Justin Ferrabee is joined by a panel of female leaders bringing change to payments. Elena Litani, Director of Banking and Capital Markets Solutions, nanopay; President and Founder of The Fletcher Group, Jennifer Tramontana; and Shemina Jiwani, SVP Business Development, AscendantFX discuss their role in the modernization of the payments industry. Being modern is about more than technology and infrastructure - it means supporting and embracing a diverse workforce, where female leaders are the norm. Hear from these leaders and listen in on an important discussions about how the payments industry is being shaped by women, the challenges and obstacles women continue to face in the industry, and the possible solutions in achieving balance in the workforce. Listen to The PayPod: Episode 4.
- Elena Litani, Director of Banking and Capital Markets Solutions at nanopay
- Jennifer Tramontana, President and Founder of The Fletcher Group
- Shemina Jiwani, SVP Business Development, AscendantFX
Justin Ferrabee: At Payments Canada, we are modernizing the future of payments in this country. In doing so, we spend time discussing the opportunities and challenges, as being modern is more than just about technology and infrastructure. Being modern also means supporting and advancing a diverse workforce, which we are constantly striving to do.
We are seeing a dramatic increase of female leaders in organizations around the world. From law, academia to medicine, however there is still much work to be done, especially in finance and technology which simply has not kept pace with other professions and continues to struggle with attracting and supporting a diverse workforce.
Today, on International Women's Day, we're bringing together three accomplished women who are disruptors in the payments industry to hear about the role women are playing in the evolution of payments, how the payments industry is being shaped by visionary women, and what the future holds. They will also walk us through some of the challenges and obstacles they faced and that women continue to face in the financial industry, and to talk about solutions.
Hello, my name is Justin Ferrabee and I'm the Chief Operating Officer at Payments Canada and your guide on the PayPod podcast, which examines all aspects of Canada's ambitious payments modernization mission. We're joined today by Elena Litani, Director of Banking and Capital Market Solutions at nanopay. Jennifer Tramontana, President and Founder at the Fletcher Group, and Shemina Jiwani, Senior Vice President of Business Development at AscendantFX.
Thanks for joining me today on the PayPod. Starting off, tell me a bit about yourself and how you are contributing to the disruptive change happening in the industry. Jennifer, let's start with you.
Jennifer Tramontana: Thanks. I'm happy to be here. I have been working in the prepaid market since 2005. It's about a four billion dollar market in Canada, but this really just the tip of the iceberg. We're experiencing a second wave, I would say, with respect to prepaid and how it's going to be important to the payments system.
You may be familiar with prepaid cards that had the preloaded funds. You could go out and use them, make sure you didn't get into debt, use gift cards, things of that nature. They still exist, and that's important, but prepaid is becoming more of a technological capability now. There's a lot of value to the end user. As we know, financial inclusion and universal acceptance by the card networks, but the next wave is going to come from its foundation for innovation. That's because FinTechs are really choosing prepaid. It provides a nimble way to design products that are both inexpensive and efficient.
It's infrastructure light, so it's low cost and flexible and also it adheres to the current regulatory environment and the current rails, which are important. I know we're going to talk about the rails today, but it does work on the current ones, so that's why you're seeing companies ... You've probably seen STACK, KOHO, Paytm, and others that are building off this.
This next wave of neobanks or whatever we want to call them love ... Everything's being built off of prepaid, so we're going to see tons more of that, particularly as open banking comes in.
Justin Ferrabee: Wow. That's a lot in behind prepaid. It's not your grandmother's prepaid card anymore.
Jennifer Tramontana: It's not at all.
Justin Ferrabee: No.
Jennifer Tramontana: It really isn't. It is tech capability. That's what it is and it's behind all the cool stuff that you see out there.
Justin Ferrabee: I had no idea. Fantastic.
Jennifer Tramontana: Now you know.
Justin Ferrabee: Elena, how about you?
Elena Litani: Hi. I'm Elena. I came to Canada as an immigrant. I grew up in [inaudible 00:03:10]. I started with IBM and spent most of my time in technology, however, about five years ago I moved into payments and that area really, really excites me because as mentioned before, there is a lot of opportunities in payments, specifically nanopay. We are actually pushing the envelope. We are trying to envision and design the new generation of payment rails.
