Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?
Nolwenn: Financial technology, the use of technology to digitize financial services, isn’t new but is growing fast. The acceleration of innovation in the underlying technologies and the increase of partnerships within the ecosystem - “challengers”, financial systems, banks, and regulations – are enabling a large-scale innovation on the global stage. The rise of Mobile (financial services in mobile apps, mobile payments, in particular person-to-person payment apps), the growing interoperability of systems and the standardization of protocols are accelerating the global expansion of financial services and democratizing their access (e.g. extensive use of mobile money in Kenya thanks to the M-Pesa/Vodaphone service). The industry will seize the opportunity to serve traditionally underserved customer segments thanks to the economies of scale and the leapfrogging that technology enables.
Credit scoring and small business lending are transforming: new data forms (e.g. business’ rating on Yelp), powerful algorithms and pattern recognition in balances and transactions are leveraged to assess credit worthiness. This will be continuously refined as the industry gets more comfortable with big data and machine learning. Semi or complete automated advising is already a reality in Wealth Management (e.g. for asset allocation, rebalancing decisions). The trend is towards increased automation, especially with the rise of Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots, and more and more tailoring of products and services (providing customers more granular choice relevant to their needs).
With increased data breaches and fraud, cybersecurity will remain a core focus of FinTech: we’ll see progress in authentication with biometrics (e.g. retina/fingerprints recognition on mobile devices), in protecting data privacy with cryptographic encryption “tokenization”, in detecting new forms of fraud with real-time monitoring, big data, “behavioral biometrics” (e.g. way a mouse cursor is used), geo-location, device tracking, and new standards (Fido Alliance UAF - Universal Authentication Framework). To sum it up, digitization will continue to reshape financial services in the years to come!
Q: What is one piece of advice about navigating your career that you wish you knew earlier?
Nolwenn: Whatever your role is, think in terms of influence: how will you influence ideas, decision-making, perceptions, funding allocation, collaboration, culture itself… Make it part of your responsibility. Focus on understanding issues end to end as opposed to the only piece of a puzzle you’re officially in charge of – most problems are complex and need to be addressed in their plurality to be solved.
To progress your career, you need to perform, but this probably won’t be sufficient. Your contribution must be visible and expressed in terms of business impacts. Women are typically socialized not “to brag”, but they need to overcome the discomfort of communicating about their accomplishments – directly, in subtle ways, not to trigger negative reactions (there is a likability penalty when women don’t conform with stereotypes and expected behaviors) and through “allies”.
Last – take the time to network: many job opportunities will come from your network, inside and outside your company. Participate in events from the many communities you belong to (your industry, school, friends’ circles, political/religious groups you may be affiliated to…). Talk to people, connect & follow up with them regularly. Help and serve these communities (e.g. making introductions, sharing information, offering expertise…). CLUBCONNECT offers opportunities to expand your network: leverage it.
Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?
Nolwenn: I have been given many opportunities to take on roles in various domains thanks to my adaptability: I am an agile learner and able to lead in ambiguous contexts when things are not already defined or structured or easy: from Financial Planning and Analysis, I have been given the opportunity to join an IT department to implement an ERP system (I had to quickly learn the software, along with some program management skills and SQL coding), I was then given the opportunity to move from France to the US (I needed to become quickly fluent in English), then changed companies and my various roles at my current company have involved learning Product Management, Business Development, Relationship Management with Financial Institutions, Payments, Pricing, and enough of Spanish so I could understand the contracts we were negotiating in Latin America. Not everyone is comfortable investing the time and effort to learn new domains, but it certainly opens doors.
In addition to my continuous learning, my empathy helps me understand different perspectives and challenges me to find solutions the various parties will be comfortable embracing. I am also passionate and resilient, catalyzing energies and rallying troops to deliver results, even in times of challenge.
Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?
Nolwenn: I wish I had discovered mentorship in my early career. When I realized that such a thing existed, I started approaching leaders I had interacted with in the work context, whom I admired, and who were in different organizations than mine, and asked them if they would mentor me. The fact that there was already a level of relatedness probably made it easier for them to accept – they had seen me in meetings, knew the kind of person I was. They provided moral support in challenging times and had my best interest in mind when giving advice from their own experience and knowledge. Some of them have been sponsors as well, leveraging their position of influence as advocates and helping me get a promotion.
I am also part of a mentoring circle where members brainstorm together on ways to address specific professional situations. The variety of viewpoints is incredibly rich and valuable.
Given how beneficial mentorship has been for me, I have also been taking the time to mentor others - women and men who have approached me directly, through our company mentorship programs or through external programs like Tech Women, an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In addition to contributing to others, I am experiencing this as an opportunity for me to grow: I continuously learn through my mentees (about their organizations, their domain, their technology, their political context…) and I get exposed to a lot of scenarios that I need to think about before recommending a way to approach them.
Q: What are the leadership traits that have led to your successes?
Nolwenn:Driven by purpose, I regularly connect what I do and what we do as a team to a broader mission and meaning. From this comes inspiration & energy. I believe in authenticity, transparency, building trust and mutual respect. I believe in empathy, empowerment and engaging teams. I like the “servant leader model”: I focus on what will energize my team (autonomy, mastery, growth), how I can help remove the distractors or blockers, how I can give the team visibility and help create a sense of fulfillment, while exercising “radical candor” so people know their strengths and also areas to focus on for growth.
My greatest pleasure is to see teams collaborate, have fun and deliver amazing results that forward the missions we serve and impact the lives of people.
Q: What are other roles you have?
Nolwenn: I am passionate about gender diversity and inclusion. I believe gender equality needs to be treated as the business imperative it is and that women’s voices need to be heard. So I volunteer my time as the Co-Chair of the French American Women Executive Circles at the French American Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco, as a committee member of CLUB CONNECT and most importantly as the President of my company’s Women’s affinity group, Unity, serving currently about 1,800 members globally. In that latter capacity, I partner with my company’s senior leadership in its endeavor to promote a culture of inclusion and foster female leadership. I lead a steering committee of about 40 volunteers across the globe who run many programs that provide growth opportunities and help women have long lasting, fulfilling careers: Education workshops and webinars, Mentorship, Executive Shadowing, Affiliations with external D&I partners, Speaker Series (including a Tech track), Outreach opportunities to develop the next generation of women in Tech (hosting school girls on campus, providing in house coding summer camps for employees’ children).
To increase my impact I have taken on sharing publicly my passion, thoughts and learnings on panels, and even in a first publication: I wrote the chapter on Diversity and Inclusion for the French book RH & Digital (“Digital RH”), which won the 2016 best HR book prize in France.
Q: Fun Fact: What do you like to do to unwind?
Nolwenn: I am a lover of the arts. I purposely book concerts, exhibitions, talks and plays in advance in my calendar so I have nurturing moments and experience a fulfilling and balanced life. I also love reading and rare are the evenings I am not ending my day with a few pages of literature: it helps me disconnect from my day, and enter a space favorable to sleep.