Leading women in UK fintech: Helen Lloyd – Xavier Analytics
In our second interview, Xavier Analytics cofounder Helen Lloyd shares some valuable insights into the tech-forwards, diversity-backwards world of fintech.
For a sector set on disrupting the intersection between finance and technology, fintech has a few blindspots of its own when it comes to female, black and minority representation.
It’s no secret that diversity is an issue for the fintech industry. Despite statistically higher levels of patents and return on investment, female-led fintechs (both CEO and founders) received only 10% of capital investment and 11% of deals in 2019.
Xavier Analytics co-founder Helen Lloyd is the second influential female founder in this powerlist to shed light on what it means to be a female entrepreneur on the fintech front line.
Previously front-end director at web development agency Hatch Apps, Lloyd has worked in app design and development for over five years and is most proud of winning Emerging App Partner of the Year at the Xero Awards.
She has a background in psychology with a masters degree in neuroscience, applying her love of data and understanding of human behaviour to product design and user experience at Xavier.
Why is fintech such a male-dominated industry?
Ah man, I really wish it wasn’t. There are a lot of male-dominated figures in the industry and, as a whole, I don’t think we do enough to encourage women into the industry. I am so used to being the only woman in the room. And there’s still this perception that fintech is really geeky and mathsy, and women are not as encouraged to take up this stuff. But it’s not all hard maths and stats. We need to make it more appealing to minorities coming up in the industry – and more of a democracy.
Fintech has to open up and be more accepting. It’s on a pedestal right now and we need to break that down and say fintech isn’t for hardcore data analysts and the like.
When I was younger, I had a problem with numbers. I had dyscalculia (number dyslexia) where I would put numbers in the wrong order – it was quite a knock to my confidence. Girls aren’t coached in school the same way boys are through subject selection, motivation and opportunities, so we need to change this and break down the perception of fintech as fuddy-duddy accountants in shirts.
What do you think can be done about this?
I think it’s the responsibility of fintech startups now to change the landscape. The larger fintech platforms require a huge amount of change, but it happens too slowly. They need to do more to change the system, but fintechs like Xavier Analytics move fast, so we can do a lot to pull women up and make sure they are fully represented.
As a woman in fintech, you have a responsibility whether you like it or not to promote female representation – but it’s a weird responsibility to take on because you are underrepresented. But how else are people going to know that you are there, too? You have to be visible.
What other issues are still prevalent in the fintech industry?
Fintech is also predominantly white and you need to make sure you are not raising individual groups but are fully representative of all groups. Ethnic diversity is not good in fintech and needs addressing.
In psychology, you are always told the business models always represent the team that came up with them – so if you don’t have a diverse team, then you are not building for a diverse audience. If you have different cultures and people with different backgrounds then you will have different insights and better usability.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to emulate what you have achieved in this field?
You just have to keep trying. I’ve had several failed projects and jobs, and you’ve just got to move forward and keep moving. It’s not a straight path.
It’s interesting being an entrepreneur because those things that were blockers, as a business owner, you now have the ability to change. I don’t have a computer science degree and haven’t studied web development, but I learned online with my team when I started Hatch Apps. I wouldn’t have been able to do that in a big company that only hires people with computer science degrees or who have completed web development bootcamps.
For accountants looking on the evolving fintech scene, what would you say to someone who is curious but doesn’t understand how it’s going to affect them?
The fintech scene is going to affect you whether you like it or not. For accountants resistant to app stacks and so on, small businesses will come to accept a level of service and information and, if you can’t provide that, you will get left behind. It’s about building that relationship between the accountant and the business to create a better economy.
With government initiatives like MTD, you’ll be required to be digital and to a specific standard. It’s no longer a choice, it’s about how and what you are doing with the data coming in and coming out. If you are going to provide the best service, then you are going to have to deal with the world of fintech. You don’t really have much of a choice in being part of that system. But how you adapt to that system is up to you really.
Many are worrying about the future of fintechs. What do you think will happen to fintechs as we recover from the pandemic?
I think the fintechs will have to take a long hard look at themselves and ask, “Am I essential?” There’s no room for luxuries in a crisis. You have to be making things better for people, or you are not going to survive. No-one uses fintech just for fun. It’s not a video game, people are going to have to make sure they are essential and are making a real, positive difference.
In the third part of Leading women in UK fintech, Futrli founder Hannah Dawson shares her experiences of what the world of fintech is like for a female founder and CEO, and what the future holds for the industry.