We are envisioning a future where payments are digital, seamless, and transparent to everyone and especially important in real time. Nanorail is our technology. It's a new generation led technology which delivers high level of visibility, performance, resilience. We also, through this technology, we enable technization of money, emissions of digital central bank issued digital currency. Our technology offer the latest cryptographic security, secure API and also ISO 20022 standards.
Today in this technology, we have two products: Connect, which is for business, to enable businesses to make payments as well as Liquid, which enables next generation cash and liquidity solutions for treasurers.
But, interesting what excites me the most is our work with central banks, payment operators, and the banks around the world on new, innovative payment solutions. I think that's where the future is; real time, digital and that's what really excites me.
Justin Ferrabee: Wow, well that's some ambitious things and a lot in there.
Elena Litani: Yep.
Justin Ferrabee: Good for you. It sounds very exciting and very dynamic. Shemina, how about you?
Shemina Jiwani: Well, I'm probably going to echo a lot of what Elena says because I'm also in the international payments space, and a lot of what she said rings true for us with the transparency of payments, with the ability to receive payments within seconds as opposed to the days that people are expecting, but just backing up a little bit. I've been in this space for, oh my gosh, a long time, since 2000. I did take a five year hiatus to work on a completely separate industry, which was very fun but very taxing. I developed a real estate complex in Canmore, just outside of Banff, which was again, totally different, but gave me some really great perspective on approaching any business.
I am a mother of two kids, one and a half and four, which is another full-time job as you guys can all probably attest to. I've been working with AscendantFX for five years, so we are a FinTech company. I've worked in international payments, but where Ascendant is really different is on the technology capabilities, so what we're really doing is enabling technology to ensure that payments are executed way more effectively and efficiently than they have in the past.
Everybody that's listening to this podcast is hearing the words blockchain and distributed ledger and open banking, and our job right now is to take all of these concepts and apply them to international payments so that customers are seeing that level of transparency and that level of delivery in a way that is meaningful to them. Because right now, international payments are a disproportionate time taker in relation to all the other aspects of what they're doing, and it just doesn't make sense and it doesn't have to be that way. That's basically what our premise is.
Justin Ferrabee: Fantastic. Why payments? Was there a calling that said payments? Did you stumble across it? Did somebody push you into it? Did it ... Why payments?
Shemina Jiwani: I'll say that it was completely by fluke. I started my career going, "I don't know where I want to be." I started at Thomas Cook Financial Services and it was a very modern organization, and they were pushing the envelope at the time because internet was just coming out, and they'd come out with an online platform, but it was dial-up internet just to date myself a little bit.
Payments for me has always been exciting because it's always changing and there's always opportunity whether it's a new market or a new product, a new way of getting a payment there. It's been just revolutionized in the time that I've been here and it's continuing to reinvent itself, so I think it just keeps me interested to be quite honest.
Elena Litani: Well, I guess for me, it was actually blockchain. I started to get interested in blockchain about five or six years ago. With Bitcoin, it's I think it's started to make people think how does it revolutionize this, the payments, and the industry as a whole? So I've been then back at IBM. I've worked with some of the initial customers to see how can we apply to the financial services? Is it actually applicable, and if it is, what it means, right?
And then I moved to TD Bank and continued doing that from the TD Bank to seeing how we can apply to [inaudible 00:07:56] cancellation, can we use central bank currency, so project Jasper, and with that I got to understand the pain points in payments and what actually makes it hard. It turns out it's not just a technology problem. It is-
Justin Ferrabee: It's big, it's complex, it involves other people-
Elena Litani: It is. It's a lot of operational issues that you need to resolve to ensure that payments are successful because you are talking about a large amount of money moving through a country. So that's how I got involved and it's stick.
Justin Ferrabee: So you are all very accomplished in your fields, and you have worked your way from an introduction into payments or into whatever industry you got into to here. What did it take to get here?
