The UBS banker on the women’s network FinTech Ladies and diversity, equal opportunities and structural change in the financial sector
The FinTech Ladies is a network for women in the financial industry, which was launched in 2016 by Christine Kiefer, founder of Ride Capital. In an interview, Alexandra Weck, as an ambassador responsible for the group’s events in Frankfurt and Munich, explains the orientation of the FinTech Ladies and the challenges for women in the industry.
Ms Weck, the FinTech Ladies were founded in 2016. How many members does the network have now?
We are not a classic network with contributions or a platform where people log in regularly. Therefore, it is difficult to quantify the number precisely. But, our newsletter has over 2,000 subscribers, and these are participants in our events.
What are these events about?
We hold events in various cities, such as Munich and Frankfurt, for which I am responsible, but also Hamburg and Berlin. Now we are also in Austria, Sweden and Belgium. There are always ambassadors on-site who promote these events, and they do so voluntarily. The network grows purely organically, and none of us earns a living from it.
How are the meetings run?
The unique thing is that we keep our events very small, with about 20 to 30 ladies per evening. One company always sponsors the evening and usually provides a speaker. At Mastercard, for example, the evening covered diversity within the company. Afterwards, each participant introduces herself and tells us how she relates to the FinTech industry and what she is looking for or has to offer. These introductions give you a specific impression of who is participating and enable targeted discussions. This is much more useful than going to an event with hundreds of women and where it is pure coincidence with whom you speak. It is also true that women network differently from my point of view.
In what way?
Women begin to network much later than men. Men have beers after sports, for example. Socio-culturally that is established much earlier, and then more intensively and broadly. Often, women only start networking when they realise that they are missing something like that. And then it is often the case that women want to or have to be much more efficient and goal-oriented because of their family situation, for instance. A few times, I have experienced that women go to an event and expect immediate output. But this is not how it works. And if they have the impression that it didn’t help at all, they leave it altogether. But time is important in networking, as well as focus and thinking long-term.
Networking events are a core element of FinTech Ladies. How do you deal with this now?
Indeed, this has been a challenge. In March, we still had many requests from companies to hold events at their offices. Due to Corona, this has come to a standstill, not only because of the contact restrictions. As organisers, we all have our professions and were also much more involved in our own job situation. We didn’t organise anything during the summer holidays anyway. We are currently starting physical events in the cities where it’s possible again, and also purely digital events. Recently, for example, we held a FinTech Ladies event at Raisin in Berlin.
What is the focus contentwise?
The focus is, of course, on finance and tech. But the content also depends on which company is hosting the event. We had events at law firms in Munich and Frankfurt, which dealt with the tokenisation of assets from a legal perspective. Or in Munich, something about cultural change, with the question of what happens when a Chinese investor takes over a small private bank.
What differences do you see between women and men when it comes to a job or career?
When it comes to a job posting, for example, it is often the case that men simply have more confidence in themselves, even if they don’t meet all the requirements. Women, on the other hand, often say, “Oh, I don’t meet 100% of the requirements. I won’t even try.” Some women lack this fighting spirit, the desire to compete, and many are also too hesitant and afraid of failure.
How can this be changed?
Personally, I am an absolute advocate of sports. Through sporting competition you can practise going into confrontations, taking risks, even in situations where you can lose. It requires discipline, focus and courage, just like at work. Incidentally, for me, polo is an excellent fit with the topic of diversity. It is one of the few sports where men and women of all nationalities and ages play together on the same field and in the same team.
What unique challenges do women face in the financial sector?
Simply being asked these questions is always a challenge. Professionally, we can all do exactly the same thing. There are many women in the financial sector, but there are still too few women in exemplary positions.
Did the Covid era create specific problems for women, and if so, which ones?
What I have often observed from my environment is that the lack of childcare is undoubtedly a problem. If this issue is better resolved for families, the question of who stays at home for how long will no longer arise so often. It is often the person who earns less. And that is usually the woman. Politicians could also regulate this in such a way that this is not always or often the case. But the salary issue is an entirely different matter. The salary gap that often exists also reinforces the traditional distribution of roles.
