Three important pillars to build a positive workplace culture in fintech

When you think about the workplace culture associated with the traditional financial services sector, ‘corporate’ might be the first word that springs to mind. Many think of vertical career hierarchies, corporate politics, fierce competition and performance-driven salaries. 

Yet, the workplace culture of the technology industry is entirely different— ideas of Google’s employee technology village, no dress codes, recreational spaces, endless perks and employees swiftly rising through the ranks are top of mind. 

But where does this leave fintechs? At the intersection between the two worlds, fintechs are tasked with nurturing a culture which appeals to creative product designers, the best software developers as well as regulatory and compliance experts, and everyone in between. 

The competition is fierce. While the fintech industry isn’t suffering a skills shortage, it often faces high employee turnover. 

The key to overcoming these challenges is building a culture that puts people and their aspirations and motivations first. On the one hand, you must build a fintech which attracts and retains talent. But simultaneously, leadership must ensure it is equally committed to growth and innovation as it is to governance and compliance. 

The challenge lies in the conflicting advice and cultural misconceptions that threaten the future of our sector.

Diversity is an important HR initiative

Wrong. Diversity is inextricably linked to the success of your business – it is not just HR window-dressing. In fact, a Boston Consulting Group study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation.  

Ticking boxes won’t promote a successful culture. Fintechs must re-evaluate their policies and processes through the lens of inclusivity to protect individuals from unconscious bias and create clear routes to the top. From recruitment and hiring through to ‘water cooler’ conversations, fostering a culture where diversity isn’t just tolerated but central to all decisions is vital to success. 

A company’s culture should flourish organically

I hear a lot of people say ‘our culture has come about naturally’, or ‘I’m not sure we have a workplace culture’. This simply isn’t true. All companies have a culture, whether you nurture it thoughtfully or not, it manifests and becomes a driving force that guides your team. 

When you’re at the early stage of growth, this is the optimal time to set company values that promote the attributes and actions that will be pivotal for success. At OpenPayd, we live according to five core values: Make your mark; Find a better way; Embrace the journey; Grow together and We do what’s right. And in my experience, the best way to formulate values is alongside your employees. 

Even if your company is at the conception stage, and you’ve yet to start recruiting, talk to those who are currently helping you build your proposition – partners, prospects and even the regulators are solid sources of input. Ask what is important to them and what their motivations are. It’s crucial to build company values which resonate with people and don’t just sound good on paper. 

At the same time, don’t be tempted to think of your values as set in stone. As your team grows, company objectives change, and the macroeconomic climate fluctuates, the culture must evolve to reflect those shifting gears. 

Be open and honest in good times and bad

When a company goes through a ‘rough patch’, many leadership teams mask or downplay the reality, creating an illusion of ‘business as usual’. This is rooted in good intentions, usually with the aim of protecting team morale and a desire to maintain ‘strong’ leadership. But transparency is key. 

Being authentic as a leader fosters an honest culture and builds trust. Admitting failure or our mistakes, seeking help, and acknowledging we don’t have the answers might feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s these communications that will foster the strongest team relationship. 

Solutions also come from all members of the team, no matter how junior. Involving everyone in discussions about the future of the organisation creates solidarity and ensures that everyone is invested in success. 

Turbulent times are telling

Stepping back from misconceptions, it’s worth looking at the challenges created by the pandemic. Aside from the uncertainty felt across the world, many are now also juggling childcare and the change from in-person to virtual communication. 

As such, increasing mental and physical support for employees is paramount. Checking in on the team regularly and using third-party services to provide professional support and training are imperative. Encouraging employees to work flexibly and building their work around their personal commitments has helped so many teams remain productive. 

These turbulent times are telling and represent critical milestone’s in a company’s trajectory. While we can’t see each other face to face, in some ways, we’re communicating more. Virtual channels facilitate relationships with your team globally, and on a more personal level as they are in the comfort of their own home. Use this time to understand your employees and it will pay dividends.   

Iana Dimitrova is CEO of OpenPayd.

The views and opinions expressed in this Viewpoint article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views and opinions of Fintech Bulletin.