Why women are the future of fintech

By Vanessa Ho, co-founder of Fintech Nation

The fintech revolution isn’t just about technology. It’s also about inclusion and empowerment. 


This is because fintech companies exist to give customers a better and fairer deal than is available from longer-standing legacy financial services firms. 


But for this to truly work, it must include all customers. A nation’s economic strength hinges on inclusivity because greater social inclusion means increasing the productive capacity of the entire population – not just a select few groups. 


So financial products and services that embrace the diverse needs of all citizens – including women – are needed if we are to unlock the full potential of any economy. 


And we’ve already seen evidence of this here in Singapore.


According to the World Bank, 96.3 percent of women and 99.7 percent of men in Singapore had a bank account in 2017 – higher than in both East Asia and Pacific and other high-income countries.


This might explain why Singapore remains such an economic powerhouse boasting one of the world’s strongest economies and a gross domestic product that is the highest in the region. 


It also makes this year’s UN Women‘s International Women’s Day theme, “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” exceptionally relevant to the constantly-fundraising fintech industry. 


So how can fintech continue driving the financial inclusivity charge?


A woman-led approach creates fairer outcomes


Women are more likely than men to start a business so they can make a positive impact on the world, according to the U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth


Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Research also shows women are more likely to create social ventures rather than only-economic ventures, and pursue environmental ventures than economic-focused ventures.


This is because “women tend to prioritise social responsibility, community involvement, and diversity in their businesses, which can lead to a more equitable and sustainable future for all”.


So it makes sense that women-led fintechs are more likely to offer solutions that are customised to address the specific challenges and requirements of otherwise disenfranchised groups. They also often focus on bringing individuals, households, and businesses into the financial system who were previously excluded from the traditional financial sector. 


This inclusive approach enhances the financial literacy, confidence, and overall wellbeing of women and other minorities, ultimately contributing to their economic empowerment and creating a virtuous cycle.


As more women are included in the fintech sector as entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders, the businesses they run also then go on to hire and promote more women and other diverse staff. 


This in turn allows the businesses to benefit from a broader range of ideas, solutions, and market insights, greater innovation and wider market reach, higher innovation, greater competitiveness, and expanded market opportunities, leading to sustained economic growth and prosperity for more people. 


Investing in women makes a whole lot of cents!


From boardrooms to startup incubators, I’ve had the privilege of working with women who are reshaping the financial landscape – not just for women, but for everyone. 


Below are some examples of these wonderful women.


Wellbeing relief in a world of stress


Employers globally are increasingly recognising the link between wellness and productivity. However, many lack the necessary tools and expertise to support their employees.

Enter CHOYS, a Singapore-based SaaS insurtech platform for corporate employees in Southeast Asia, established in 2022 by Sharon Li and Vanessa Chen. 

CHOYS enables organisations to support the physical, mental, social, and financial needs of their employees and make work life “more meaningful and humanised” through wellbeing tools and a data-driven platform. 

Growing up in a male-dominated society, Chen points out that being a female founder was actually incredibly helpful to building a product with social impact.

“Social impact is the most important feature CHOYS customers and users engage in,” said Chen. “It is a great way to improve their own holistic wellbeing. The workplace is also going to have the greatest impact as a stronger social pillar.

“But after years of observations, I definitely notice the flaws of a homogeneous leadership team. As a result, I know exactly what female entrepreneurs like myself bring to the table, such as sensitivity to team dynamics, diverse perspectives, and greater understanding of customers.”

Co-founder Li reiterates this notion, adding: “Kindness is being built as the core of our business. We also see the new generations of CEOs and leaders envisaging future success as not as a zero-sum game: they lift each other and embed this mindset as part of their ecosystem and technology. They care about the social impact of their business and sense of belonging of their people.”


Last year, via the Fintech Nation Fund, we were excited to be part of a $1.1 million seed funding round that will help CHOYS with its go-to-market strategy across Southeast Asia and bolster its product development initiatives. 


When asked her advice to other female founders looking to similarly expand, Chen advised: “Be more daring, know your own strength well and continue working on it day by day.


“Growth is painful and does not co-exist with comfort. But you can learn to enjoy the pain and try to have as much fun along the way as possible.”


Li also added “There is not such a thing called the right time in life. My advice would be to begin by thinking about the smallest action you can take each day – starting from today – to validate your idea with potential customers. 


“Trust the process and remember, as your knowledge and experience grows, share your insight and learning with others so we can grow together as a community.”


Community-based solutions in a gig economy


Looking to a different type of “workplace”, the rise of the gig economy across Asia has brought a whole new form of flexible work. This can be particularly beneficial for women who may have caregiving responsibilities or other commitments. 


So it follows that increasing the income of gig workers can directly contribute to financial empowerment, stability, and independence for women. 


Yet financial service providers frequently overlook gig workers, resulting in long-term economic challenges and restricted access to vital services according to Maria Antonia Hoyos, co-founder alongside Maria Andrea Prieto Sarabia of gig economy financial “super app” GoNsave. 


GoNSave utilises data analytics and AI to enhance gig drivers’ earnings by up to 35 percent weekly through a recommendation engine.


According to Hoyos, having women at the helm of fintechs like hers is critical for building financial inclusion: “Women often have different experiences with financial services, and having the ability to influence the design and delivery of such services allows for a more inclusive and comprehensive approach. 


“Diversity promotes innovation, and by incorporating a broad range of experiences and viewpoints, we can create more comprehensive and user-friendly solutions.”


This might explain why Hoyos is so bullish on the growing need for women leading fintechs in Asia and beyond.


“The future looks bright for women-led fintechs,” said Hoyos. “As the industry continues to evolve, we can expect to see more female leaders founding their fintech ventures. This transformation will bring diverse perspectives to the forefront of financial innovation, leading to more inclusive and empathetic solutions. 


“We can look forward to a surge in fintech products that are tailored to better understand user needs, particularly those of underserved communities. And the sector will shift towards greater collaboration, with a stronger focus on community-driven goals and sustainable development.”


What a bright future that would be indeed!


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