Charlotte Crosswell, CEO of Innovate Finance, on the future of fintech, making finance accessible, and being a woman in STEM

Charlotte Crosswell

Charlotte Crosswell has an impressive finance career behind her – and she’s just getting started.

Here, Charlotte speaks to BLM about her early years in the city, the latest developments in fintech, and how finance needs to adapt to become more accessible.

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I grew up in a village of 500 people so moving to work in the City was quite a culture shock! I started my career at Goldman Sachs on the equity trading floor, then left to move to London Stock Exchange. I had a fascinating career there culminating in joining the management team and running International Business Development, heavily involved in the tech sector at the end of the 90s. That led me to join Nasdaq for 10 years and launching two startups in equities and interest rate derivatives for them. I moved into Fintech 3 years ago.

You studied French at university – what drew you to finance?

Like most graduates, I wasn’t completely sure what I would do post-university but was always attracted by government, technology and finance. Interestingly, I joined Goldman Sachs as a temp covering French clients in the mid-90s so my French degree was responsible for my entry into the City!

What is your role with Innovate Finance? What does the organisation do?

I am CEO of Innovate Finance. Innovate Finance is the U.K. industry association for Fintech and we represent the sector for our members but also have a unique perspective from Financial services firms, innovation, Fintech companies, and big tech companies entering financial services.

What do you most hope to achieve with Innovate Finance?

I am passionate about supporting the sector and ensuring we continue to lead the way globally in innovation, regulation, government support and the extension of financial services to all.

What is your experience of working in such a male-dominated sector? Do you have any advice for aspiring female finance professionals?

It is a lot easier now than 25 years ago! However, we have so much more work to do in inspiring girls at school to look at finance and tech as potential career opportunities. Companies now fully recognise the need for diverse teams across their companies but it will take a long time to catch up and have proper equality. My advice would be to be determined, ambitious and never give up. I have had a great career and am often the only woman in the room, but I’ve never let that be a disadvantage.

How does the UK finance sector compare to other countries’?

Our forward-thinking approach to innovation is serving the U.K. well. We also have the advantage of geographical proximity and a very well connected ecosystem across London and the U.K. so we’re holding our own despite the political uncertainty!

You recently joined the board of the lobby group, UK Finance. What kinds of changes are you campaigning for?

I have joined the board to bring my expertise of innovation and the perspectives of Fintech advancement, and to have that discussion with financial services firms who are embedding that innovation in their own firms.

What do you think are some of the most important developments in finance currently?

It is essential that we look at wider financial inclusion and making finance more accessible to all. We haven’t focused enough on affordable credit in the past and how we can use our great advances in innovation to ensure that there are choice and competition in financial services in the future.

What are your plans for the next few years?

We have an incredible opportunity in the U.K. to continue to lead the way in innovation and financial services. However, we can’t risk complacency. It is a competitive world and the global fight for talent continues. It is essential that we are the collective voice to show the U.K. has the ability to innovate, regulate and grow our financial services sector, and remains the country of choice to start and grow innovative companies.

What are you passionate about outside of work?

We have recently launched a Fintech for schools initiative to help promote Fintech solutions for the financially excluded and to inspire more young people to look at careers in innovation and Fintech. This is something I am personally passionate about. This is also a great way to inspire girls to continue with STEM subjects and be the entrepreneurs of the future. I will continue to push for better diversity in financial services and technology.

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