Jennifer Tramontana: That's such a broad question of what did it take to get here. I think first of all, what's always going to be important and legitimate in any industry, but particularly one that involves technology and innovation is being able to see what's in front of you. Being able to see and understand that this is something worth focusing on and how to put the building blocks together of where this might go, and then where do you fit within that? That's always been exciting in payments as was just said because it's a never ending process.
It's been a little different for me getting into payments because I live in the US now. I'm Canadian, but I live in the US, and my company has serviced mainly US companies, some Canadian, but for us back in 2005 when this started, payments was about, or at least prepaid payments was about helping this large class of under-banked citizens have more power and empowerment with their money and that has ... You know, we've made huge strides over the last 10 to 15 years with that, and now you're seeing how that can change internationally, how this can really ... Digital transparent money movement can absolutely change lives, bring people out of poverty in ways that we had never expected before.
I think being able to put pieces together and think ahead keeps you excited and interested. And then, making sure that you surround yourself with great people and mentors, and businesses and companies who are thoughtful contributors to that industry. What I mean by thoughtful contributors is particularly again, in technology and in financial services, there are lots of great entrepreneurs and people spewing wonderful ideas and it's very exciting, and they get lots of glitzy headlines and sometimes that is totally warranted and accurate, and other times it's people spinning a yarn, so you have to really make sure that you know your stuff and you surround yourself with people who are great big forward thinkers, but are also really thoughtful, measured, prepared, understand what they're talking about.
Shemina Jiwani: And I'm just going to add to that because I completely agree with that, but I think it's also about focus, right? So you can get swayed in a whole bunch of different directions. Like you said, you have so many thought leaders on so many different topics and if you let yourself, you could get swayed from one end of the spectrum to the other, so I think a lot of success comes from those who have focus that are able to adapt, but that know what the end game is and map that out. I think that that's something that's so crucial that some of those companies that aren't around three or four or five years later struggle with.
Elena Litani: For me personally, it was taking on new opportunities. I think sometimes you feel like you might not be completely ready, but I think that it's important that if you feel in your gut that this is something you want to do, go ahead and do it. Don't say no to the opportunity that you think is going to either propel you or just bring something ... Take you to the next level. Make you understand or learn new things.
I think it's also believing in yourself, right? You believe in yourself, take new opportunities. I think those things are important as you progress.
Jennifer Tramontana: Do you guys still think that's an issue with women, or are we overcoming that? That's a very typical state of affairs, that they say that women wait until they really feel like they can do something before they go forward, whereas men just don't care. They're like, "I'll figure it out on the fly." What do you think? Do you think that's getting better?
Shemina Jiwani: You know what's funny is, Elena and I were just a part of Rise Up at Money 20/20, the women's accelerator, and one of the presenters said, had read that when you see a job posting, a woman needs to make sure that they fulfill at least 80% of those criteria before they apply. The man, I think was 20% and she joked about it saying, "Well, if they like the company, they're going to apply."
For myself, my husband's like that. "Oh, I like the company. I'm going to apply. What's the worst that can happen? They'll say no." And I'm going, "You're going to apply for that? You don't have any of this." But, it's just, I do think that's still there. I think that for myself, it's helped when I've had women or a male to be honest. It doesn't matter who pushed me to say well, you know what? It's all about aptitude and it's about ability and you can figure it out. I think that's what that experience outside of the payments industry taught me, is I knew nothing about real estate or running a hotel. You figure it out because you have aptitude and you have a great attitude to do it.
I do think that it's getting better because we have more people maybe pushing us, but I still think that that's innate in us and we have to get out of our comfort zone to get there.
Justin Ferrabee: So there have been changes though? You're saying is it true anymore, so you've definitely referred to some changes. What are the changes that you see?
Jennifer Tramontana: Well, it seems to be ... At least it seems that we talk about it more. I just don't know if we've made the strides. I don't know? I just am curious what other people think. I mean, I have a 10 year-old daughter and I try to think about when she's in university or 10 years from now, when she's just out of university and starting her first career. Is she going to hold herself back or will we have had enough dialogue about this and instill these values in our daughters that our mothers maybe didn't? It's just because nobody talked about it or worried about it or thought about it then, so I'm just not sure if we're there yet or it's going to be this next wave, so, I don't know.
