5 minute read 6 Jun 2022

Our research revealed how increased gender equality will strengthen the UK FinTech industry and what it will take to bridge the talent gap. 

Businesswoman on laptop at window in morning sun

Why gender diversity and equality matter to UK FinTechs

Authors
Anita Kimber

EY EMEIA Business Transformation Leader

Open banking champion. Passionate about facilitating better customer experiences through innovation and creativity. Dedicated to building a better working world.

Sharon Chen

EY Global FinTech Adoption Index Lead Author

Disruptive thinker in FinTech and Wealthtech. Passionate advocate for women in financial services and technology. World traveller. Arts lover. Yogi.

Tom Bull

EY UK FinTech Leader

Technology-focused. Facilitator of innovation. Travel enthusiast.

5 minute read 6 Jun 2022

Our research revealed how increased gender equality will strengthen the UK FinTech industry and what it will take to bridge the talent gap.

In brief 

  • Improving gender equality in UK FinTech will help the industry thrive by better serving female founders and promoting access to a wider pool of talent.
  • New research uncovers some of the challenges women face, including less access to capital for female-founded businesses.
  • Better data, measurement and reporting of disparities is one step to improving gender equality.

The dynamic UK FinTech industry has grown rapidly in recent years, driven by the application and adoption of innovative new technologies to create smarter, more efficient, and more cost-effective financial services tools and services. The UK FinTech industry generated approximately £11bn in revenue in 2019 and now accounts for roughly 8% of the total financial services output in the UK. Since the pandemic sparked further demand for digitalisation, more growth seems inevitable.   

The Kalifa Review — an independent, Treasury-commissioned study of UK FinTech’s growth opportunities — made clear that the industry’s future success is threatened if FinTechs cannot engage the talent that they need to innovate and scale. Its recommendations focussed on training and upskilling domestic workers, and creating a new visa stream to bring in more global talent.

Gender diversity within FinTech

Building on these insights, EY and Innovate Finance joined forces to look at gender diversity within the industry. We surveyed 240 industry workers of all levels, held six virtual focus groups and conducted a roundtable of 15 senior executives. Our research participants came from FinTech start-ups and scale-ups, to banks, insurers, asset managers, investment firms, accelerators and other organisations. The intention was to hear directly from participants across the FinTech ecosystem, and determine what the industry can do to attract and retain women as a means to bridge the skills gap, and create more equitable — and attractive — work environments.

Diversity, inclusion and equality in FinTech

Our research provides a valuable baseline of where things stand today, and how the industry can strengthen its diversity, inclusion and gender equality going forward. Despite being commonly grouped together, diversity and inclusion should be viewed as independent concepts. Diversity is measured by workforce demographics, including the ages, races and ethnicities of workers. Inclusivity is defined by prevailing standards, cultures and behavioural norms. By understanding both diversity and inclusion, we gain insight into the root causes of gender inequality in FinTech.

Looking beyond gender diversity

To be clear, there are other important forms of diversity, including racial, ethnic, generational and neurodiversity, that the FinTech sector must embrace if it is to reach its full potential, even gender is not binary. For the purposes of this research, our respondents self-identified as women, men or neither. We spent time listening to women and men who work across the industry, at FinTech start-ups and scale-ups, banks, insurers, asset managers, and investment firms, as well as accelerators and other organisations. Our research also addressed all levels of the organisations — from founders and senior executives to mid-level managers to junior workers in the early days of their careers. 

Our research highlighted some of the key issues hampering gender diversity and equality. According to the inputs from our survey respondents, focus group and roundtable participants:

  • Men are significantly more positive about the industry’s diversity and inclusion performance to date — a perception which may make achieving gender equality more difficult.
  • Firms founded and led by females have less access to equity and debt funding than those founded and led by males. 
  • Female employees are less likely to negotiate salary and bonuses when joining a new organisation — a contributing factor to the gender pay gap — but they are prepared to negotiate their working arrangements (e.g., flexible scheduling). 
  • Female-founded and female-led FinTechs attract a higher proportion of female workers than male-founded ones — which show the importance of positive role models.
  • Senior executives across the industry understand the importance of gender diversity and inclusive cultures — both in terms of finding badly needed talent and enhancing the reputation of the industry. 

Our work also looked at the impact of COVID-19, finding that flexible working arrangements have led to more inclusive working cultures— which have been a boon to many women with caregiving responsibilities. But the pandemic also presented new challenges, as individuals seek to juggle home and work responsibilities.  

Four focus areas to address gender inequality

The implication of our research is that any solutions to address gender inequality must be inclusive and involve the entire industry. We found four areas to prioritise: 

  1. Better support for female founders as they grow their business: The FinTech industry should work more closely with the investor community to ensure female founders and leaders have the support they need to succeed.
  2. More inclusive working environments: FinTechs need to ensure that their working environments, as well as human resources (HR) policies, are designed to promote diversity and equality. 
  3. Reduced gender disparity, including targeted recruitment: Since increasing gender equality is a long-term — even generational — objective, the FinTech industry must think bigger and start sooner in attracting women.
  4. A data-driven business case for change: The business case for increased gender equality will only be as strong as its underlying data, which is why the industry must mobilise to collectively gather and share diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) data.

The future of UK FinTech and diversity

Today, the UK is a leading global FinTech centre, attracting capital and expertise. Talent is essential to maintaining that position in the future. Attracting and nurturing female talent will be a massive boost, complementing the Kalifa Review’s measures to ensure UK FinTech continues on its impressive growth trajectory and maintains its strong reputation.

Summary

As purpose and sustainability become imperatives for individuals and businesses alike, the UK FinTech industry needs to evolve to become a place where talent — in all its diverse forms — can flourish. The industry’s success to date provides a great head start. So do the passion, motivation and commitment of many of its senior leaders, who largely understand the importance of gender diversity and inclusion to the future of the industry.  

About this article

Authors
Anita Kimber

EY EMEIA Business Transformation Leader

Open banking champion. Passionate about facilitating better customer experiences through innovation and creativity. Dedicated to building a better working world.

Sharon Chen

EY Global FinTech Adoption Index Lead Author

Disruptive thinker in FinTech and Wealthtech. Passionate advocate for women in financial services and technology. World traveller. Arts lover. Yogi.

Tom Bull

EY UK FinTech Leader

Technology-focused. Facilitator of innovation. Travel enthusiast.