The tide is changing in Aussie fintech, as women dominate Finnies Awards 2021

Adatree finnies

Adatree co-founder and chief executive Jill Berry. Source: supplied.

Women fintech leaders cleaned up at FinTech Australia’s Finnies awards last night, marking a shift in the traditionally male-dominated sector.

The Finnie awards recognise the achievements of Australian fintech businesses and the people that lead them.

This year, Katherine McConnell, co-founder and chief executive of Brighte, and Simone Joyce, founder and chief of Paypa Plane, were joint winners of the top award, named outstanding fintech leaders of the year.

Adatree founder and chief executive Jill Berry was named emerging fintech leader of the year, while Athena Home Loans chief marketing officer Natalie Dinsdale was named female fintech leader of the year.

Brighte also won the award for best workplace diversity.

Elsewhere, Airwallex, headed up by co-founder Lucy Liu, was one of the first ever inductees into the fintech hall of fame, alongside BNPL giant Afterpay.

Other award-winning businesses included Verrency, FrankieOne, Stone & Chalk and Zip, but the dominance of leading women in the awards night shows change is underway in this traditional male-dominated sector.

According to the most recent FinTech Census, released by EY and FinTech Australia in October 2020, only about 29% of participants in the fintech workforce are women.

While acknowledging there is more work to be done, FinTech Australia chief executive Rebecca Schot-Guppy said the results show the industry is making headway in terms of gender diversity.

Congratulating the winners in a statement, she said their efforts “hopefully send a message to other women out there in finance and technology, that the fintech sector supports career excellence and achievement”.

Attitudes are changing towards women in fintech

Speaking to SmartCompany, Adatree’s Jill Berry says she believes attitudes are changing in the fintech space. She recalls a conversation she had when she first started her business two years ago.

Someone asked her when she was going to bring in a new chief executive to lead the business. She was advised to hire a male CEO, “so people take your company seriously”, she recalls.

“I kind of just proved them wrong, because I’m crushing it.”

Since then, she has seen not only more women founders emerging, but more women in top leadership roles within startups and on boards.

That’s great for diversity and inclusion, she says, but it’s also an acknowledgement that diverse teams lead to better outcomes.

Seeing those founders and leaders recognised for their successes means more role models for women at the early-stages of their startup journey.

Berry herself also has close friends who have walked the path before her, and valued having people she could to reach out to for support and to ask questions.

“It’s a hard thing to do — you have to be brave,” she says.

“But I think knowing people who have taken that journey makes it less daunting.”

All of this means there is also a growing community of women in fintech coming together. Berry’s first customer was a business run by a woman, she says, and she has collaborated with other women-led fintechs.

There’s a support network there now that perhaps wasn’t there a few years ago.

“Hopefully this shows the changing of the times,” Berry says.

The winners of the Finnie Awards 2021 are:

Best Workplace Diversity: Brighte

Emerging Fintech Leader of the Year: Jill Berry, co-founder and chief executive of Adatree

Female Fintech Leader of the Year: Natalie Dinsdale, chief marketing officer at Athena Home Loans

Outstanding Fintech Leader of the Year: Katherine McConnell, founder and chief executive of Brighte, and Simone Joyce, founder and chief executive of Paypa Plane

Excellence in Establishing Market Presence (Global): Verrency

Excellence in Industry Collaboration and Partnerships: Fillr

Excellence in Business Lending: Prospa

Excellence in Consumer Lending: Athena Home Loans

Excellence in Payments: Zip

Excellence in Blockchain/Distributed Ledger: Meeco

Excellence in Crypto Digital Currencies/Wallets/Exchanges: Swyftx

Excellence in Insurtech: Open Insurance

Excellence in Regtech: FrankieOne

Excellence in Wealth Management: Stockspot

Excellence in Open Data: Frollo

Excellence in Fintech Support Services: Stone & Chalk

Emerging Fintech Organisation of the Year: FrankieOne

Fintech Organisation of the Year: Athena Home Loans

Deal of the Year: Quadpay & Zip

Best Partnership of the Year: Valiant Finance and Australia Post

People’s Choice, Organisation of the Year: Up

People’s Choice, Emerging Fintech: WeMoney

Hall of Fame inductees: Afterpay and Airwallex

 

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