Justin Ferrabee: So you've all alluded to the idea of navigating in the payments space. It's dynamic, always changing. Things are happening. You're talking about the skill of navigating which requires seeing the path and then making a plan for yourself, getting the support you need, and building your own confidence to get through it. You've been successful at that.
When you look at FinTech generally, do you see this sector being different or creating opportunities differently in the past or is it like any industry in terms of the opportunities and the challenge for women?
Elena Litani: Okay, I personally ... Yeah, I personally think that yes, because I think with FinTech, I think it's creates opportunities because we can start building culture from the beginning. It's much harder when you're a large corporation to actually instill changes. It requires much more effort versus the FinTechs. Usually it's small organizations. It's usually younger in spirit and willing to be more agile and accept the change.
An example, what I am seeing at nanopay, leadership is looking at diversity, making sure that we're inclusive, and they talk about it openly. We discuss it and we are making sure that we apply this at the cores, we are building the company. I think yes, FinTechs definitely bring a new opportunity, but I think also, it's a research which coming out which helps also tech knowledge that there is some discrepancy, right? That there is some ... There is still a lot of senior, white male at the senior leadership roles in financial services, and there is not as much diversity, both gender and color and race at executive leadership roles. I think that research definitely helps.
I've recently looked at McKenzie & Company. They came back in 2018, they published a research which they reconfirmed some of the findings they found three years ago, and those findings were basically that diverse companies that outperform, especially when the diversity at executive leadership or senior leadership roles.
Shemina Jiwani: I agree with you in the sense that we can get women in because we are smaller organizations typically, but I also think that some of the smaller FinTechs struggle with the resources, so when you talk about diversity, I think it's great that nanopay's doing that, but I think a lot of the small companies are going, you know what? We're operating at rapid speed. We need to get good people in and they're not paying attention to what they're putting in job postings. They're not paying attention to the language or even something as simple as covering a name up on a resume so that they are being truly unbiased when they're hiring.
These are small things, but when you're small and your resource-challenged, I don't know that they're fully engaging in some of these to change this. I mean, you hear that 50% of entry level or lower level are women. We are represented in that. It's when we go up to the executive level, that number drops to 15%. So I think from a FinTech perspective, I think that the opportunities are there, but we need to drill deeper as to why we're seeing that drop-off from that 50% to the 15%. Is it because the opportunity isn't there? Is it because with FinTech companies, there isn't all of the sudden, an extra spot at the table, so those five people that started the company stay in that company in that space?
I'm not sure what that looks like, but those are the questions that go through my mind when we talk about the opportunity for women and is there increased opportunity from a FinTech perspective?
Jennifer Tramontana: Yeah, there's two big problems in FinTech. One, we don't have enough women running publicly traded companies. The few that are around, there's very few women who are represented. Talbott Roche at Blackhawk Network is a great example of one, but there's just not many.
Then secondly, we know that women don't receive VC and private equity funding to the same level that men do, so you bring up the whole issue of we've got the worker bees, but in terms of starting her own venture and going out with an entire team. My company has a 100% female executive leadership team. We've never tried to raise money, but I wonder what would happen in that scenario just given the statistics that we know about that. Those are two areas that we really, really have to do better.
I often think about the question you just posed about what happens in the middle? Do we lose women at some point? Do they lose opportunities? How does that happen? I mean, I've got a couple of thoughts around that. I'd love to hear what you guys think, so one, at least from me living in the States, we know that there are major structural problems that force women out of the workforce. When they have kids, it's hard to get back in, all that stuff. Canada doesn't have that to the same extent, and when I'm in Canada, I'm always very excited to see a lot more just diversity in general around the table than I'd see in the States, whether that's gender, ethnicity, whatever. I feel like there's definitely a lot more here.
But we have a lot of structural problems that I think take women off a track of an inability to deal with that. All of these mentoring and networking groups that are out there like Women in Payments and Wnet and others that are trying to make a difference there, I think can hopefully put us on a better path to not drop out as our careers take off, but I would love to know what you guys think about that too.
