Female entrepreneurship in a fintech startup

TOPICS: Entrepreneurship , Finance & Investment

by Lucy Liu

If you are using the big banks to run international payments, you probably are spending 4-5% more than you need to. This challenge was the genesis for Airwallex. Two of my co-founders ran a café in Melbourne’s Docklands, but were getting stung by huge international transaction fees when importing goods, such as coffee cups, from overseas. They said enough was enough, and from there, Airwallex’s platform was born.

Since then, we have helped many small businesses in Australia reduce their costs and scale globally with our digital platform. To help these companies grow has always been my and Airwallex’s motivation. Our major product releases were often in response to our customers’ requests – we listened to what they needed, and we delivered.

I was 25 years old when I co-founded Airwallex. As much as I do not let my age or gender define me, there still are the occasional challenging moments. My age – along with being a woman – did not always work in my favour. In the early days, people would often double-take when they read from my business card I was a co-founder. I even had someone say to me, “That was a really good conversation, but can I meet your boss next time?”.

Female entrepreneurs possess many unique advantages especially in terms of leadership and innovation, which are often undiscovered or underestimated. Fixing all the challenges and biases that women face is not going to be easy, and will not happen overnight. However, let’s acknowledge the positive steps that the tech industry has taken in recent times. There has been more conversation, awareness and conscientiousness on gender diversity and equality in the last few years than ever before.

Any initiative that supports women’s successes – no matter the role or industry – has a hugely important role to play. Celebrating successful female leaders can only work to challenge misconceptions around what women in business can achieve.

In my view, the most powerful way we can generate meaningful positive change for women in tech is for tech businesses to challenge their culture to attract more women. The first and most important change has to be attitudinal – any stereotypical behaviour within teams needs to be nipped in the bud and addressed early.

The second step is to introduce programs that will benefit women. This includes the likes of mentoring and development initiatives, but we’ve also found that introducing flexible working arrangements, such as remote working policies, have had a significant impact on helping our teams manage work and family responsibilities.

An important way that female leaders can support and encourage other women is to be a beacon for them. For me, this involves embracing every opportunity that comes my way in my own professional life, and being an active member of the fintech community. By raising my profile as a founder, leader, and role model, I hope to inspire other women to consider a career in tech. To be brave enough to pursue your dreams, and to find the rhythm that suits your life – this would be the key for all women who wish to become future leaders.

About the Author

Lucy Liu is Co-founder and President of Airwallex. She is responsible for the company’s branding and operations, and has been involved with the company since its early days. Before establishing Airwallex, she was an investment consultant in CICC (China International Capital Corporation) and also served as a board director of Hong Stone Investment Development Limited, a Hong Kong based investment company. With her outstanding entrepreneurial achievements, Lucy has won a series of awards including Forbes “30 Young Entrepreneurs in Asia” (2017) and Ernst & Young “Australian Entrepreneur of the Year” (2018).