Supporting Female Founders in FinTech

By Sterling Ingui

I recently had the honor of joining the Female Founders in FinTech’s (FFiT) panel on corporate innovation, held at the Rise office in New York. FFiT is a startup competition for female-founded startups, currently in its second year. This year brings a dedicated fintech program, which I am thrilled to be participating in as a mentor and panelist. At the panel, we discussed the challenges of corporate innovation, provided tips for startups who want to engage with corporations, and announced the five finalists, out of 76 entrants.

I was joined on the panel by fintech leaders including Tim Baker of Refinitiv Labs (formerly Thomson Reuters Labs), Soumya Dev Chkrabarty of Discover, Lisa Roberts of Nasdaq and fintech expert Scarlett Sieber-Wrighton. The panel was moderated by Quesnay co-founder Jennifer Byrne. The topic on the table was corporate innovation and specifically, how intentional diversification of people and teams influences the work we do.

I was proud to share examples of how Fidelity embraces a diversity of viewpoints, people, and backgrounds, as evidenced by our robust employee resources groups, and our talent initiatives. We have one program in which we upskill non-technical talent into technology roles, and an internship that enables employees with disabilities to have new work experiences.

Unsurprisingly, innovation takes a variety of forms in our organizations, and there are many secrets to success for corporate innovation. At Fidelity, one of our secrets to success is having strong relationships with our partners across business functions, including Legal, Risk, Procurement and Compliance. As my compliance colleague has said, he feels his job is to be the best set of brakes available so that I can go as fast as I want. My legal and risk partners work hard to provide guidance and oversight to protect our customers and business, while enabling us to get our work done. And our procurement partners have been working with us to find better processes to help us explore new opportunities faster.

From the audience, there was interest in best practices for startups who are looking to work with corporations. Tim Baker kicked us off with a great one, “Just use the large organization’s NDA.” It is the first step needed to build a relationship with a larger corporation. Second, have patience. As I mentioned above, our partners across our organization help us in invaluable ways, but it can take time to work through a large organization’s processes. Finally, Scarlett gave the advice of not “overfishing” (reaching out too multiple people in the same organization) and coming prepared to share how the startup can add value for the bigger organization.

As I shared, I encourage startups to work with corporations because there is a shared value for both. We see it more and more in fintech, the opportunities for corporations to work with startups are expanding. In fintech, both corporations and startups are looking to provide a fuller suite of offerings that support an individual’s financial life in a seamless and automated way. If we can help each other to do so faster and more efficiently, there is an opportunity for both parties.

The Female Founders in FinTech event was a great way to bring larger organizations and startups together. Next up, the five finalists will be pitching to judges for the top prizes in early March in New York. I’m looking forward to mentoring one of the finalists, as it represents one more way that large companies can support the startup community.