Shemina Jiwani: I do think part of it is us not sometimes asking. I mean, for me personally, I was telling you before we started the podcast that I have a son that we adopted from Morocco. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have dreamt to go to my boss and say, "Look. I'm planning to do this. I'd like to work from there, or I'd like to know what that looks like from your perspective." I would've just said, "I have to take a leave and I'm going to have to deal with how I reenter and what position that that looks like," but from some of the conversations that I've had with other people that gave you that confidence to walk into your boss's office and say, "Look. I'm doing a lot. I'd like to continue. We have a great trajectory right now. Can I work from there? I'll put in the same hours that I'm doing here. It's going to be later for me, but I can manage it." That's what we ended up doing for six months, right?
I think that we have to change maybe some of those boundaries that were traditionally ... And some of it is with us, right? In my head, ten years ago, I wouldn't have even thought to ask that question. I think we need to understand what is it that we can do to help with the balance questions, but I'm also seeing a lot of men now that are asking for, "I need to leave at 4:00 because I have to do the daycare pick-up."
I think that hopefully as time goes on, we'll see more and more of that, and it will become more acceptable, and I put that in quotation marks because that is the way of the future in my mind. I do think it's on a lot of us to start asking those questions instead of just taking that leave and not knowing what you're going to do when you come back. What does it look like? Maybe we can structure. Is it two days a week that I come back? Is it part-time? Can I work from home three days a week? What does that look like so that we are continuously making that impact and moving our careers forward without having to sacrifice it 100% when we have the family.
Elena Litani: Yeah, and I think this is a difficult question again, to answer, right? I also think about it a lot because in previously I've been always taught maybe it's a biplane issue, right? We always talk about it's a biplane issue. We don't have enough women or girls in tech or math or sciences, and that's why that issue. But when we actually look at the workforce, there's a lot of girls entering it, and as you pointed out, at some point, they start dropping off.
From personal experience again, I have three kids. Some of them ... The oldest is almost 30 now, so growing up. But I felt that I personally made a conscious choice to almost pause. I took interest in roles, but not necessarily strategic roles to make me to become a leader because I knew that I felt like I wanted to spend more time and have more balanced time in my life when the kids were younger, so I think it's important though for women like myself, that now, a couple of years ago I realized, okay I want to come back. I want to take those strategic roles. I want to do exciting and interesting and challenging roles so it's important that companies realize it and give opportunities and vouch for those women who are eager to come back and jump back and all that, and lead.
Justin Ferrabee: I like what you're saying that there's challenges you've faced in achieving accomplishments you've set out, and you're turning your mind somewhat to how do I create opportunity for the next, and for others too so that they don't have to go through the same and they can find their way through?
Who were your role models and what role did they play in your journey?
Elena Litani: That's a tough question because role models pretty much didn't really exist. I was in technology. There is not too many, but in the recent years, I've met several women in Canada who are shining and driving and innovative. Those for me, became my role models and most of them actually, younger than me, but they are so driven, so bright and so smart, so some of them, which I would really like to mention are Bianca Lopes. She's a real entrepreneur. She's identity influencer, speaker, and she just launched her new company, Talle, so she's focusing on building digital content stories and transforming information into knowledge.
There is also Lucia Gallardo. We met her at the Rise Up, right? She's a founder of Emerge and she's focused on addressing sustainability, development goals at [inaudible 00:24:44] so she's using emerging technology to address some of the problems with the refugee resettlement. How do you ensure refugees don't become a problem, but actually can be resettled successfully in our country. She's about to launch a product soon, so which is cool.
Also here in Canada we have Michelle Beyo, who is recently got Rising Star under 40 award from Payments Canada as well as building new payments systems, building, driving innovation in payments. I think, as I grow in my career, as I work with many people, I meet many of those young, exciting and interesting people that change and influence me.
Shemina Jiwani: I mean Lucia is definitely a force to be reckoned with when you look at her work with refugees, but on a more surface level, Sallie Krawcheck is one of those women who is amazing. She has done so many breakthrough ... So many different career moves that have been breakthrough from a women's perspective, but more importantly, she's now got this audience and she's got this voice for all of us.
