Narrowing the Gender Gap in FinTech

Suzanne Magee, CEO of Bandura Systems, shares insights from the field.

With more payments and transactions going digital, we’ve seen the FinTech sector expand rapidly. As this startup ecosystem thrives, the energy and momentum garner enthusiasm in the form of media exposure and, more importantly, investment. But as FinTech’s profile grows, the distinct lack of female leadership gets thrown into sharper relief.

Bandura Systems

Finance and technology are two male-dominated sectors, and the intersection of the two has done nothing to lessen the gender disparity in not only positions of power, but the workplace as a whole. We talked to Bandura Systems CEO Suzanne Magee about her entry into FinTech, her experience in St. Louis and where she sees the industry going when it comes to the gender gap.

How did you become involved in FinTech?

Fifteen years ago I co-founded TechGuard Security in my basement in Ballwin, MO. We were focused on technology and services to protect the networks of the US Critical

Suzanne Magee

Infrastructure, of which financial services is a major part. In 2013, we spun out the PoliWall network security software and its many patents into its own company, Bandura, to bring this cybersecurity product to the commercial market. We experienced a natural demand from banks, online payment systems and online insurance companies.

When an advisor told me about the SixThirty FinTech accelerator, we realized it was a natural fit.

We were in the process of relocating Bandura headquarters from its founding office in Maryland to CIC in St. Louis, in response to the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC) matching funds program. The opportunity to participate in the SixThirty FinTech accelerator gave us the capital and connections needed to focus on growing our financial services customer base.

What has your own experience taught you about how the FinTech industry is handling the gender gap? Do you see a change?

It has only been in the last year that we’ve focused specifically on the FinTech industry but it’s been surprising that there are so few women in the room! I am used to that with technology, in particular cybersecurity, and though it’s starting to change, that change has been surprisingly slow.

I think when you combine the predominance of male leadership in the financial world with the same in the technology world, it is hard for women to see themselves in this field and to find mentors who will help them navigate the course.

I’ve seen blogs and articles lately about this issue–there seems to be an awareness of the issue and people spreading the message that diversity brings creativity, better solutions, and different approaches. I did a google search on “Women led companies at Finovate Fall 2015″ and the first return had these words regarding the search: “missing women.” That about says it all.

As you look back at your career, what advice would you give to women who are just starting out? 

Financial services leadership roles are dominated by men. Whether it’s presenting to FinTech buyers or FinTech investors, look for women in organizations where you want to gain access and funding and make a connection!

There are new resources for women out there from organizations like Prosper. Bandura is fortunate to be participating in the Prosper accelerator this fall, where successful women business leaders share their stories, and challenge you to be effective—find ways to communicate to reach your audience—which sometimes will be all male.

Set a clear, exciting vision, understand your own strengths and build a team to reach that vision. It is not easy, but these women leaders inspirationally share their journeys and the rich reward.

What’s next for you and Bandura?

Growing Bandura from our St. Louis headquarters, to the next level and into a global cybersecurity marketplace, moving from security enterprise to securing the Internet of Things. Our core, patented technology is called the High-Speed Internet Protocol Packet Inspection Engine—the HIPPIE. Our vision is that every home and car will have a little HIPPIE inside!

We are moving to a larger fund-raising round, building on the quick success in closing our bridge funding round, and we’re building our sales force and cyber lab capability here, with a focus on growing market share in particular in financial services cybersecurity.