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Martha Unscripted: A talk with Nicola Breyer

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MARTHA UNSCRIPTED: A chat with Nicola Breyer

Martha Boeckenfeld met Nicola Breyer at our first festival edition. They discussed Nicola's path in the fintech sector and her interest in Switzerland, which prompted us to further explore the current state of women in fintech and the Swiss fintech ecosystem. Scroll down to watch their full conversation.

Women in Fintech: Overcoming the Triple Glass Ceiling

The landscape of female leadership in the fintech sector has been evolving, yet significant challenges persist. The 2023 European All In: Female Founders in the VC Ecosystem report highlights that startups founded solely by women have increased their share of venture capital deals in Europe from 2.7% in 2008 to 5% in 2024. Despite this growth, the representation of women in fintech leadership remains low, indicating the need for continued efforts to address gender inequalities in the industry.

A cube showing VC investment in women-led startups in 2024 as compared to 2018.

Women in fintech face a 'triple glass ceiling' at the intersection of financial, technological, and entrepreneurial gender inequalities. Research indicates that women represent just 7.69% of (co-)founders, 18.2% of executive committee members, and lead only 4.04% of fintech companies. Gendered stereotypes and the favoring of masculine behaviors create major obstacles to women's participation and advancement in the field. Discriminatory practices are both overt and implicit, posing everyday and exceptional challenges. Addressing these barriers is essential for the industry to progress and become more inclusive.

The Positive Impact of Women in Leadership

The share of women leaders in fintech has steadily improved over time. Research from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shows a positive correlation between women in leadership roles and revenue growth in fintech firms. Additionally, fintech companies are well-positioned to serve demographics that have traditionally struggled to access financial services, including women, low-income households, and small businesses. This highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion in driving business success.

The Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion

Investing in diversity and inclusion can significantly enhance the performance of fintech firms. According to Gartner's 2023 data, businesses that excel in diversity, equity, and inclusion can achieve up to 30% better performance. Despite this potential, the EY European Financial Services Boardroom Monitor reveals a disparity in gender representation: women hold 39% of board director positions in financial services but only 11% in fintechs. With Martha being from Switzerland and Nicola showing interest in the market, we are now taking a closer look at the Swiss fintech landscape.

The Swiss Fintech Landscape

Switzerland boasts a robust fintech sector, with over 400 companies primarily focusing on payment services, investment management, banking infrastructure, deposits and lending, distributed ledger technology, and analytics. Zurich alone hosts 46% of these companies. In 2023, Swiss fintech startups raised 54 funding rounds, growing at an annual rate of 7%. Wealthtech remains the predominant type of fintech, with a notable increase in companies focusing on sustainability, which now constitute about 10% of all Swiss fintech firms.

A woman with a unicorn head and a statistic on the gender imbalance in swiss fintech

Gender Imbalance in Swiss FinTech

Despite the growth, the Swiss fintech sector still shows a significant gender imbalance. According to data from the IFZ Fintech Study 2024, only 12% of management team members and 8% of board directors in Swiss and Liechtenstein fintech companies are women. This is in stark contrast to traditional Swiss retail banks, where 29% of board members were women as of mid-2023. However, the fintech sector is slightly more diverse in management teams compared to traditional banks, with 12% versus 11% women, respectively. This highlights the need for ongoing efforts to close the gender gap in fintech leadership.