She was just on the Today Show with Trevor Noah talking about the differences between men and women and I'm going, "Holy crap." Maybe I'm not allowed to say that on a podcast, but-
Justin Ferrabee: We've said a lot worse.
Shemina Jiwani: I did refrain if that's any consolation, but she's talking to Trevor Noah on mainstream TV about the differences between men and women leaders and it was phenomenally inspiring to me to have someone like that on mainstream TV. She's a co-founder of ElleVest, which is a digital, financial advisor tailored for women because as investors, we have a totally different profile than men and she's made that a business. I've heard her speak and I think she's profoundly inspirational, but she talks the talk and she really is a great role model for me now.
Growing up, I don't know that I had a true role model that I would look up to. I think ... My parents were immigrants, so I saw how hard they worked and I saw the opportunities that they took on with very little resource, so I think that's always played for me, but from a Women in Payments perspective, Sallie wins hands down.
Jennifer Tramontana: Well, let me just ... Since we're just mentioning some people, there's just a couple more that I want to mention. One is ... I think it's very important being a Payments Canada podcast to mention your new Board Chair, Eileen Mercier. She is leading the payments modernization of Canada and maybe not a household name to everybody, but really a woman is driving your entire process of moving into the next century, so I think that's really exciting that there's a woman at the helm of that here.
Justin Ferrabee: We agree completely. You faced the new dynamic world of pay tech. You had to navigate a lot yourself. There weren't role models. In many cases, you are the role models for the next generation that come in and now as you're going, you're finding peers and others who are doing things that inspire you. What is the role of Rise Up in the US and Women in Payments in Canada and actually internationally, in creating space for role models to emerge or connections to be built? How do you see that working and how successful has that been?
Shemina Jiwani: For me, it's been game changing. I'm a lone woman on a senior management team at Ascendant and we call it a tribe because it is this tribe of highly ambitious women that can relate to me like nobody else can in my sphere. We're talking about everything from family balance to, "Explain to me how this blockchain application works" to "I need a contact in this region" or "There's a speaking opportunity. Does anybody want to take that?"
It's become this tribe is honestly the best word for me to describe it and it's been a career changer for me because it's really expanded my mind. It's given me a lot of confidence because only women that truly support you and truly understand you can give you and I think, from my perspective, I wish that for everybody, every woman in this industry.
Jennifer Tramontana: I think that we need to take Rise Up to the next level, right? Rise Up was 35 people in 2018 at Money 20/20 and I certainly don't want to take anything away from it, but we should just sit there for a second and say, "It was 35 people. Why was it not 3000 people in 2019?" We've got to figure out how do we ... Where do we take it from here?
From everyone I know who presented or participated, said it was fantastic and it's now, how do you scale it? Carol Grunberg from Ant Financial is now the president of Wnet, so I know that that's really going to hopefully take things to the next level, but to your point, how do we take it from something like a micro event and group and really grow that beyond?
But, I thought it was incredible to at least see that people are starting to pay attention now. Now I notice at conferences, they're announcing we have 40% women speakers, things of that nature that just people didn't think about before. Not that women were excluded, but they're just digging deeper, right?
One of the things that I would say to any man in this field, like how do you support women is just I would say, just dig that one layer deeper. When you're looking for the speaker or the next employee, whatever it is, you've got a network of a lot of folks and probably a lot of great accomplished men who have had a career trajectory that just went straight up like this. Just dig that one ... Before you just go with that, just dig one level deeper and see if you can find other, whether it's women or people of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, who have maybe had some on and off for some reason in the past, just do that one level and give everybody that opportunity to try to succeed, because there's a lot of gems that we just get lazy sometimes and just don't look beyond our immediate circle. You find the answer, you just move on so that's the one thing I think we could do better for sure.
Elena Litani: I agree, and just to add to that. I think it's important that [inaudible 00:31:07] the Rise Up program and you are right. We need to scale this, but I think the whole experience was this amazing bonding time where you, if you had to repeat it ... Let's say you take any large organization. You can do the same thing. You can do half a day. Get all women, senior leaders, junior in the room, and give them some learning, but also let them talk to each other.
