This week, we talked to one of the leading ladies behind fintech in Wales.
Sarah Williams-Gardener, CEO of FinTech Wales, champions the Welsh fintech ecosystem on a global stage.
FinTech Wales is a not-for-profit organisation aimed at making Welsh fintech a pillar of the global economy. By working closely with its members, it says it develops and nurtures talent, whilst connecting and enabling the sector’s ecosystem.
How and where did you start your career in fintech?
Following 17 years working for IBM, I joined the founding team at Starling in 2015, where I spent the next four and a half years building a bank, which today serves over 2.5 million customers.
In 2020, I was appointed as CEO of FinTech Wales and I’m extremely lucky to work with the most inspiring people within our ecosystem.
Are there any women in fintech that have particularly inspired you?
I have been inspired by many amazing trailblazing women during my career from across a variety of businesses. There’s far too many to mention everyone, but we really are blessed to have such inspirational women leading the way in fintech.
What’s the most pressing issue for women in fintech today?
There are two significant issues for women in fintech that I discuss with colleagues and members regularly. Firstly, female fintech founders find it harder to raise investment. For reference, female founders raised just 2% of venture capital money in 2021. Secondly, fintechs find it hard to recruit female tech talent.
What challenges do you face in your role at FinTech Wales?
Every day, myself and the FinTech Wales team challenge ourselves to deliver value to our members and Wales’ FinTech ecosystem. As a not for profit member funded body, we have a small team but huge plans.
What advice would you give to women looking to get into fintech?
Fintech is a fast moving, innovative industry. The skills required are varied and the career opportunities are great.
Women often get deterred by joining fintech organisations if they feel they haven’t got the right tech or financial experience, however this shouldn’t be the case. I’m lucky as I have the privilege of working with women who have many years of experience in the sector, and others who are just joining the fintech world, and they all bring something extra special to the table.
People bring value to our ecosystem from all industries and backgrounds, and experience from a different sector could be just what is needed to develop the products that help customers with their financial lives. Having not been a career banker, I believe I contributed different thinking to team Starling, and now to our FinTech Wales members, which has been inspired from a cross sector of industries.
For anyone wishing to join the industry there are brilliant events, podcasts and meet-ups available to all.
Some podcasts I can highly recommend include Insurtech Insider with Sarah Kocianski & Nigel Walsh, One Vision with Theo Lau, The Banker podcast with Liz Lumley, VestPod with Emilie Bellet, and Fintech Insiders with 11:FS & David Brear.
You can read the previous fintech-themed interview with Shardai Cosgrove, CEO and Co-Founder of Fintellity, here.