Women of FinTech: Laura Spiekerman
Diversity in the workforce is a key component of our work at Sila, and in this blog series we’re placing the spotlight on the fearless and inspirational women who make FinTech thrive.
What’s the name of the company you currently work for, and your title there?
Alloy, Co-founder and CRO
Background | What pushed you towards FinTech?
I grew up in California, and went to college in New York at Barnard College, where I studied political science and human rights. I always thought I’d be a lawyer so I worked at a white collar criminal defense law firm after I graduated. This was in 2008, in the throes of the financial crisis, and I started learning about financial services. I combined that with my thesis topic, microfinance, and ended up deciding to move to Kenya to be the first employee at a FinTech company called Kopo Kopo. It was there that I became convinced digital financial services infrastructure was critical to the next generation of mass market financial services and products.
What was your first FinTech job like, and where was it at?
See above re: Kopo Kopo. It’s based out of Nairobi, and grew into payments and lending for small businesses in East Africa.
Describe any complications you encountered as you entered a workforce that is predominantly male.
I probably am as privileged as they come when it comes to female founders in FinTech because I’m white, cisgendered and have white male cofounders. And even I encounter sexism on a regular basis, from conference panels to fundraising. Black women have only gotten .0006 percent of all VC funding in the last decade. Sadly, women are doing most of the work to make the industry fairer. Men need to step it up!
How have you seen the FinTech space change while you’ve been a part of it? Has it changed the way you do your job?
The industry has gotten a lot more collaborative. When I got started in FinTech in 2011, banks and FinTech companies were pitted against each other. Today, they’re increasingly working together even as FinTech companies try to become the dominant consumer-facing brands. As an infrastructure play, Alloy is nicely positioned to facilitate that collaboration and we love seeing our clients launch fantastic new products and services.
What excites you the most about the current state of FinTech? Any predictions for the future?
I’m most excited about seemingly niche financial services that try to tailor their offerings to their demographics or use case – for example, new kinds of POS financing or methods of handling group savings/transactions. I’m seeing a new wave of these and think they represent the future, where one size doesn’t fit all.
Finally, what advice do you have for younger women who are considering a career in FinTech?
Don’t be afraid to take risks – you don’t necessarily need experience in investment banking or an MBA (as I always thought I did!) to get involved in building the future of digital financial services. Say yes to lots of things, be open-minded, and work hard to develop a network. It doesn’t come as easily to you as it does to men, but it’s critical that we build our own networks.
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Sila provides Banking and Payments Infrastructure-as-a-Service for teams building the next generation of financial products and services. Our banking API replaces the need for integrating with legacy financial institutions saving you months of development time and thousands in legal and regulatory expenses.
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