I think one of the most valuable experience we had actually when we sat down and shared our stories. That's where we realized we are all the same, though there are some people from across the globe, right, different countries, different experience, age group. There was some really young girls. There were some really senior people in the room as well, but everyone had similar experience. Everyone faced the same challenges and through this talk, through this, you bond. You make new network, you make new connections and then the key is to continue to grow it and give back.
I think one of the key ... I give away to me, but was that we didn't end it there, right? We continuously talk now. We try to help each other, and I think that's important, right, to speak and for each other and help.
Jennifer Tramontana: I think we should put Payments Canada on the spot and say to them that at the Summit this year, you need to offer some half day or part of the day where we could do a Rise Up type of situation. Women could meet, be mentored, meet with each other and start from there, so if we can do it at Money 20/20, why can't do it at the Summit, right?
Justin Ferrabee: Done.
Jennifer Tramontana: Great.
Shemina Jiwani: Excellent. Yeah, and we'll help you do it. The hard stuff. There you go.
Justin Ferrabee: Well, I was going to say, and the follow up is you've got to help us do it, so there you go. We just made a deal. Okay. The first deal that I've done on the podcast in history ever done. Right here just now.
Shemina Jiwani: Women are all action.
Justin Ferrabee: You're all about getting things done.
Jennifer Tramontana: Amen to that.
Shemina Jiwani: The one thing I also want to add to this is two things that I've come across is the fact that there are different programs for senior leaders. I don't know that there's a lot of programs and ways for women in junior levels or entry levels to connect with each other to see what that next step is. To talk about mentors and the importance of sponsors and mentors that we've all talked about. But I do think that that's a big gap that we need to address because I don't want that number to go from 50% to 15% and I think that's one of the ways we address that.
I think the second thing is about the cost. A lot of these functions have a price tag attached to it. When you are a FinTech company with a limited budget or you're not making the big bank bucks that you wish you were making, your resources become scarce and are you really going to put $2000 or $200 or even $50 in to create this network or to join this network?
So, I think we've got to figure out what we can do for companies and for women that don't have the resources to maybe join and to afford a membership to some of these things because I think that those are the people that potentially could be your next leaders that just don't have access.
Justin Ferrabee: That's a great point, and being excluded right at the very beginning doesn't give you a path up. It's a really great point. When you look ... Now, putting your executive hats on, looking at the industry, what do see the future of payments? Let's give it 10 years out, so we're at 2019 now. 2029, I know it feels like an eternity. I don't even know if we can imagine that far? Give it a shot.
Jennifer Tramontana: I'd say if we're looking out 10 years, hopefully open banking has spread across the globe and is not just in a couple of centers, but is being properly executed across the globe because that is going to open us all up to much more transparency in payments. It will give people better access to their own digital identity and owning their information more and it will give rise to the best possible products and services that consumers want to consume, ensuring they are fair, transparent, secure and makes sense for what they need in their lives without all of these structural barriers and moats that exist right now that make that very difficult to happen.
Elena Litani: Couldn't agree more, open banking. Open APIs is the key, however the other aspect as you pointed out, as we pointed out before is real time rails. I think that it's happening in other jurisdictions. It's real in Europe. It's real in UK. Let's make it happen in Canada.
Justin Ferrabee: Hear, hear.
Shemina Jiwani: I think payments are going to be commoditized. They're going to be standardized. They're going to be just a part of something else, right? So we're going to have to innovate to say, well payments are part of what we do, but everybody's offering payments and everybody's going to offer it in the same manner. It's not going to be ... Right now, one company can charge $10 for a payment and one company can charge 50 cents for a payment because it's all going to be the same. There's going to be standards. There's going to be instant payments, so I think all of our payment companies are really going to have to figure out what that next thing is to bring in the revenue and differentiate ourselves.
Justin Ferrabee: What do you think that thing is?
Shemina Jiwani: If I knew, I would be retired.
Justin Ferrabee: Well, you will know and I'm sure you will see the opportunity and get it.
