Financial Narrative is proud to share the stories and accomplishments of our members. In this ongoing series, we’ll spotlight our members, what they’re doing with their careers, and their views on current and emerging trends in financial marketing.
From journalism to corporate communications and now, startup advising, Amber Skinner-Jozefson, advisor at e.pop and Piper, has been in constant search of better, faster, and more creative ways to communicate. In today’s far-reaching conversation Amber shares her passion for fintech innovation, building networks, team-focused leadership and the rapidly expanding diversity in global financial services.
You’ve had a front-row seat during the last decade of the fintech revolution and its empowering force in the market today. From a communications standpoint, what are the major shifts you’ve seen in this space over the last few years?
Well, to say that everything has had to move online and be digital is kind of frivolous to say at this stage, but a couple of points that I think are really interesting from a communications point of view, and have been made finer by the pandemic, are communication channels. With everything moving online and becoming more digital, new communication channels and tools have really opened the door for amazing innovation in the fintech space. In the UK, for example, things like open banking, neo banks and the B2B products, services and new business models being built around that are really interesting. I would love to see a little bit more innovation on the payments side, especially in the U. S. which is a little bit behind in comparison to European counterparts, but I think that’s gearing up as well now.
Apart from that, content, subject matter and tone has also really changed and accelerated in the past couple of years. Changes in society have really been reflected in communications and especially in fintech, probably more readily than in traditional financial services, and that’s really great to see. People are really putting their values out there, taking a stance on things that are going on in society from racism to environmental sustainability and putting a stamp on them in terms of their branding, their communications and being a little bit more bold about what it means.
What are major trends in today’s startup and fintech space that have caught your attention and excite you in your career at the moment?
There has been no dearth of innovation and entrepreneurship amongst women and people of color these past few years. It’s great to see founding teams made up of various ethnic diversity, gender diversity, and even sector diversity now in the forefront. The availability and accessibility of capital right now is also making these stories bubble up and gain a lot of attention, especially in Silicon Valley.
After over a decade in various communications leadership roles in fintech companies (Oakam, LoalApp), you’re now stepping into a new role as a startup advisor. Tell us about why you’re moving into this space and the complexities of this transition.
Let me start from a pure interest point of view and say that there are just so many fantastic ideas and ambitious young companies popping up all over the place that I look at and say: Wow, I really think the world needs that and I want to help bring that to life. I’m now working with two companies that fall exactly in that has-to-exist-in-the-world category. One is e.pop, which is electronic proof of purchase and the data story that goes along there, and the other is Piper, which is in the HR tech space. Piper focuses on the question of manager performance, what that means in a whole organization in terms of efficiency, employee engagement and basically making managers better. I looked at these two projects and thought, they need to exist in the world, and knowledge base and skill set can really help bring them to life, so that’s when I entered the advisor realm.
It really feels like we’re in the Golden Age of startups, especially tech-driven startups. It’s exciting to see the amount of capital that’s out there right now, the market interest, all the ideas and founding teams that are becoming more diverse and have more access to resources. There are a lot of really good ideas in a lot of different places.
In leadership, you’ve talked about the importance of having the right people around you and how “teamwork makes the dream work”. How do you go about building networks and how has that changed in recent years?
Building networks has been key for my whole career, but it’s been really supercharged since the pandemic. I’ve been hiring, it feels like nonstop, for the past two years. I’m constantly reaching out and talking to people, building networks, and trying to really understand not only what that person can bring to the table, but also what their ambitions and goals are. It’s just a question of constant conversations for me and I really like taking the first-stage interviews with hires to really find out what makes that person tick: what they are good at, what they want to be good at, and where they are hustling now.
Apart from that, I’ve also seen a tremendous amount of community that’s been built up, whether it’s accelerators or even Slack communities, of people who are having the same issues, looking for the same things. In the past 18 months, as a result of these expanding communities, there’s been more of a willingness to share ideas without a competitive tinge. Being able to join and get value out of these communities is, dare I say, much easier now.
Looking forward 5 years, what would you like to see the fintech domain look like?
If I think about 5 years from now I think about the populations that fintechs serve. What I would love to see are more products that provide more equity in terms of accessibility to things like capital, financial resources, and wealth-building tools. I would like to see women in emerging markets being able to access capital to build their business made much, much easier.
To achieve that, a really good start is to make sure that the folks building these tools, these projects, these companies are as diverse as the folks that are being served.