Inspiring Women in Fintech: Interview with Zahra Shah

Zahra Shah, Co-Founder, Non-Executive Director and Investor at Seers, speaks about the need to support women in their career progression, the issue of financial illiteracy, and more.

The UK’s fintech sector has witnessed a notable rise in the number of women driving positive change within the senior leadership ranks of tech firms and creating a culture of openness, diversity and inclusion at every level within organisations.

In our final fintech interview of 2021 we talk to Zahra Shah, Co-Founder, Non-Executive Director and Investor at privacy and consent management platform Seers.

Zahra Shah, Co-Founder, Non-Executive Director and Investor at Seers

Seers is based in London and provides services for companies in 100+ countries. The firm says it increased its customer base by 1,040% in 2020 compared to 2019.

It has also developed and launched 10 AI-based digital solutions on its Software as a Service platform to resolve data privacy compliance problems for companies.

How and where did you start your career in fintech?

I started my career in fintech/regtech as a Management Consultant at Accenture within the Financial Services – Capital Markets practice area where I gained over a decade of experience. I helped global global investment banking clients (e.g., Credit Suisse, UBS, HSBC, RBS, Lloyds Banking Group) on high impact, strategic projects to achieve compliance with various regulatory requirements including KYC, AML, Basel 3, MiFID, Cross Border Sanctions, etc., through the application of innovative fintech and regtech solutions.

Are there any women in tech (or fintech) that have particularly inspired you?

I consider Heather Adams (Managing Director, Accenture) a major role model during my time at Accenture and learnt so much from her. She is a very dynamic lady and one of the few female leaders in technology who brings a fresh new perspective into this area with a particular focus on risk and trust for global financial institutions.

What’s the most pressing issue for women in fintech today?

Tech companies still lack diversity in leadership with only 11% of women holding executive positions in Silicon Valley, according to Harvard Law Review 2019. Also, only 2.3% of female-founded tech startups received VC investment in 2020, according to Harvard Business Review 2020. This needs to change, as we need to support women in their career progression and tech companies must provide a proper career structure to attract and retain women in the tech sector.

What advice would you give to women looking to get into fintech?

I would suggest that women interested in pursuing a career in fintech, regtech or the technology sector in general should aim to get some work experience in this sector first to gain a clear understanding of the pros and cons. They should also get a mentor who can guide them through their career journey within the tech sector.

How do you think fintech solutions can help advance women’s financial health?

A third of women are financially illiterate and one in four women were negatively affected by the pandemic globally, according to the Financial Times. Financial illiteracy and the low confidence women feel when it comes to understanding financial management matters such as savings, pensions, investments, etc., is the major cause of women struggling financially leading to poverty and other issues. FT FLIC is a charity launched by the Financial Times that provides a wealth of useful information for women to become financially literate.

Fintech solutions should focus on finding innovative solutions to this major problem of women’s financial illiteracy by making it easier for women to understand the different strategies for good financial management savings, pensions, investments, budgeting, etc., and the various tools, products and services available to aid them in their journey to become financially literate, which is the first step towards financial independence.

Check out the previous fintech interview with Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Chief Strategy Officer at Blend Network, here.

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