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Why the payments industry needs to champion workforce diversity



Featured | Finance | Tech

By Carolyn Homberger

It’s an undeniable fact that the financial services industry is currently undergoing massive changes. While a stable global payment ecosystem is more critical than ever, the advent of neobanks and open banking are challenging industry norms and ushering in a new era of disruption.

For decades, the incumbent financial institutions and payment solution providers dominated the market, with relatively little change to their business models. However, renewed focus on the consumer, alongside the rapid rate of change in technology, means these organisations are facing new pressures. The scale of fintech growth and the start of open banking in Australia, for example, reflect a fundamental shift in how data can be leveraged in the service of a more customer-centric approach.

Digitisation and the emergence of social media has fundamentally changed the industry too, with customer needs and the expectation of instant gratification taking centre stage more than ever.

In the face of such major changes, innovation is critical in ensuring an organisation’s success. Yet how can an established and highly regulated industry like payments look to continuously reinvent itself, and strive to encourage and bring fresh ideas to market?

The answer lies in a diverse workforce that reflects its customer base.

According to KPMG, customer experience has emerged at the heart of the payments evolution with customers expecting a more seamless and instant service than ever before. This is apparent through the emergence and adoption of retail applications and connected digital assistants, which have payment capabilities built at their core. Australian retailer The Iconic is a local leader in this area.

The push for a more integrated payments experience is also apparent across the social media sphere, with an ever-increasing demand for purchases to be incorporated into social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

In order for organisations to truly understand and provide services that are aligned with consumers, it needs to employ a workforce that mirrors its target audience. And given that roughly 80 percent of consumer payments are made by females, it then follows that fintechs and payments organisations should have a workforce that is aligned and reflective of the target audience’s values.

However, according to the National Centre for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), women still only make up 26 percent of all computing-related occupations. The fintech industry fares only slightly better, with a 2018 survey from Lend Academy revealing that 37 percent of employees in fintech are women. This in itself is cause for concern.

To effectively tap into the unrealised potential, organisations need to introduce an environment that welcomes inputs from all walks of life. The diversity challenge transcends numbers; it’s just not about promoting equal pay, but fostering an equal workplace that has historically been dominated by males. Suncorp, for example, has achieved gender balance in leadership roles and on its board. This showcases how workplace gender equality can be achieved when people are able to access the same rewards, resources and opportunities.

Such an inclusive approach naturally helps foster increased levels of collaboration – another key skill in today’s digital economy (and one of the ‘Four Cs’ of 21st Century learning along with critical thinking, creativity and communication). Organisations, especially those with a globally dispersed workforce, are working to implement collaboration tools to reap the benefits, but behind the tools organisations need leaders who embrace the spirit of collaboration. This is a quality often cited in women leaders and another reason why an inclusive workplace is a cornerstone of effective collaboration.

Simultaneously, organisations will need to look at the opposite end of the funnel when it comes to encouraging women into the industry. Education is critical when it comes to breaking down barriers for women entering fintech and payments – so we have a responsibility to teach and foster interest in STEM skills, which are amongst the building blocks of a successful career in the industry.

At the heart of every transaction is a payment, and with several million transactions taking place every second, it’s evident that the convergence of digital payments and customer experience has changed how consumers and businesses interact. And for organisations that don’t want to be left behind, it’s critical to foster a diverse workplace that will promote innovation.

To put it simply, diversity is good for business. And if companies truly want to address the imbalance within the industry, they need to adopt an inclusive approach with a longer-term strategy in mind.

Read up on other articles that discuss the benefits of a diverse workforce here:


Carolyn Homberger is Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer at ACI. Carolyndrives ACI’s risk management vision and strategy, including acquisition integration. She has led significant transformation projects and plays a critical role in setting business strategy and in expanding ACI’s market-leading Universal Payments portfolio.

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