Momina Aijazuddin – Top 100 Women in Fintech 2019

This article features an interview with Momina Aijazuddin, Global Head Microfinance at IFC, one of our Top 100 Women in Fintech 2019.

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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 Momina Aijazuddin, Global Head Microfinance at IFC, one of our Top 100 Women in Fintech 2019.

1. Tell us more about what you do and how did you move into fintech:

My interest in leveraging fintech comes from its ability to drive financial inclusion, particularly in emerging markets. Fintech provides an unprecedented opportunity to include individuals into the formal financial sector. Digitalization and technological advances offer the ability to change the traditional financial  sector dramatically.

I work at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, which invests and provides advisory and create markets for private sector investments. I have worked in the financial inclusion/ microfinance industry for about two decades. Over the last few years, I have been leading the work IFC is doing in advancing universal financial access with various global partners to reach the unbanked and underserved through the World Bank Group initiative to reach 1 billion unbanked by 2020.

An estimated 1.7 billion adults worldwide (or 31% of adults) don’t have a basic transaction account.  Globally, two-thirds of adults without an account cite a lack of money as a key reason, which implies that financial services aren’t yet affordable or designed to fit low-income users. Other barriers to account-opening include distance from a financial service provider, lack of necessary documentation papers and lack of trust in financial service providers. Leveraging the power of fintechs, whether larger platforms or fostering partnerships between fintechs and traditional financial sector providers, can speed up progress toward financial access and inclusion.

2. What does being a woman being in Fintech mean to you?

Solving for women’s needs is critical to expand access and financial inclusion. In the latest FINDEX Data produced by the World Bank, there is a 9% gap between women and account ownership and this gap is even wider in certain markets such as Nigeria, Pakistan and Bangladesh among others. I hope that through leveraging fintechs, one can reach underserved segments of underserved particularly women and those who live in rural areas. Being a woman in fintech would be to make people more aware of the ability to offer an equality in financial services to people, regardless of their income levels or gender. This is personally important to me as I come from a country where gender gap is so significant that men are five times more likely to have access to a transaction account than women.

3. What challenges do you think women face in Fintech?

Underrepresentation is a key issue on the provision as well as the client end. As the field is male dominated, the culture can be intimidating for women to have a seat at the table or voice their opinions. This also reflects on various aspects of the industry – be it an eco-system player in terms of regulation, industry actors or the development of coding/ AI which reflects an unconscious bias.  As potential clients, women are also more likely to offer a higher onus on relationship banking than men and so the challenge for us remains how to combine the high touch of microfinance services with the low touch but high efficiency of fintech. Being able to flexibly integrate these solutions will allow us to reach this market on a massive scale.

4. What advice would you give to other women starting out and growing their careers in Fintech

The fintech space offers an immense opportunity for women to come into a sector that is relatively new, growing fast and has opportunity to expand access to millions of underserved individuals, particularly in emerging markets. There is huge opportunity to design innovative tech enabled products and business models to serve the unbanked. It would be wonderful to see young minds working together to resolve this development challenge. In this fast paced, changing environment, my advice would be to continue learning and engaging – and to use fintech applications to resolve, where possible, development challenges.

5. What are the 3 key words to describe Fintech for 2019

Innovation, Leveraging for financial inclusion, expansion of use cases particularly in emerging markets