Layla White worked within the procurement teams of banks for 10 years.
While there is no better place to witness the latest innovations in financial technology, she grew frustrated with the fact that most of her time was spent negotiating back and forth over incredibly simple contracts that are largely the same as each other.
TechPassport grew out of her lived-in frustrations with the processes she knew back to front and the way these irritations spread across the entire financial ecosystem.
She founded the company in 2019 and had both its first product and customer in 2020.
TechPassport aims to make it easier for banks, suppliers and startups to collaborate. Startups can sell their products to banks, and banks have a marketplace in which to shop for products.
Fintech Intel spoke with White to talk about TechPassport, the relationships between banks and fintechs, talent in the UK and being an advocate for women in the industry.
Given TechPassport’s position in the market, what are banks and other financial services firms most requesting of fintech providers in terms of products and services?
From what we can see they just want everything faster. That runs right through the types of products they are interested in—they want faster payments, they want to make faster decisions, they want their tech stack to integrate fully so they can share information between systems with the touch of a button. They want to generally innovate faster while not sacrificing their regulatory and compliance obligations.
In terms of the specific sectors we’re seeing, a lot of financial institutions are starting to explore the metaverse in a very real way, defining what the financial services use cases might be and who they should be partnering with.
How are these requirements reflecting broader trends, in both the consumer and enterprise segments?
We live in the information age, so I suppose this need for pace is reflective of the fact that everyone has grown used to having everything right now, this very second. Why should businesses expect any different from the suppliers they work with?
What are banks and other financial services firms demanding of fintech providers in terms of technology and results? Are fintechs being given room and time to test and improve?
It depends on the profile of the fintech as well as how urgent the business need is. If they are buying your product for an urgent problem they have, they don’t want half a year of workshops and development and tweaking. They want an out-of-the-box solution from a trusted provider that they can be assured will get the job done. They’ll generally go to more mature suppliers for these, so of course, the expectations will be different.
The majority of people within the technology or innovation teams in banks love innovation, and want to see new and exciting technology progress and change the way things are done.
If the idea is good enough, and they really see the value in how an idea can reduce risk or save them money, then from what we have seen and experienced they will want to partner and help you along your journey any way they can.
How are the relationships between the legacy institutions and disrupters evolving? Can we expect more integrations and partnerships, or are acquisitions more likely?
For the near future, I would suggest integrations and partnerships will win out, simply because it’s less of an economic risk.
This doesn’t mean we won’t see any acquisitions, but they will only be if there is a bargain to be had and the due diligence and risk analysis have been very thorough. Incidents such as the recent FTX debacle will be encouraging that as well.
What are your thoughts on the fintech industry in the UK and its current state in terms of talent and opportunity? What can it do attract more talent, across a more diverse range of people?
I can only really speak from experience on this, and the talent I see in my team makes me very confident in the talent pool we’ve got in the UK. Our team is made up of different ethnicities, genders and sexualities, and it has all happened organically.
I’m not sure if explicit diversity schemes work, really. My advice to other fintechs would be to hire based on personality and attitude rather than experience.
Could you tell us about the work you do as a member and advocate for women of fintech?
We have been members of Women of FinTech for four years now and have supported and sponsored several of its events and STEM projects. We whole heartedly advocate for equality in this space.
The first Women of FinTech event I attended was a fireside chat with Anne Boden. She talked about setting up Starling Bank. It was a sell-out event and completely inspirational.
She spoke about how to achieve gender balance—we just need to hire more women. This simple answer was so obvious that no one there could argue with it!
How many women do you see working in the fintech industry, at both startups and banks?
There are a number of women in the sector, but visibility of them at c-level and above is not enough to warrant the label of equality yet and that is where we want to get to.
There should not be gender pay gaps in this day and age, so we need to petition for women to be present in all levels of a company and with equal pay.
As a female founder, I can set that standard in my own company as well as be visible to show others what can be achieved.
I also have two daughters who I am paving the way for and showing them that anything is possible, and their gender cannot and will not hold them back.