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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Fintechs embrace inclusion, education

The Sept. 13, 2021, reopening of FinovateFall in New York City drew thousands of exhibitors and attendees. The popular conference and a flurry of investment rounds and M&A activity reflect a vibrant fintech community, stated David Penn, research analyst with The Finovate Group.

"From the smiles on the faces of the hundreds who joined us yesterday at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square to the thunderous applause that greeted virtually every demoing company and keynote speaker, yesterday was a wonderful reminder of both how much we missed hosting live events and how much so many of you have enjoyed attending them," Penn wrote.

Penn observed that Finovate Fall 2021 offered on-site and live-streamed demos focused on emerging technologies, financial crime prevention and open banking.

Women in fintech

FinovateFall 2021 speaker Jennifer Lee, principal at growth equity firm Edison Partners, agreed, stating that financial wellness and literacy will continue to be a focus in her company's strategic acquisitions. "The recognition of how fundamental fintech is to every consumer and businesses—effectively, recognizing that yes, financial services and the technological innovations to financial services and money movements matter significantly and impact every aspect of our lives—has also come to the forefront," she said in a FinovateFall interview.

Nicole Newlin, board member at NYC Fintech Women and vice president, solutions at Ocrolus, moderated a Women in Fintech Power Panel at the event with female fintech leaders Jillian Williams, principal at Cowboy Ventures; Sarah Wolter, principal at FinTech Collective; Pauline Roteta, co-founder and chief executive officer for Pasito; and Amee Parbhoo, managing director at Accion Venture Lab.

As she introduced panelists, Newlin noted that she had come into the fintech startup world from brokerage and banking. "I was under the impression that I was going to come to fintech startup innovation, and everything was going to be wildly different [in terms of] diversity and inclusion, and I learned that it was very similar," she said.

Fintech investors

During the panel, Wolter mentioned that few women held senior management roles at Morgan Stanley, where she worked as an analyst, and even fewer women went into professional hockey. "I remember growing up and [saying] I wanted to be an NHL player, because that was the ultimate in hockey," she recalled, adding that she let go of that dream when she was nine years old. "But then a few years later, women's ice hockey was featured in the Olympics for the first time and all of a sudden it opened up this whole new world for me about what was possible," she said.

Williams stated that she has seen investors become more inclusive in approaches to strategic planning and high-level decisioning. "The tech ecosystem in the financial services ecosystem has pretty homogenous industries, and that is something that we, at Cowboy Ventures, are adamant about wanting to change, both as a fintech and more broadly in our investments into female-started funds," she said. "Across all of our funds, female founders make up about 35 percent of our portfolio of companies."

Parbhoo concurred, stating that inclusivity is a key focus at Accion Venture Lab. "We provide capital to innovative scalable fintech startups that improve the reach, quality and affordability of financial services to underserved individuals," she said.

Fintech startups

A number of tech startups at FinovateFall, including Long Game, Zogo and Perch Credit, focused on educating consumers about financial literacy and wellness, a cause that has also been embraced by payment card brands. American Express, for example, is working with Zogo, a fintech startup that educates Gen Z consumers about financial wellness in an engaging way, company representatives stated. Additional information about the conference is available at informaconnect.com/finovatefall/.

Mastercard partnered with Grow Credit, a black-owned financial inclusion platform designed to help consumers leverage subscription payments to boost credit scores on Equifax, Transunion and Experian. On Sept. 14, 2021, the company closed a $106.3 million financing seed round, comprised of $6.3 million in equity financing from various investors and $100 million in debt financing from Arena Investors LP, stated Joe Bayen, CEO at Grow Credit.

"We are excited to have gathered such a fantastic group of influential investors," Bayen said in a statement. "The funds will be deployed to accelerate our user acquisition effort, including embedding the Grow Credit user experience across banks, apps, and websites through our dedicated SDK. As a result, partners will be able to monetize their audience by offering a financial inclusion solution that builds credit while providing savings on a variety of subscriptions, including cell phone bills." end of article

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