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"Talented female experts and leaders would rather do than talk about doing"

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#WomeninFinTech celebrates some of the leading women driving change in the financeand technology industry, as they discuss their early days and advice to younger generations. Today, we asked Shân Millie, Founder of Bright Blue Hare, to give us her thoughts on InsurTech at the moment. 

ShancircleHow did you start your career?

In today’s world, you’re allowed to have more than one career — so I’d say I’m on at least my second, and maybe my third! Before founding Bright Blue Hare, I spent 25 years in publishing (aka ‘the content biz’), creating products, brands and engagement tools for professional audiences, mainly in Financial Services. My very first job in Publishing was as Editorial Assistant in an academic reference publisher: I worked with very clever people, eminent in their various fields in Science and Humanities, to help them share their knowledge with others in impactful, useful and creative ways. My love of language, logic and lateral thinking was trained, channeled and honed. And I learned to love technology for what it enabled us to do in that business — the day I arrived, the typewriters were replaced with amstrads.

What was your lightbulb moment?

I try to have ‘lightbulb moments’ every day! I am passionate still about helping others tell their stories, share their knowledge and engage the Spark — with their co-workers, customers and wider worlds. I spend a lot of time researching, investigating and helping to generate innovation, and different ways of thinking about familiar problems and new opportunities.

I’ve increasingly realised that ‘Technology’ is being used to stifle ideas and involvement, just as much as it is enabling the phenomenal developments we’re starting to see across all areas of insurance.

I really love being part of other people’s ‘lightbulb moments’, and especially when that results in better business and personal growth for them. Along with many others, I had a ‘lightbulb moment’ about InsurTech as it began to emerge in 2013/14; and I’ve increasingly realised that ‘Technology’ is being used to stifle ideas and involvement, just as much as it is enabling the phenomenal developments we’re starting to see across all areas of insurance. The process of editing The InsurTech Book (Wiley, April 2018), really hammered home for me the importance of breaking down barriers between ‘technologists’ and ‘non-technologists’: critical thinking, open-mindedness and a desire to understand and apply that understanding is what REALLY matters, not whether you have a relevant degree, are a professional coder or can build neural networks. Let’s not build any more barriers to collaboration!

Why do we see so few women in tech? (or finance)

They are there — we need many more, but, there are more than you’d think! When was the last time you saw a FinTech, Finance, Tech or InsurTech event with more women speakers than men — or even, as many. I see complacency in how events programmes are put together, and opinions sought and reported on, so-called ‘thought-leaders’ built up and given such loud voices that others are drowned out. It is definitely my experience that talented female experts and leaders would rather do than talk about doing, and I get it. But, we do need to put ourselves forward more energetically, too if we want to play our part in equalising things.

What advice do you have for women starting out their career in Tech?

I’d give the same advice to anyone starting their career full-stop: strive to be in a position to do what gives you fulfillment; be a lifelong learner; seek out supportive mentors; actively develop your network of friends, allies, interesting people from the widest pool, not just your discipline, your sector or where you feel most comfortable; make and keep friends who have your back, for the good days and the bad.

I’d like to think that the word ‘InsurTech’ will cease to be the sexy label for novelty and investment bonanza that it still is in 2018, and instead become synonymous with an opening up of minds, technologies and business models.

Why is the #WomeninFinTech movement important?

It’s all about visibility and support. If we agree that there is a need to equalise the balance of voices, of leadership, of attitudes to work and employee benefits — that is, to be a strong presence — there is no better way than to combine forces. That visibility can create new agendas, shift mindsets, alter perceptions and, very importantly, help to take away some of the fear for young women thinking about building their careers. To feel part of a bigger movement, to have access to experience and support, to feel validated is important for everyone, but arguably vital at the early stages of a new career. There is nothing more powerful than ‘If she can, I can too.’ I’d also highlight algo-bias as a very specific ‘near and present danger’ that must be tackled, certainly not left to the technologists alone; recruiting women into #AI roles at all levels will be critical to this.

What will the future of InsurTech look like?

I’d like to think that the word ‘InsurTech’ will cease to be the sexy label for novelty and investment bonanza that it still is in 2018, and instead become synonymous with an opening up of minds, technologies and business models that results in products and services that truly meet customer need. I do see many tech-led solutions looking for problems; yet also long-standing problems that could be solved by the right tech applied well. On-demand, pay-as-you-go, wallet-based approaches are clearly here to stay — I think for commercial as well as consumer — and it feels obvious that we will see cross-sector and cross-company collaboration (so Life, Health and General ‘bundled’). Perhaps Open Insurance (a la Open Banking) is coming faster than we think?

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