Shemina Jiwani: I think there's a whole bunch of integration opportunities, right? There's different segments that have so many pain points to this day that you laugh at, that we've been doing things the same way for so long and I think payment companies can attach themselves to so many different applications for various segments and I think that's where some of the future revenue can come from. That's my secret that I'm going to share with you for right now.
Justin Ferrabee: All right. Well, thank you. So, you each have cut your path through your career and it has been challenging and there are others who are trying to find their way and some who are going to travel your path. You've received some support more recently than in the past, but you have some support.
For those who are now coming in behind you, for your last comment today, what would be the piece of advice you would give them?
Shemina Jiwani: I think the first thing I would say is that when you're in your junior, just starting your career, you don't really think the female/male thing is a big deal. When I was in my 20s, I was like, "I don't know what all this talk is about. I have the same opportunities as the guy beside me. I'm in my 20s. I'm able to go and travel and do all of these things."
Then, in your 30s, you go, "Oh, okay. I see it. I want to start my family and yeah, I get it." In your 40s, you're like, "I want to advocate for every woman possible." Sallie Krawcheck said this to us, and I was like, "Oh my gosh. That's exactly how I feel."
My advice to the women who are starting their careers is number one, FinTech is great. There's tremendous opportunity for you if you want to take it, but get yourself a female mentor. Get yourself a female network because it becomes lonelier the higher you go. When you have that, I feel like that makes your ability to rise in this industry so much greater and I think that that's something that people don't really take stock of until they're at that level.
I think the other thing I would say is put yourself, like Elena said, in risky situations. That has paid off for me in those times where I'm like, "I don't know why I'm taking this on. I don't know what the heck I'm doing." Every single one of those situations has paid off in droves for me. I think as women, we are less ... We're very risk averse. Put yourself in those situations and take those leaps.
Elena Litani: Wow. Excellent. I think just to add, I think as women start to get to mid positions, mid-level, I would suggest getting a ... trying to get a sponsor because sponsorship is important. A sponsor is someone, usually, it could be male or female, but someone that is in the senior leadership position who can pull you out of a shape, who could sometimes fight for you and speak at those levels where you don't yet have access to.
I think I like the concept of having your own personal board of directors. You want to start building a network of people you trust and go to when you need advice, you need to run something by them, so start thinking about it and building this early enough so when you get to the point where you actually need it, it's there and it's there for you to use.
I think confidence is the key. I think it's important to realize that even in crisis, we will have crises in our lives. There is all this opportunity. Look at that as something positive. You learn something of a crisis. You come out of it and you learn something new.
Jennifer Tramontana: Those were all great. I guess the one thing I would add is I would tell someone just starting their career, whether it's in payments or anywhere else, to really just own your power and think big. Even beyond confidence. Just instill ... We need to instill in our girls now that they're powerful, that they're smart, they're thoughtful. Be prepared. Know your stuff. Read things, but you don't have to be the smartest person in the room. You don't have to be the absolute most knowledgeable. You don't have to be totally the most outgoing, but if you package all of that together and just really accept your own power for what it is and to not really worry about am I the best in these areas and go out and go for it.
Then, think bigger. I don't think that we spend any time telling girls to think big and be entrepreneurs. We're doing a good job now of saying do STEM because everybody knows it's going to be important, but we're just saying do STEM. Get the skills, right? Nobody really talks to girls about go have the craziest idea. Go try to raise money. Go sell folks in Silicon Valley venture capital about your idea. That's what everybody else does. Nobody has all of the answers there, so go and think big and don't just think about these little steps in your career. Truly just always be thinking about doing something exciting and disruptive. Maybe you never do it, but if you think that way, it's going pay off in terms of everything that you do within your career.
Justin Ferrabee: Wow. Fantastic. Thank you. Thank you for coming in. Thank you for sharing your stories and your experiences. Thank you for having done the things that you've done, and thank you for creating opportunity for others.
This has been a valuable opportunity to learn about the exciting work women are leading on. To better understand what we are doing right and more critical, how we can improve to support and advance female disruptors and become a modern industry.
As always, the PayPod is available for download on your favorite podcast app or at payments.ca. Join the conversation using #modernpayments. Until next time, I'm your host, Justin Ferrabee.