What is your mission? Say it out loud, write it down, and set a plan for achieving it, writes Mel Tsiaprazis, chief operating officer at Nivaura

#IWD2021: Mel Tsiaprazis of Nivaura on excelling in fintech

International Women’s Day is a very special day for many. I hold it close to my heart, not just because it’s also my birthday(!), but because it is a day to reflect and celebrate our achievements and those of women around the world. 

I grew up without access to basic financial services and am immensely proud of my journey from there to leading operations at an industry-disrupting fintech. Getting here took a huge leap of faith.

One day, I packed my suitcase and flew to London from Australia as a first generation Greek woman with no job lined up. My personal circumstances growing up, and many brave steps in the dark since then, led me to identify my personal mission: to support founders who are driving financial inclusion and societal advancement in regions without access to services that are common in more developed economies. Sadly, 56% of all those without a bank account are women. This makes my mission all the more important to me, and especially today. 

It is this mission that found me at Crown Agents Bank, a UK regulated provider of wholesale foreign exchange and cross-border payment services across frontier and emerging markets. I truly believed in the mission this organisation had set for itself but was astounded to learn that all their processes remained fully manual.

My time at the bank was spent leading a successful digital transformation programme that achieved 70% robotic process automation. As a result of this work, the bank was able to provide a greater breadth of services far more efficiently to its customers across emerging markets, driving financial inclusion. 

Mel Tsiaprazis - Nivaura

Mel Tsiaprazis, chief operating officer at Nivaura

From there, I stepped into my role at Nivaura, the only company to be digitising the capital markets workflow, end-to-end. Upon understanding that capital markets broadly remain the exclusive stronghold of established corporations and their services, joining the Nivaura team was a natural next step in my mission. 

Due to the high cost of capital acquisition, many small- and medium-sized businesses are excluded from this form of financial service, despite the fact that it could aid their corporate growth and fuel great ideas. The democratisation of capital markets will enable the provision of capital to all organisations. Access will drive company growth and fund great ideas that will ultimately improve our world. 

I recognise that taking Nivaura from a startup to a successful scale-up and driving its commercial expansion into Asia and Latin America, are huge achievements. All too often we don’t take the time to reflect on far we’ve come. 

I keep myself on track by recognising there are moments to be brave (because everything is possible if you believe), take advantage (I stumbled into fintech on the back of an international business and marketing degree and have since topped this up with my Harvard Business MBA), and knowing you’re enough (because the best version of yourself is unedited by others’ expectations).

I want to leave the reader with a thought. There is still a long way to go before women and individuals from any minority group are given equal opportunities as standard. This will only come when true diversity of thought is prioritised as a business strategy. But if I can set myself a mission and achieve all that I have, overcoming the challenges along the way, then so too can you.

What is your mission? Say it out loud, write it down, and set a plan for achieving it. Arm yourself with the values of being brave, taking advantage of opportunities, and knowing you are enough! And of course, find yourself a network of supportive colleagues and mentors. 

I hope you can all take a moment to reflect on all you have achieved so far on this International Women’s Day.