Leading women in UK fintech: Hannah Dawson – Futrliby
In part three of the series, Futrli founder and CEO Hannah Dawson reveals her history with fintech, and talks industry vulnerabilities and gender stereotypes.
Three key, interconnected gender diversity issues exist in the fintech sector; few women work in fintech, even fewer women are founders, and women are underrepresented fintech users as a consequence.
The result of which, is a self-perpetuating industry that reflects the gender needs of the powers behind it.
“Fintech tends to be seen as a bro culture and one that women don’t thrive in or, perhaps, feel welcome in,” said Women in Payments founder Kristy Duncan, “and we, as an industry, need to work on this.”
Third up in this power list of female pioneers pushing forward the world of fintech is entrepreneur Hannah Dawson.
Dawson is the founder and CEO of double award-winning forecasting app Futrli – Xero Practice App of the Year 2018 and Emerging App of the year 2015.
Dawson previously co-founded management software Opsimize, was a commercial director of The British Institute of Innkeeping and ran her own pub. She has three teenagers, goes boxing with Futrli COO Helen Cockle (now online) and is currently learning how to paddleboard.
What inspired the move to fintech?
Utter foolishness. The moment you tear open one of those official brown tax office letters and suddenly you are confronted with a bill you didn't expect. That's precisely how I felt when I discovered I owed an eye-watering sum to HMRC and only had a few weeks to find it.
I was in the first year of my first business, a pub in Devon, and this could have closed the doors. With a one-year-old daughter to support and my home above the pub, I felt sick to my core every day. I was so lucky, my family scraped together and I found a way to pay HMRC (my family has been paid back!). But the experience left me angry. I should have known that it was going to happen. Why was it so hard to make the right decisions to avoid cash flow problems like these, and the VAT was just the tip of the iceberg.
Running a business is risky. On top of that, it feels too hard to pull every piece of information you need to show how much cash your business has now and, most importantly, how much it will have in the future, and every decision you make depends on this.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to emulate what you have achieved in this field?
Understand the problem you are trying to solve deeply. Research the hell out of it. Then research some more. Build your plan, understand your competition, your total available market (TAM), and demographics. Set up your first accounting package – by setting up the chart of accounts, you'll be set when you do launch and it'll prompt the right questions for the next step.
What gender issues exist in the fintech industry?
A lot, and that is really difficult for women. Fintech is more than engineers and development, it's an exciting area to be in. But if you look at accounting, it’s predominantly male. Few females will finish their computer science degree. There are massive stereotypes, and men gain more than women as well. There's a huge disparity between computing generally.
The fintech industry has a lot to do to positively discriminate for the underrepresented. We need to make sure mums who are homeschooling can come back into an amazing part-time role rather than a difficult full-time job.
However, there are forward-thinking companies out there. Futrli VC Notion operates on a 50-50 gender pledge and Futrli’s senior team has more women than men. I hope the McKinsey report, which proves the direct correlation between diversity and profitability, will encourage more investment into diversity from top VCs.
What can we do about this?
It has to start with you and your organisation. Removing unconscious bias where it lurks and having open discourse across teams.
Women will typically apply for jobs they have 50% competency whereas men will just apply and wing it. We need to change our way of thinking.
We're still at the beginning of change, which is a slow process because we are fighting against innately male-dominated governments and organisations that have existed for centuries.
What would you tell an accountant who doesn’t believe fintech will affect them?
Get on the train quickly and embrace technology to make your life easier. You can scale your firm faster and expand your portfolio. Lockdown has shown us how to streamline operations and democratise decisions so the team has a say.
People who don’t embrace finance technology are going to get left behind. My teenagers are using TikTok and Snapchat – they are the next generation of entrepreneurs. If you can make use of the tools that the new generation is going to understand, then you can keep up. Time is moving, get ahead of the curve.
In the next episode of Leading women in UK fintech, Fluidly founder and CEO Caroline Plumb reveals some expert insight into the inner workings of the fintech industry and her views on its underlying diversity issues.