Digital Identity Net, whose OneID service empowers people to leverage their identity, decide who has access to it, and how they share it, is a finalist for the Diversity & Inclusion Award at the UK FinTech Awards 2021. Fiona Jones, the fintech company’s marketing content lead, is also a finalist for Trainee of the Year.
Jones and Becca Menzler, business manager at Digital Identity Net, discuss their and the company’s work, and what it would mean to be recognised with these awards at the ceremony on 22 July in London.
FinTech Intel: What’s your background and how did you get to where you are today?
Jones: I graduated from Leeds University—having studied Economics—straight into the middle of the pandemic last July. A few graduate offers fell through as companies had to pull back during the uncertainty I’m sure everyone remembers and may still be experiencing now. It was a difficult time to be entering the job market but I found my silver lining in a job with Digital Identity Net, joining its product team as an analyst. I already had a keen interest in the fintech sector, having written my undergraduate dissertation on bank switching behaviours and challenger banks.
Since then I’ve moved around quite a bit thanks to some great mentors within the company, and am now enjoying an incredible role working in content for the marketing team.
FinTech Intel: What’s it like to train and work in the fintech sector? Would you recommend it to others?
Fiona Jones: For me, starting my career in the fintech sector has meant a wealth of opportunities, variation of work and just wild opportunities that I couldn’t have seen coming. In fintech, there’s always something new happening, some developments that impact on your work, whether directly or indirectly. Most importantly, being in this sector has meant working with some of the most impressive yet personable colleagues, some of whom have also been great mentors to me both professionally and personally.
FinTech Intel: What would it mean to you to win Trainee of the Year?
Jones: For me, this award would be the icing on the cake for a year that has been well beyond my expectations for my first year of work post-university. Since starting at Digital Identity Net, I’ve learnt so many new skills, moved teams, organised events, written articles, organised socials—the list goes on. To win this award would be a great way to acknowledge how far I’ve come in the past year as well as cementing the integral part I play in the wider team at our company.
FinTech Intel: Where do you see your career going?
Fiona Jones: Always a tough question to answer, especially since I’m not where I imagined I would be one year into my career. I love this sector and industry, and am so passionate about the potential that fintech companies have. I really enjoy creating, curating and publishing content that focuses on the socially beneficially areas of our product, OneID. I also have a keen interest in ethical finance and socially-focused fintech, so perhaps I will hone in on this area of the fintech sector specifically. For the foreseeable future, however, I plan on remaining here at Digital Identity Net where our journey is just beginning. Being a key member of a team as it grows (we’ve tripled in size in the past year!) means I wasn’t the new-kid for long—in the best way possible!
FinTech Intel: How would you describe diversity and inclusion within the fintech sector right now? What are the big challenges and successes?
Menzler: There are many struggles that the fintech sector faces when it comes to diversity, mostly reflecting what we see generally in working life. There is some evidence of progress in ethnic diversity, although not at management level. However, one that stands out is gender imbalance. With less than a third of the sector being women, it’s so important to us that we go the extra mile to find, attract and retain more females at all levels in the fintech sector.
There is a significant challenge in drawing women into fintech and much of the reason for this is that we see self-affirming assumptions and assertions about tech not being an attractive career path for women, not helped by the fact that most management and leadership positions are held by men.
That’s why the work that organisations such as Women in Technology and in our own space, Women in Identity, is so important. We also have our own Women in DIN organisation to promote opportunities and support to address gender imbalance across the fintech space. Such organisations have found a voice and are making a difference, albeit slowly. Also, we would encourage employers to use job boards such as Ada’s List and STEM Women that specifically target and encourage women in fintech. These are successful initiatives and deserve our full support.
FinTech Intel: What are some of the initiatives being carried out at Digital Identity Net?
Menzler: When our current chief executive officer took over in September 2020, we were a company of 12. All white, all male. We have worked hard to discover new ways in which we can find wonderful and diverse people to join our team. There are now 32 of us and we are almost 50/50 in gender and have a range of team members from many backgrounds and ethnicities. We aren’t very well known yet and have to go above and beyond to stand out from the crowd and showcase that Digital Identity Net is a great place to work. This can take time and effort from many members of our team and they all put in their time willingly as this is a topic we are very passionate about, and we don’t compromise or take short cuts.
We have found offering flexible and remote working, building a culture that everyone buys in to, investing in our people, and providing enhanced benefits for all our employees has really made a difference when recruiting. Candidates see our team values come through when they meet us and often comment on our recruitment approach.
Throughout our hiring process, we use various different methods to ensure there is no bias and gives a fair opportunity to every candidate. We have reached out to many charities that help refugees, under privileged and those from ethnic backgrounds find work. Being a small organisation, we want to make sure we get this right from the very beginning and as we grow, we want to be as inclusive and diverse as we possibly can. We don’t just want to achieve the minimum, we want to be different, stand out and make a real difference.
Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of Digital Identity Net, embedded in our culture and every aspect of our business. We aim to make Digital Identity Net a place where everyone feels empowered and loves where they are and what they do. The pandemic has enabled us to operate fully remotely without a need for a fixed office location. This has enabled us to employ people from right across the UK and gives opportunities to reach a wider pool of people who have struggled to find good jobs in their location. We also work hard on our job adverts to ensure that we portray a want for passionate individuals, even if that means not always taking the most qualified.
FinTech Intel: What would it mean to win the Diversity and Inclusion Award?
Menzler: It already means so much to us that we have even been shortlisted for this award and our team is extremely proud. To win would be absolutely amazing. It would be such a great honour to be rewarded for all the hard work and passion we have put into creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. As we grow, there will be so much more we can offer and we’re excited to give opportunities to many more individuals. Our people are awesome and we love to celebrate each and every one of them!