FinTech Marketing Strategist at Thomson Reuters
London, United Kingdom
How would you describe your role in the FinTech ecosytem?
My primary interest in FinTech is as a writer/blogger on fintech’s macro-trends. I work closely with fintech startups as marketing advisor, supporting them on their very exciting journey. I also work closely with the fintech activities of traditional banks, challenger banks, consulting firms and investors, helping them with research and data. I love asking difficult questions to bankers – so am invited to speak and moderate panels at quite a few fintech events.
You are the founder of the Turya Collective. Can you detail why you founded the organization and what you focus on?
Turya Collective was founded as a way of connecting very early stage startups with the right advisors. There are over hundreds of fintech startups being launched every month globally and these firms face a unique challenge while in the process of setting up an early working prototype. Once they get their product into an accelerator programme, they get an immense level of support, but prior to that, most of them struggle with understanding the market potential and viability of their idea, setting up a value proposition, understanding the uniqueness of the features as well as early communications like pitch for accelerators, website, content creation and branding.
I set up Turya as a way of bringing together people from all walks of life (we now have members in 10 countries) who are happy to help these startups in their spare time.
However, Turya has evolved beyond supporting early stage startups in the past few months, and some of our members are in the process of setting up some fascinating intra-ventures! Some members are in the process of launching a global event series as well as a new investment channel.
You grew up in a unique community in India with a strong matriarchal society. Can you expand on this and the effect it has had on your career?
It is interesting that people have generic assumptions of how badly women are treated in India, whereas the languages, culture and lifestyle differ hugely from place to place within the country. I grew up in a very matriarchal society in Kerala in southern India where the women traditionally had primary control over family and property (the legal framework now prevents any kind of gender discrimination in wealth inheritance, so ironically, women have stopped benefiting from this community setup). Kerala is also the only state in India with 100% literacy and where there are more females than males, and where girls are adopted more often than boys, so I really grew up in a gender balanced society. There were women leaders in all walks of life we grew up drawing inspiration from – be it politics, writing, arts, law, science, technology, business or entrepreneurship.
During our conversation you spoke of your love for writing as a child. How did you rediscover and rekindle this passion for writing?
I used writing as a form of creativity expression from a very young age. When I see my book collection back home, I wonder how “inappropriate” some of them were for a 7 or 8 year old to read, but I would read everything in sight. My grandmother used to buy me Balkan fairy tales from a Russian book shop in town and my parents would get me books from wherever they were travelling to. Still in primary school, I was reading P.G. Wodehouse, Jeffrey Archer and Somerset Maugham. All my writing had Douglas Adams-inspired sarcastic undertones. I stopped writing when I started my undergraduate course in computer engineering and my right brain went to sleep for a few years (computer engineering training did not cover creative use cases in those days). I took up writing again only very recently when I left my full time job and made an effort to rediscover my passions.
One of your first written pieces was on Turkey as a leader of digital banking. How did you choose this as your topic? (Article link at footer of post)
It was my first real fintech blog and it became popular overnight, to my big surprise. And the best part was that people from all walks of life read it! A member of Hillary Clinton’s campaign team reached out and commented that it was the first fintech article they have ever read. I also had several banking CEOs from Turkey reach out to me – the CEPTEB team sent me a formal thank you note for talking about their industry so highly. The amount of social sharing the Turkey banking leaders did with that blog was further validation of the blog and showed how socially aware that industry is in comparison with others around the world.
I loved your response to how do you decide what to write about. You mentioned you seek to create a voice on ‘controversy’. What do you mean by this?
I wrote the Turkey blog as a way of telling the world, “Hey stop saying UK challenger banks are doing first-of-its-kind social media integration with banking stuff, Turkish traditional banks have been doing that for years!”. I always take a strong stand, and this is usually against a generic hyper-promoted topic. So far, people have found them interestingly contrarian, rather than controversial. Let’s see if it stays that way!
I also use a lot of market data and industry analysis to explain the contrarian point of view. I am constantly collecting data and strategies from banks, fintech startups, incubator programmes and influencers, and this collective information is what converts a purely contrarian statement to thought leadership.
You are consistently recognized as a key influencer in the FinTech Community. How much does being located in London help drive this and what impact does London have concerning your writing ‘voice’?
It is a difficult question to answer because I truly believe fintech is global. However, London is truly the centre of fintech, with so many banks, fintech startups and accelerators based here. This is where entrepreneurs and investors from Middle East, Africa and Asia converge. And being part of the influencer community in the UK has definitely helped with providing amplification to my content.
Who(m) do you believe has had the most influence with respect to your own career?
Does anyone influence you more than your own parents? I was lucky to grow up in a household where the established standards of hardwork and success were very high. My father grew up in a village with no school, and he had to walk 8 miles every day to get to a school. He then became one of the top-most bureaucrats in the country, and it is a journey you look at and think, anything is possible with sheer hard work. My mother always stressed the importance of not just having a job, but a career you excel in, and showed by example how a strong woman can proactively take on several different projects at the same time.
Who do you consider to be strong women leaders in the FinTech space?
Debra Walton at Thomson Reuters is an inspiration to all women in the company (I have been contracting with Thomson Reuters for the past year). She now handles one of the most important roles in the company as Chief Product and Content Officer.
Ruth Wandhöfer, whom I interviewed for BankNXT last year, is a banker who understands technological implications on financial services extremely well. She has such deep insight on regulatory technology and frameworks, and a communication style that excites you about the ‘boring’ world of regulations.
Leanne Kemp, the CEO of Everledger, is another woman I admire for bringing technology and business together to create such a strong startup. I swear I saw the room vibrate a little with her energy when she started pitching!
What do you see as the 3 leading future trends for FinTech?
I will repeat the predictions I have made in the past as I still stand by them!
- Consolidation – I think fintech startups will no longer be startups (obviously) but will join up with other fintech’s as well as banks and the Googles of the world to achieve quick scale.
- Customer Interactivity – Technology will help financial service providers excite the customers better by engaging with them more closely and more effectively. This will be achieved by integrating concepts of biometrics, voice recognition, gamification and smartphone features.
- Geographic Silos – I see strong fintech hubs emerging to cater to regional challenges who are not necessarily integrated with the wide open fintech world of London/Silicon Valley/Singapore. Tel Aviv, Bangalore and Shanghai are seeing a huge number of startups who only look outwards at the time of VC investment (sometimes not even then!).