Isn’t life full of surprises! On 18 & 19 June 2019, I had the pleasure of attending Copenhagen Fintech. First time in the Danish capital. What I noticed the most is just how clean the city is. I guess that’s why the Danes don’t complain about the high cost of living!
Thomas Krogh Jensen and his whole team really outdid themselves with this event. This being their 3rd year running, they saw the number of attendees tripple compared to last year’s event. What really stood out of this event for me was the venue! It was just perfect! Right next to the water. What made it even more perfect was the beautiful weather. It was one of those days when the Danes could enjoy and get their refill of some sun rays!
It wasn’t just the venue and weather that were perfect; it was the content, the quality of speakers, the ambiance, the insightful debates and the speeches. The fact that the event around 1200 people in such an open large space, meant that there was an excellent opportunity to network and make new friends. I met so many incredible people and made good connections, something that is extremely important and very hard to do at large events.
The most interesting thing however, was the delegates. Everyone was happy, smiling and friendly. This was really aided by how chilled out this event was- very typical Danish. You could the visitors from the Danes just from looking at how people were dressed. The Danes were dressed down and chilled out compared to other visitors. The whole atmosphere at the event was very relaxed, open and welcoming. I got the feeling like I was hanging out with friends discussing work, sipping some drinks and enjoying the weather. Very different from the feeling you get attending many industry events. I absolutely loved it!
My keynote was titled: The Transformative Potential of Inclusion in Fintech, focusing on correlation between financial performance, profitability, and diversity. The financial sector is a service industry, making it extremely crucial for the industry to have full representation of the society it serves at all levels, yet this is still not the case and Denmark is not any different than other countries.
Research and studies have been done that clearly indicate that businesses that are diverse perform better than those that are not. With globalisation, migration and emigration, it is silly for any company or business leader to continue thinking, operating and designing products and services with the same old mentality of a monolithic approach. It no longer works. My focus was on:
- Customer Diversity
- Product Design and Diversity
- Workforce Diversity
While a lot of people usually think diversity only relates to gender, my keynote discussed different dimensions of diversity:
- Race and Ethnicity
- Age and Generation
- Gender and Gender Identity
- Socio-economic Status and Background
- Sexual Orientation
- Religious and Spiritual Beliefs
- Disability and Ability
- Personality & Educational level
Despite many policies in Denmark being on par with Nordic peers, and gender diversity being high on companies’ strategic agendas, the share of females in leadership teams barely increased over the last ten years. Denmark is falling behind globally and is far behind its Nordic peers. This means that companies don’t involve more than 50% of the population that their products and services are meant to serve.
Why is this so important for Denmark to address and embrace diversity? According to OECD numbers:
- Over the last decades, fertility declined dramatically across OECD countries, falling on average to 1.7 in 2016
- Retirement age continues to increase with employment rates of seniors has risen significantly
- The share of graduates in STEM is much lower compared to other OECD countries and business report shortage in these skills.
- Dependency of foreign workers has grown substantially in recent years, while Visa permit system is complex and slow for non-EU hindering acute access to skilled labour
- Female employment rate was 75% in 2017, while average OECD is 60.01%. This has had a positive effect in 15% of total GDP per capita growth. However, labour market remains gender segregated across occupations.
- Danish women only fill 22% of senior management positions in central government (amongst the lowest in OECD countries)
- Inclusiveness: Labour market integration of refugees and migrants is weak and unequal across municipalities
- There is still a long way to go before lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) individuals meet full-fledged acceptance in OECD countries.
My keynote was followed by a panel discussion on the same with excellent panelists. The session was moderated by Naima Yasin- Community Manager at Copenhagen FinTech
The debate was interactive and very open. We all could share our honest thoughts, experiences, and openly discussed and could agree on what we thought worked, didn’t work and what needed to change to ensure that the industry becomes more diverse and inclusive. The other panelists were: Kjartan Rist, Tanja Lind Melskens, Tommy Dejbjerg Pedersen and Katrine Mitens
My takeaways from this discussion was that:
- We need more commitment from leaders
- Quotas are not always a bad thing, but in some cases a necessity to help with change
- Many companies don’t stop to think just how inclusive or exclusive they are. Just because companies don’t ‘exclude’ anyone, doesn’t mean that they are diverse and inclusive
- Female founders still get the scrapes from VC firms and continue to face the challenge of access to large value funding
- Denmark needs to wake up in order to regain it’s position globally
- Fintechs, financial institutions, banks and everyone involved needs to become more diverse now, or they will become irrelevant in the future
- More education is needed to help companies and financial firms understand what tangible actions they can take to change things
- Change requires our collective effort and work
- There is still A LOT of work to be done
The highlight of the trip was the boat ride. Sight-seeing Copenhagen by boat was magnificent!
I was however, not prepared to see naked men doing all sorts of yoga positions along the water shores of Freetown Christiania– Copenhagen’s alternative neighbourhood. I got a few lessons on Danish history and autonomy of this free town! I will definitely be back in Copenhagen for the 2020 Copenhagen Fintech event!