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Fintech driving gender diversity in Chinese financial services

The demand for talent in the financial technology industry means that it has a greater mix of staff than China’s banking sector as a whole

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2016, 9:43pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2016, 9:43pm

The growth of the financial technology industry in China has the potential to be a catalyst for change when it comes to the numbers of women in senior roles in the country’s financial services industry, according to new research.

The numbers of women in senior levels in China and Hong Kong remains below global averages, though this may be starting to change.

This year, just 8 per cent of executive committee members in Chinese financial services companies were women, compared to 14 per cent in Hong Kong, and a global average of 16 per cent, a report from management consultancy firm Oliver Wyman found. The report noted, however, that of the top 20 fintech companies in China, 50 per cent had women in the founder, chief executive, or senior management roles.

China remains one of the world’s leading centres for fintech, despite recent moves to tighten regulations, particularly in the online peer to peer lending sector. A report from Citigroup published earlier this year found that Chinese fintech firms now had a similar number, if not more, clients as the largest banks.

Pan Jing, chief marketing officer of, told Oliver Wyman’s researchers: “The internet has become a main driver of the growth [in the fintech industry], and there is a shortage of good talent. This has created more opportunities for women to move forward in their careers, not because they are women but because they are good managers.”

The Oliver Wyman report, written by Astrid Jäkel, a partner for financial services at its Zurich office, added: “The fintech boom is creating strong demand for staff with the required technical, financial, operational, and service capabilities, especially in middle and senior management. This increases the likelihood that a fintech employer will overlook concerns about a woman’s current or future family commitments, if she has the desired skills and experience.”

It is not unusual for employers in China to ask about a woman’s family commitments at interview.

As well as greater numbers of women, John Mullally, director financial services, at Robert Walters Hong Kong, said that the fintech industry was attracting a different type of employee from the traditional financial services sector.

“Fintech is proving particularly attractive to generation Y candidates and those with an entrepreneurial mindset,” he said, noting that globally young people were less interested in roles in banking than in the past.

Mullally said that Hong Kong was behind North America and many European countries when it comes to gender diversity, but “in the last few years, we have seen financial services companies in Hong Kong pay much more attention to this when it comes to senior leadership positions. Many of our clients in financial services now require that we provide the same number of female candidates as male ones when they are recruiting for senior roles.”

Bernhard Kotanko, the head of financial services and managing director Asia-Pacific of Oliver Wyman, told the South China Morning Post that while the gender diversity of executive committees globally is increasing slowly, “at the current rate of change it would take until 2048 to reach an average of 30 per cent of women on executive committees”.

In China though, Kotanko said: “Fintech can be a catalyst for change, as it enables companies to showcase the benefit of having more diverse teams.”