Simónn Wiechers, COO of Troygold, talks on how female thinking adds a competitive edge in FinTech

Simónn Wiechers, COO of Troygold, talks on how female thinking adds a competitive edge in FinTech

Written by Staff Writer

Sep 6, 2021

By Susan Symondson

 

Woman in FinTech

While the FinTech and technology sectors are making strides towards attracting more females to their senior ranks, still there are deep-rooted challenges to changing gender ratios, breaking stereotypes and celebrating women leaders taking up positions in C-Suite roles. 

Meet Simónn Wiechers, COO of Troygold, a FinTech startup in Stellenbosch, disrupting traditional concepts of financial freedom and ownership of real gold.

I sat down with Simónn Wiechers and found out how a self-described “very creative, bubbly, high energy individual” with a marketing background edged her way into the all-male head office of TroyGold.

 

Simónn Wiechers, COO of Troygold

“FinTech/Tech wasn’t so much my life’s ambition, but being part of a brand from the ground up was. I wanted to build something. I wanted to be able to look back on what we had accomplished and say, “I was there at the start. Look how far we have come!”. Troygold is innovative in every way, and being part of something so new and exciting gave me goosebumps”, said Wiechers.

Gender imbalance is a reality in the FinTech sector, but for Simónn, working at TroyGold has demonstrated how male allies are crucial to helping women succeed in this industry. It can be a climate where women’s voices are not supported, but Simónn says, “ you don’t need a loud voice to have a strong voice. I have a very well defined space carved out for myself at Troygold and would encourage other women to take up the industry’s challenge. Through webinars, workshops, networking sessions, and public forums, supportive, professional networks for women can reshape the landscape and drive change. However, more work needs to be done to share success stories so that women can support women”

As the industry heads into new directions, future skills won’t necessarily be identical to what is required today? However, Simónn believes that better gender diversity will have a critical impact.

“Things are developing very quickly. AI and Machine Learning are likely to mean that fewer coders and software developers will be needed. It will be about more than just coding: business development, customer empathy, and creativity will become even more crucial as FinTechs mature. In reality, tech is an intensely creative industry. It gives you a clear understanding of the increasingly digital world and strongly challenges notions of what’s possible. It teaches a way of thinking that enables us to problem solve at the drop of a hat. Troygold is an environment of “new-age tech”  it’s all about balance and hitting the sweet spot between tech and creativity. Our best Ideas yet have been when creative and technical come together and create magic. I always tell people straight off the bat that I don’t come from a tech background, but my empathy, self-awareness, developing strong connections allow me to contribute.”

If future jobs are going to require softer skills than coding and software development. How will Emotional intelligence (EQ) increasingly become an asset for FinTech companies, from winning over investors to interviewing prospective employees to successfully connecting with customers?  Simónn believes EQ is a woman leader’s ultimate secret weapon; not a “soft-skill” but a game-changer for the industry.” EQ is undervalued – it is the skill that allows me to support my team, build customer trust and manage the emotions of both my colleagues and clients. EQ is well documented as a major advantage. As the world rapidly embraces more complex technologies like artificial intelligence, it’s still the human connection that gets our attention. I see it every day when I interact with our customers through our customer support. In a digital world, people are done talking to bots; they are tired of waiting to speak to another actual human. As soon as I interact with them on a human to human basis, I can physically feel the relief flow through the screen. I use EQ to achieve the highest customer experience, trying my best to strengthen the bond with our customers at a human level.

At Troygold, value is placed on “empathising mindsets”, actively encouraged and developed regardless of gender. Working in tech and specifically developing an app means the team has put themselves into the end-user’s shoes to understand problems from their perspective. Is this where female thinking gives technology a competitive advantage and better customer outcomes?

“Women think differently. It is what it is. We all look at things differently, so bringing together a mix with different backgrounds is vital. This allows more creativity to flow, which in turn increases performance. So yes, a little bit of female thinking thrown into a male-dominated sector is a massive competitive edge. This is where gender equity sets you apart from the one dimensionals out there. Just because the fintech customer market is very male-dominated doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need a feminine approach. Apps that are very masculine in their design can often be quite unfriendly when It comes to user experience. We leverage this feminine touch when designing our app to get the friendliest user experience possible.”

 

Simónn Wiechers knows that diverse teams perform better:

“Well-balanced teams and diversity actively improve divergence of thought, which increases stability in times of crisis. Working for a start-up, you often feel like you’re in a tumble dryer; you don’t know which way is up. Different approaches and opinions from various individuals help ground you; make you look at a problem from a different angle, and make brainstorming a blast. It helps you think outside of the box, push boundaries and lead with an innovation mindset.”

Since Simónn Wiechers is the first to admit that she is not a techie and that her experience is rooted in creative flare, good conceptual abilities and first and foremost problem solving, what advice does she have for breaking into the fintech/technology industries?

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else. Women have a huge role to play in Fintech, technology and businesses in general. It is outdated thinking that women can’t perform as well as men in science, engineering and mathematics. In my experience, the opposite is true…. women are often more adept and patient at untangling complex problems, multitasking, seeing the possibilities in new solutions and winning team support for collaborative action.” 

 

Her top three tips for success are:
  • Experience Is Not The Be-all And End-All. So don’t get stuck on the outside because you didn’t study what you THINK you need to be on the inside.
  • Back yourself. Imposter syndrome is a real thing in a male-dominated industry. You have just as much right to be here as anyone else.
  • Find a mentor and lean on their expertise and background as your North Star.

 

Simónn’s favourite day of the week is Friday,  not just because the weekend is knocking on the door but because at Troygold it is  “Lecture Fridays”. This initiative developed by Simónn is the highlight of her week. “ Each employee gets a turn to present something they are passionate about / interested in / feel like sharing. It’s a fantastic time for us to unwind, have a few laughs and learn about new things and each other. 

 

 

*For more, check out our bumper 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here

*Stay up to date with all the latest on Top Women in SA, by signing up to the Standard Bank Top Women newsletter – here

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