This interview is part of a series of interviews featuring female Fintech leaders globally. LATTICE80, in partnership with Miss Kaya, recently published our Top 100 Women in Fintech 2019 list.The effort reflects our efforts in women empowerment and support in a field where women continue to be underrepresented. Check out the full list for 2018 here as well.
Miss Kaya is a lifestyle driven financial platform for the modern woman that aims to empower them to carve their own financial freedom through technologically-empowered financial tools. The mission is to provide the modern women globally with the support, resources, and community they need to live the lifestyle that they want.
Disclaimer: The interviews are published on a rolling basis and the order by which they are published by no means representative of any rankings.
This article features an interview with Fatema Ebrahim, Board Member of Women in Fintech Bahrain and CEO of Andra Public Relations & Corporate Communications, one of our Top 100 Women in Fintech 2019.
1. Tell us more about what you do and how did you move into Fintech?
I actually landed in Fintech through a small conversation, and a lot of curiosity. I had just moved back to Bahrain, and I was also missing some of the apps I used in NYC. That was in 2015, and look how the times have changed! We have the same tools in Bahrain, and so many regulations that took place since then.
I had a transition, and while most people tend to think you can only go in one direction – that’s not true. At the time, I was heading the Bahrain Branch of a global PR firm based in Cyprus and at the same time, a few colleagues from NYC and I were working on an application focused on Instagram payments. We gave birth to Valopay and I spent 4 years within the Fintech industry, and running my own startup let me see the A – Z of the process. However, down the line I shifted towards blending my interests and skills together. I wanted to do public relations, but now it was more focused on technology, Fintech, and entrepreneurship.
I started my own PR firm “Andra Public Relations & Corporate Communications”. I enjoy this process of getting to work with all these Fintech startups and companies, and help them communicate their message plus apply their tools to entities here in Bahrain. I also connect with several startups regionally to get them to know more about the Fintech space here. I was much stronger at that – I found the right fit to do more. Now I get to focus more on Fintech but just from a different standpoint.
Currently, I will be starting the Georgetown Professional Development Certificate Program in FinTech and will expand my knowledge professionally.
2. What does being a woman in Fintech mean to you?
It means that we are part of the innovation at play. We are not just watching it happen, but we are part of the process. I used to be on the sidelines before I got involved and my perception of the industry was blown away when I actually entered it. There were so many ways you could be creative, you could influence an outcome and that outcome would help masses of people, not just one.
It also means that the future is about adaptation, and we can all do that but the magic is that we do it differently. Women in Fintech inject a different kind of innovative thinking and working with men in the industry – the mix is stronger. This is an industry where everyone can play because innovation is a land open for everyone to learn, and be creative.
3. What challenges do you think women face in Fintech?
There are several challenges that exist, and there are solutions to them that are easier than we think.
In terms of personal barriers that may exist – I think the challenges for the younger women, is not that they don’t have the necessary skills but they don’t see their placement in this industry clearly. They need to see more examples that will allow them to venture into these opportunities naturally versus just “happening to land there” and that’s how Women in Fintech Initiative Bahrain, and others come into play
I believe from personal experience that younger women especially. tend to separate the two industries “Technology” and “Finance” because they believe they are stronger in one and not in the other. I’ve seen this misconception when Fintech and the tools were starting to be tangible. We as a financial hub have strong women that play big roles within financial institutions but sometimes the role gets lost when technology comes into play. This section needs more awareness into how the “blend” can happen when finance and technology come to play.
We want to create a domino effect and inject confidence in getting women in the industry to share experiences, be involved in the sector and in general create an image where we all innovate together to build our economies.
4.What advice would you give to other women starting out and growing their careers in Fintech?
Be curious, and put yourself in roles you don’t know much about because you could surprise yourself. Also, educate yourself and enjoy this process. Innovation doesn’t mean you have to be a guru in each tool or trend, just make sure you are innovating your mind with this space.
Best advice that I’ve got is that don’t imitate men or women in these settings, or space in general. You have stand by your own element, and look things from your perspective while working because your insight could be what is missing.
5. What are 3 keywords to describe Fintech for 2019?
From a cultural perspective, an innovation shift – We are shifting from the traditional, normal view of an industry to an industry where technology and innovation is constantly changing. There is more room for creativity, a push for boundaries and solutions aren’t limited. We are in a time where we are creating value regardless of gender, background, color etc.
However the main areas in Bahrain, and MENA that I feel will be key is RegTech since we are adopting new regulations at a faster pace. Cyber Security will have to be a keyword, and the keyword for each year actually. We have seen cases globally and regionally, and we need to learn from them. In addition, educate others on these tools, and the safety precautions. Decentralized services, most transactions can be now carried out using smartphones and this applies to mobile banking especially in Bahrain. We are heading towards convenience when banking.