Even in 2022, it’s still a man’s world at Europe’s biggest legacy banks — only around a quarter of top management is women.
But what’s the picture at the neobanks that claim to be disrupting the stuffy finance industry?
According to Sifted analysis, women are just as lacking in the key decision-making roles at Europe’s top challenger banks. That’s despite the fact that many market themselves as providing financial services for the underserved — including women.
Sifted asked 18 of Europe’s top challenger banks how many women they have in their management teams and on their board of directors.
The data for the 17 that responded showed that, on average, women hold 28% of top management positions — about on a par with the average across the legacy banks they are supposed to be disrupting, which according to a recent Reuters analysis stands at 25%.
When it comes to neobanks’ board of directors, it’s an even bleaker picture. Women hold an average of only 26% board seats at Europe’s top digital banks — a whole 10% below the 37% average at legacy banks.
This data goes beyond the question of female founders by looking more broadly at women in leadership. It complements existing data around the European investment gender gap, the board gender gap and the pay gap among the fintech workforce.
How do Europe’s neobanks compare?
Women in the C-suite
Starling and Tandem are the only European challenger banks with female CEOs.
Anne Boden has been CEO at Starling since she became the first woman to found an independent bank in 2014. Former Credit Suisse executive Susie Aliker was appointed as CEO at Tandem in June last year after its cofounder Ricky Knox stepped down.
The neobanks that came out on top when it comes to female representation in C-suite roles were Zopa and Tandem, which averaged 44% women, followed by Starling, with 43%.
Again using Europe’s legacy banks as a point of comparison, the Netherlands’ Rabobank came out top with 50% women at C-suite level, followed by Standard Chartered with 43%.
At the bottom of the neobank rankings was bunq, which had no women in top management roles, followed by Revolut, which has just 9% of top management roles occupied by women.
Women on boards
When it comes to the boardroom, the situation at these fintechs is again worse than at traditional banks.
At Europe’s top challenger banks, the average female board representation is 26% — 11 percentage points behind legacy banks’ average of 37%.
The best of the bunch is Monzo, which has 50% women on its board of directors. Close behind is Starling, whose female representation across the business is reflected in its board, where women occupy 44% of the seats.
At the other end of the spectrum, Monese, bunq and Viva Wallet have zero female board representation.
Curve also has no women on the board, after its COO Nathalie Oestmann resigned from the board earlier this month.
It's worth pointing out that the majority of Europe’s top neobanks have over 30% female representation at board level — the threshold that initiatives such as the 30% Club define as the “critical mass” at which minority voices become heard.
But the overall average is dragged down by the digital banks that haven’t appointed a single female board member.
Falling short on promises
Last time Sifted took a look at gender representation at Europe’s top fintechs two years ago, Wise said it had committed to having women make up 40% of “senior leadership” roles by 2021.
But it’s fallen short of that promise. Back then, 27% of its executive team was women. Today, that figure stands at 33%.
Fellow fintech unicorn Monzo had also made big promises. The bank hired a diversity chief, Sheree Atcheson, in late 2019 and signed up to the Women in Finance Charter, which included the pledge to have women make up 40% of its exec committee and board by 2020.
But Atcheson left Monzo after 10 months, and although it’s made progress on its board, which is now 50/50 women and men, its leadership team still falls short of this promise two years after the deadline — standing at 33% women today.
Gender representation at executive level at OakNorth, the UK challenger bank for entrepreneurs, has actually deteriorated since Sifted last analysed the data — declining from 20% in 2019 to 17% in 2022.
It’s a similar story at Berlin’s embattled N26, where the decline is even sharper — from 22% in 2019 to 17% in 2022. N26 lost its COO in January, leaving it with no full-time women in the C-suite.
Across fintech globally, the Fintech Diversity Radar, compiled by global fintech think tank findexable, found that women make up 11% of all board members and 19% of company executives.
Boiling it down to cold hard cash — it is fintech after all — multiple studies show that diverse leadership correlates with improved profitability and productivity.
In its most recent diversity report, for example, consultancy McKinsey found that companies with more than 30% female executives were more likely to financially outperform those with a percentage between 10% and 30%.
And if fintech is the future of finance, and these neobanks achieve their goals of replacing incumbents, what they look like matters.
Our list of 18 neobanks was selected according to the highest valuations on Dealroom’s list of European challenger banks. Sifted did not receive data about the gender breakdown at the C-suite at Curve.
At different fintechs,"executive team" can mean different things. But it’s typically the most senior people who sit in the C-suite and then report to the board, hence they have "chief" in their title — like CEO or CFO.