at the company would be an understatement!
What is essential to ensuring FinTech companies attain gender equality?
Gender equality in FinTech needs to be discussed in the context of gender equality in all workplaces. Anyone running a company today can determine how well they’re doing in terms of gender parity by looking at their organization and answering the following questions: How many women do you employ? What’s the male:female ratio? Are their salaries equivalent? How many of those women are in top-level/executive positions? How many women are on the company’s board?
Company leaders also need to look at their hiring process. The way job descriptions are written can have a surprising impact on the pool of candidates who apply. Getting early-stage investors to stress the importance of equality at the beginning of a startup’s life is also valuable, and even booking “unconscious bias” training sessions for a company’s leadership team, are great steps forward.
It’s also valuable to consider how we can encourage more women to make the leap. So many miss out on great opportunities because they mistakenly believe they are under-qualified. Meanwhile, men often go after promotions and projects they are not particularly qualified for. There’s an opportunity here for companies to help level the playing field by actively encouraging women to take more chances.
What are some of the ways in which you have personally helped further the gender equality cause?
In the context of Hockeystick I would say I’ve influenced the gender equality cause through leading by example. When I started in 2016 I was the only woman working at the company. That was an intimidating office to walk into but I figured if I didn’t do it, who would?
I’ve also been heavily involved in developing best practices for diversity, inclusion and belonging at the company. Fortunately, Hockeystick has a culture that believes it’s “cool to care” and take action when it comes to DIBs — we don’t just do it lip-service; we are actively developing processes and protocols to ensure it’s ingrained in our culture. That is one of the many reasons why I’m so happy to work here.
If you did not need to sleep, how would you spend the extra eight hours a day?
I lead a very active lifestyle and imagine that I would do more of the after-work activities I already enjoy — dancing, running, and skiing — and spending more time with my friends, family, and dog Bentley. Though I love my job, I think it is so important to have balance in your life and be able to disconnect and recharge. I would love to dedicate more time to causes I believe in like animals rights and the environment, and have time to reread some of my favourite books, like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I could also see myself going back to school, as I believe in always learning and improving.
In Laura Curk's own words, exclusively for LADIES iN FINTECH.
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