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Inclusion: Sharon Doherty on high speed transformation in Fintech

Fintech is not best known for inclusivity, but one organisation in the industry – Finastra – is spearheading the movement towards more open, collaborative and fair practices. We spoke to the company's Chief People Officer Sharon Doherty about its high speed transformation ahead of her session at UNLEASH.

2nd Mar 2020
Editor HRZone
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UNLEASH Spring Conference 2020
UNLEASH

What led you to become Chief People Officer of Finastra?

When it became time to move on from my tenure at Vodafone last year, I wanted to join a company where I felt I could make my mark. Not many opportunities come up to lead the people function of a European headquartered software company and I loved the vision of both Finastra and its senior team – especially our CEO, Simon Paris, who exemplifies our open culture.

The notion of ‘open’ is delivered through the platform we are building to accelerate collaboration and innovation in financial services, creating better experiences for people, businesses and communities. We also have the ambition to be the most loved and diverse employer in fintech – these were shining lights for me. 

Our formula is: dream big, light fires and create a movement.

You’ll be speaking at UNLEASH about transformation at high speed. How is Finastra leading the way in this domain?

Business transformation has been a core focus for much of my career for the last 20 years. I’ve only been at Finastra, one of the world’s largest fintechs, for around a year, but we’ve already made some great steps in our transformation, including: 

  • Our vision: ‘to unlock the power of finance for everyone’. Our platform – Fusion.Fabric.cloud – underpins this and we have a clear roadmap and metrics that are aligned to everyone’s incentives at the company. Given that we’ve added 40% of our team onto a new bonus scheme in a harmonisation exercise since we combined two companies (Misys and D+H) into one Finastra, there is a real focus on these goals. 

  • Our CEO: Simon Paris really drives a commitment culture, with low politics. He is prepared to make tough choices about where investments are made to fuel growth – but all with a focus on team health and building an inclusive workplace.

  • Our journey: Whilst we have a clear mission, roadmap and journey, we also have a desire to act now. This is a tone set by the investors, and driven by the leadership team, to inspire a culture that creates a dynamic and exciting place to work. 

You’ve done a lot of work in the inclusion space. How important do you feel an inclusive culture is to successful transformation?

An inclusive culture is vital! Our ambition to be the most diverse and loved employer in fintech drives what we do. And we do it because, as well as being the right thing to do, we know that software is all about talent. 

As a company, we thrive on innovation. A diverse, inclusive workforce supercharges our approach and brings vitality into the workplace. 

This journey takes hard work. There’s no silver bullet. 

Progress on diversity and inclusion in the tech industry is glacially slow. Why do you think this is?

Women make up just 29% of the employee base in fintech (39% in Finastra). To date, the pace has been slow in the industry, but we hope this is starting to change. The challenge is, at heart, a societal one, which calls out for us to ensure that young girls have the role models they need and the ambition to go for it.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects might not have traditionally attracted girls in the past and this could account for some of the issues now. But how we got here is not as pressing as how we can drive change now. 

Our formula is: dream big, light fires and create a movement. To expand on this:

  • Dream big – our rallying cry: ‘To be the most loved and diverse employer in fintech’ 

  • Light fires – we do real stuff: Training programs, mentoring support, changing policies (such as introducing same sex insurance benefits in India). We have changed our approach to hiring in the last year – 50% of our graduate engineers are now women. In addition, we have seen a 3% improvement in the number of women in our Top 200 to 28% this year.

  • Create a movement: We have networks now for most minority groups – increasingly looking at the additional issues of intersectionality and visible leadership.

This journey takes hard work. There’s no silver bullet. 

What lessons could other businesses learn from Finastra’s collaborative approach to innovation?

We firmly believe that you have to collaborate to innovate. Whilst a diverse and inclusive culture will help to drive innovation internally, we know that not all new and exciting ideas come from within. We encourage the industry, fintechs, our partners, banks and developers to work together to spark innovation – and many of our services take in external innovations. 

We have just finished our ‘Hack to the Future’ hackathon – which saw 1,000+ participants across 38 countries submit over 200 projects. We partnered with Microsoft, Accenture, ING, Cognizant and many other companies to mobilise employees and fintech communities to innovate. As a company, we are not trying to monopolise good ideas via our platform, we want to facilitate others to build businesses.  

We also run 90-day Sprints. This enables our innovation team to spark new ideas in an agile and fast-moving environment. We take this approach in our people team too, with all managers checking in with their teams on a more formal, one-to-one basis every 90 days. 

For HR practitioners who feel overwhelmed or underskilled to spearhead digital transformation, what guidance would you give?

This work takes time. There are some quick wins to be had for sure, but you must be prepared to learn. Be:

  • Inquisitive and curious – you don’t necessarily need to be tech savvy 

  • Ready to hire tech-savvy people into your teams 

  • Open to new ideas: 

    • Make time to meet other companies to hear their experiences, especially from other sectors 

    • Read books and articles! 

  • Social – Harness these channels to reach your employees and to attract new talent 

  • Agile – find new ways of working, such as design thinking, agile or using analytics for greater insight 

  • An ambassador – above all, you must bring your team with you. Don’t be afraid to lead by example and get your hands dirty to make transformation happen.

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