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"The #WomenInFinTech movement is critical to create positive change"

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#WomeninFinTech are leading the way, and we spoke with Shruthi Rao of Adapt Ready about her experiences in the tech industry, and when she realised her "lightbulb moment". 

Shruthi Rao InsurTech Rising USHow did you start your career?

In college, my strengths were in the STEM subjects. Having attained an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, I started my career as a software engineer. However, I was also drawn to the broader aspects of business success and so after my MBA, I began working as a Management Consultant across a number of industries. It was this breadth of experience that helped me identify the need for organisations to better understand their risk and exposures; I was fortunate that having a technical/programming background, I knew the technology existed to deliver this to decision makers, and so I co-founded Adapt Ready.

What was your lightbulb moment?

There had been a series of natural catastrophes in fairly quick succession (this was back in 2011-12), and my clients were worried that they didn’t understand the entirety of the impact across their supply chain. It felt like there had to be a way of using data to predict, map and mitigate - after all I knew that we had the capability to understand consumer issues in this way. There were some solutions available - but they really only delivered a partial picture – lots of data but not fully comprehensive and not delivered instantaneously with any sort of analysis or conclusion.

The exponential rise of Big Data, AI and machine learning at that time meant that it's possible to deliver transparency about the potential risk of future disasters to businesses and decision makers; and once I realised that, Adapt Ready was inevitable!

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

Traditionally a women’s role was as homemaker and as we have progressed and more women have gone out to work they have gravitated or been pushed into the traditional roles of care-taking, beauty and similar professions. Tech and STEM careers have evolved quickly but the support and inspiration hasn’t been strong enough to guide young women into them – and particularly more so in FinTech/InsurTech. There are phenomenal women in tech from Grace Hopper to Dr Sue Black but there are still not enough women entering these roles.

#WomenInTech is empowering women into tech careers and this is vital for both the tech sector and the diversity agenda.

Sadly, no matter how talented they are, nearly 53% of the women who start their careers in the tech field switch to a different field; there is still an unconscious bias which is extremely limiting.

I was passed over for a promotion in a previous role despite being in the top 2% performers and more qualified than the employee who was promoted instead - because he had recently gotten married and was the ‘breadwinner’ and therefore deserved it more. Given the personal sacrifices it can take to make it to the top of the tech profession, these biases discourage young professionals and they leave for more forgiving sectors.

Why is the #WomenInFinTech movement important?

#WomenInTech is empowering women into tech careers and this is vital for both the tech sector and the diversity agenda.

I have worked in male-dominated fields all my life and being a female founder working in the InsurTech space presents many of the same issues and challenges.

Adapt Ready is a multi-award winning business and we are working with giants of the insurance sector who see great value in the insight we bring their clients to mitigate risk, we have advisory support from several senior insurance executives, graduated from a prestigious startup accelerator programme and our technology is highly respected within the community and yet in raising funding, we are more challenged than many less accomplished start-ups; I can’t help but relate that at least in part, to us having a female CEO.

#WomenInFinTech and other initiatives are critical to break down unconscious bias and create positive changes especially where organisations and government have failed to provide the right support and incentives. Such policies can go a long way in ensuring that women not only choose these professions but thrive in them, which is good for society, GDP and bottom line.

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

I’d say to remember ABCD -- Acknowledge that it’s going to be tough and that you will meet bias and hurdles along the way, but be Brave and persevere. Call out prejudice where you see it and Don’t ever give up because the rewards and success are fantastic!

What has been your greatest moment to date?

There have been many in the last couple of years; our first proof of concept with a prestigious global insurance was a real landmark for Adapt Ready and it confirmed that our belief that we could empower underwriters and their clients with information was right.

I really believe that technology can act as a catalyst and facilitator for an already dynamic and successful industry.

However, I think being named ‘Risk Modelling technology of the Year’ at the Tech and Innovation Awards in September 2017 was probably the greatest moment. On the night one of the judges referred to Adapt Ready as ‘ insider trading for underwriters’ which I thought was a brilliant description! I also think it spoke volumes that we won in the mainstream category against established companies, rather than in a category that solely focused on start-ups and it marked a real departure for us as we continue to grow and work with more insurers and their clients. It makes me even more excited for what will come next.

What will the future of InsurTech look like?

I really believe that technology can act as a catalyst and facilitator for an already dynamic and successful industry. We shouldn’t be focusing simply on the design or selling of insurance policies; our real objective is to protect our customers and their balance sheets from the unexpected and give them peace of mind that they, their families and their businesses are protected no matter what happens; and I think InsurTech is at the heart of that.

Shruthi will be at InsurTech Rising US this May, discussing how to unlock the potential data holds >>

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