ARYZE spoke with marketing and communications expert in fintech and payments, tech entrepreneur, and advocate for diversity, Nim Haas. She shared with us how her tech journey started, the misconceptions companies have of diversity, and what needs to happen to improve inclusion in the industry.
One of the voices that cannot be missed when it comes to diversity and inclusion, is Nim Haas. Nim is a tech entrepreneur who has been active in the fintech industry since 1998. She co-founded the first national e-loan aggregator platform that grew out to be one of the biggest of France. After this great success, she continued to build other initiatives, such as The Payments Clinic in London and b.yond. Besides her involvement with tech, Nim also advocates for bigger diversity and inclusion within the industry. One of the ways she does this is through her participation in the UK advisory board for women in tech.
It was around 20 years ago, when Nim co-founded her first lend-tech company. With a highly innovative business model and a supportive network around her, she was able to develop one of the largest E-loan companies of today. Her business idea was unconventional and was launched even before the dotcom era had started in France. She explains the challenges this brought along:
I remember when I would say I founded a company specialised in consumer lending, that it was an online platform, only using digital channels for loan requests acquisition and having a backend scoring system directly linked with credit scoring of banking loan partners, people would just look at me saying: ‘’What is this 23-year-old talking about… She probably doesn’t have a real job!’’
Entrepreneurship is available to everyone, Haas believes, the hardest part is coming up with the right idea, and if it fails, to try again. The successful companies of today have managed to give their ideas enough shots to get it right in the end. Some ideas might not turn out successfully, yet it is about evolving it, generating new ideas, and implementing feedback from the people around you.
I’ve always been lucky to be surrounded by individuals who are passionate, driven and are truly dedicated to what they do, while also having an entrepreneurial spirit. So, that tends to resonate with me and pulls me forwards and upwards.
Nim comments on the diversity issues that have been part of her career. For her, being a female professional in the tech industry did not cause any specific hardship, yet she did have to break down the barriers of age differences. During the starting phase of her career, the cultural mentality existed that if you worked as a young entrepreneur, this was because companies simply did not want to hire you.
Some cultures regard experience by age, others define it by the quality of execution and performance regardless of the age.
Diversity has always been a crucial part of Nim’s life, long before her career even started. She shares the lessons she learned from a young age:
I grew up in a diverse environment: Being Asian, adopted at birth by a German father and a French Moroccan mother, while also being taught Jewish traditions from my mother’s origins and having lived in Monaco, Australia, France, USA, Singapore and now London.
I was taught that everyone is equal, we are all fundamentally the same with just different genders, cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, and upbringing. I have been brought up to always be inclusive, always consider other’s cultural differences and background, and to understand that these may be different from my own.
Today, in the corporate world, Haas works on the improvement of diversity and inclusion within the tech industry. One of the misconceptions she often sees is that firms tend to think diversity is just a box-ticking exercise:
I am really not a fan of businesses setting numbers or incentives. I think it’s about companies creating an open and inclusive culture and hiring people who share that same vision, rather than hitting your diversity number targets.
Nim continues to explain that businesses need to have the will to invest in the education of cross-cultural differences to existing HR staff and employees at all levels. Employees and managers should be made aware of how they might have learnt behaviours and opinions towards other people due to cultural backgrounds or upbringing. This can largely influence someone’s practises in the workplace and businesses’ decisions.
Another misconception companies have regarding diversity is that they are likely to think it is not a top priority for their business. However, the opposite is true, as studies have demonstrated having a diverse workforce enables greater innovation and productivity. To solve this misconception, companies should find a way to break down the biases barriers in their hiring process, perhaps by doing blind CVs and even crossing out university names.
Within the fintech industry, Haas has seen increasing levels of diversity, and how this is largely impacted by a country’s cultural influence. Some countries are truly supporting diversity in all its forms within fintech.
I am delighted to see an increase of diverse people in the fintech space and not just based on their gender. And by gender, I also mean whatever the gender is that a person chooses to be, which is also part of the diversity issue. But this is not the only issue; there are not so many people from minority backgrounds that work in fintech or payments, and this is where the true diversity issues exist in our sector. But even with this issue in mind, if businesses don’t ensure they have the right culture in place, they may hit their diversity numbers but not be inclusive.
It is important for companies to realise that diversity and inclusion are not the same. Nim argues that often companies don’t understand the difference between the two.
Let’s take a business that has increased diversity levels within a particular department by adding a new workforce. The question is: Has that business ensured that these new employees will feel included? Or is the culture of the company influenced in a particular way that some will not be able to relate and still feel that they are outsiders?
Nim shows the truly important distinction between inclusion and diversity. Companies will not create the needed change if they hold onto corporate cultures that do not include all, and diversity will not solve underlying problems if inclusion does not co-exist.
According to Haas, there is still a long way to go before we will see true diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. She believes people should have no bias, have an understanding attitude, and be open to differences, and she actively works on building this future.
If you’d like to learn more about other entrepreneurs or diversity experts, please visit ARYZE’s blog.