How can the gap be closed?
One good initiative, and I know some women who have taken advantage of this, was that for some time now, it has been possible to request information from the company about the salaries of colleagues in similar positions. Basically, I am not a fan of equal pay for all, but rather a fan of performance-related pay. But it would be good if the controlling department in a company also made sure that there is not too large a gap on a gender basis alone.
Through your role at UBS, you have insight into both worlds: Are there differences between established financial service providers and FinTechs in their approach to diversity and equal opportunities?
Basically no, start-ups and large companies alike have recognised the importance of diversity and that in the long run, this leads to a better corporate culture, more satisfied customers and growth in profits.
How is it that the proportion of female managers in start-ups is only 20% globally and only 4% in Germany?
I researched this once, and it seems that the founders of FinTechs are often high-ranking managers of banks or management consultancies. And the higher the proportion of men in the management team there, the more this is reflected in the FinTech scene. In this respect, it is sad, but not surprising at the moment. There are always good examples of female managers in the financial sector: FinTech founders like Christine Kiefer from Ride Capital or Lena Justen, who has very successfully helped to build up Fino. Or in the classic financial sector, for example, Simona Stoytchkova, the German head of IG Europe.
According to a study from BCG, all-female start-ups have a 40% lower chance of obtaining growth capital in the second round. In the third round, women are even 90% less likely to gain access to growth capital. Have women in your network described similar experiences with funding?
I hear from my network that it is more difficult. One can only speculate the exact reason for this, but the fact that fewer women are involved in VC or investment firms probably plays a role.
Could a women’s quota help?
Quotas are a difficult issue. I have often asked myself how I would feel if I was hired based on a quota. Personally, I am not a fan of a women’s quota, because I also think the discussion, in general, is far too short. Diversity is also about nationalities and many other issues, not just about women or men. A women’s quota can certainly help to create a basis. Still, it is questionable whether this is the right way forward in the long term and whether everything else has already been tried sufficiently. Putting certain topics in school curriculum will undoubtedly help more in the long term than introducing a women’s quota now.
Do you see other regulatory approaches to changing structures?
It could be helpful if companies had to publish such topics in their financial statements, if this became a measurable key performance indicator, perhaps in a kind of traffic light system. I, for example, would not prefer to work in companies where I have the impression that they do not really care about these topics. It would also be conceivable that this could be used in the context of a key performance indicator to classify a company even in terms of its value, up to and including rating relevance. As a rule, these topics are only dealt with when money is at stake.
And beyond hard factors such as salary, where do you see inequality in treatment between women and men?
What I keep hearing from the FinTech Ladies network is that women have to prove their competence more than men by means of KPIs. And that the behaviour of women and men is assessed differently. In conflicts, a man is said to be assertive. And with a woman, who actually behaves in the same way, this is seen much more negatively with completely different concepts. And then there are also prejudices and role conceptions with which a woman is constantly confronted. A woman from my network once asked her boss for a pay raise, and his answer was “Why? Your husband works for a premium car manufacturer; it’s just your personal luxury to work here.”
It must be hard to resist something like that directly.
But you can practise it. Once you’ve jumped off the three-metre tower, you jump again. But the first time is always the hardest.
About the person
Alexandra Weck (32) has worked for more than two years in the Business Development, Financial Intermediaries division of UBS Europe SE in Frankfurt. Before that, she worked for FinTechcube, Baader Bank and Unicredit Bank. Parallel to her training as a banker, she studied Economics and Management Studies (B.A.) at the Duale Hochschule Baden-Wuerttemberg in Mannheim. In addition to her volunteer work since the end of 2017 as an Ambassador of the FinTech Ladies (www.FinTechladies.com), responsible for Frankfurt and Munich, Weck is a member of the International Token Standardization Association (ITSA) and served on the jury of the FinTech Germany Award since 2019 (see adjacent article). According to her statements, the passionate sportswoman builds websites in her spare time.
Source: Börsen-Zeitung, 15. September 2020, Franz Công Bùi, © Alle Rechte vorbehalten.
Image: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash