Why Fintech, Why Now?
Sharing experiences about how people find themselves in fintech, the challenges they faced and the things they love about their job is pretty normal for me. I am the co-founder and podcast host of WIFTN (Women In Fintech Network), so I often have the privilege of interviewing inspirational women from the industry. To name a few, Anna Maj, Alex Gren and Shefali Roy. Sharing my story about how I ended up in fintech, what I love, and my challenges is not so typical though.
Fintech was never really an industry I imagined myself working in. I have always loved technology and I knew I wanted to use tech to inspire change and good in the world, but for me that wouldn’t be through finance. Prior to starting my career in fintech, I had a pretty negative perception of finance and fintech.
Fast forward to now, I am CMO at Swedish fintech, Näktergal and have been working in fintech for nearly three years. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like a very long time, and it certainly doesn’t feel it, yet what I have accomplished and learnt in that time spans well beyond a three year tenure.
Back in the day, I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield in the UK, where I studied Chinese and Management. I guess I was pretty ambitious even at a young age! Upon graduation, I moved to China to work for a couple of years and then moved to Sweden to undertake a masters degree in Sustainable Development, something not very common in the world of fintech. My interests across corporate social responsibility, impact reporting and the political economy continued to strengthen upon the completion of my postgraduate qualification, when working within a number of different start-ups, one of which was Worldfavor, who built a platform to enable collaboration around sustainability data. During this period, I helped to write an article about the roles that finance and more broadly, business could play in contributing to the global goals which sparked something in me, and I found myself reading more and more about these issues.
It was a little while after this, when I met one of my co-founders and dear friends, Raiha Buchanan, in a coding course that we were both undertaking in our spare time. Raiha was working at Bambora at that point. Through our conversations, I began to see that to be able to make an impact and help people in fintech, an industry that I had quickly discounted in the past, began to become increasingly interesting. This was where my passion for fintech was really born.
I started my fintech career at Instantor, another Swedish fintech, recently acquired by Tink. It was here I got the opportunity to combine my passion for sustainability with fintech by creating a blog where I explored the challenges of improving financial inclusion. This is also where I met our other incredibly talented co-founder, Helena Samaras.
Whilst I love fintech and the unique possibilities to drive change in order to make people’s lives better, it isn’t always the most comfortable environment to work in, having often found myself being the only woman in the room. It can be challenging making myself heard in meetings, and sometimes I feel being taken seriously as a young woman in the industry isn’t easy. This is why we started WIFTN. WIFTN aims to improve gender diversity within fintech, and the most powerful tool we have to contribute to this goal is our podcast. Hearing stories from so many successful and incredible women, ranging from women just starting their careers, to women that have been working in fintech for decades is truly inspirational. The power of community and other women sharing their stories, is incomprehensibly empowering.
The main lesson that I have learned and that I would love to share with you all is that there are countless different ways to get started in fintech, and even more ways to be successful. But background and experience are not the only factors to determine this. We have spoken to so many different women, varying in background, education, culture, experience, personality and age. But to me, the thing that united all of these wonderful women was their passion for the industry, for gender equality and for the future.
Written by Sarah Kok, Co-Founder of the Women in Fintech Network
Sarah Kok, CMO at Näktergal, and co-founder and podcast host at WIFTN, a young but knowledgeable female rising talent who has already been in the FinTech global scene for a few years now. Sarah has a particular experience in Lending coming from Instantor-Tink. She holds an MSc in Sustainable Development and is passionate about financial inclusion. Sarah has been instrumental in educating global audiences on the power of AI in lending and in increasing female representation in FinTech internationally.