LHoFT CEO Nasir Zubairi talks about the gender diversity in fintech project that LHoFT is leading and the latest findings on crypto-assets in Luxembourg.
LHoFT recently began a project exploring the lack of gender diversity in fintech. What was the starting point for this?
My personal perspective has always been, I hire the best person for the job. And I don’t care whether they’re a man, woman, gay, lesbian, whatever color they are, doesn’t matter to me. My team was quite balanced. But over the couple of few years here in Luxembourg, I had started to notice for example, from the composition of my board, but also from the composition of the senior leaders in the finance industry, that there were ups and downs in terms of representation of women in senior roles.
Over the past six to eight months, two things occurred, which really pushed me to want to try and do something. For the first time in five years, a few people from my team resigned. I put out job postings and the lack of women applying for those jobs was concerning to me. It got to a point where we had to start really being proactive about looking for women, that potentially we could talk to, and I don’t like having to do that. I’m about equal opportunity. I’m not about equal outcome.
The second point is when we were looking around our facility for senior women in leadership positions in the 84 companies that we housed at the LHoFT, there was literally one. That’s not good. We decided that there’s a problem and we need to do something about it.
You held the first event on 8 March 2022, International Women’s Day. The next event is on 13 June and there will be a third event. If I understand correctly, you’re aiming to publish a white paper?
We will combine the comments and the discussions from most of our focus groups. Our partner from KnowThyBrand Giulia Iannucci led a focus group with some young people talking about their view of the future, what they see, and some of the issues they may consider. And then we will combine all of that information to create a short white paper that also maybe has some practical recommendations on what we can do.
“I’m just trying to do my best on an issue that is not talked about much. I’ve suffered plenty of biases in my life. I remember living in New York when 9/11 happened and being chased down the street simply because of my skin colour.”
Nasir Zubairi, CEO of the LHoFT
What have you already learned from working on the theme?
The first event we did was interesting because I think it was a very broad and open discussion and to some degree covered things which are sometimes considered taboo. One of the biggest issues with that first event was the lack of men attending, which really upset me. Because the only way to solve this is from both sides. Everyone needs to work together to solve this.
What was interesting about that event, was there are still major issues in the work environment itself and the way that the environment is created: the subconscious biases and the way things are done in a work environment. On the other side it also could be just sort of natural psychological tendencies that women feel inhibited about applying for jobs. There are many exceptions to anything I say here, but typically a man will apply for a job, even if they only match the profile, say 40%. Whereas in general women will only apply for a job if they feel that they are almost 100% match for that profile. They don’t take chances, you know, men are a bit more bravado about this kind of thing. Now, why is that? Are there things we can do to open that up?
It sounds like you are personally invested in this topic?
I’m just trying to do my best on an issue that is not talked about much. I’ve suffered plenty of biases in my life. I remember living in New York when 9/11 happened and being chased down the street simply because of my skin colour. I want broad diversity. And if one way to help drive that is gender where there is an issue, then good. That’s a great way to start.
LHoFT and PwC in February 2022 published The State of Crypto-Asset Management in Luxembourg. Among the important findings, what were the most striking elements for you?
The single most interesting thing is that the appetite or the interest from the fund industry was better than I expected. Some people would maybe suggest the number of stones significantly higher. The majority of respondents said they were thinking about or already doing something in crypto and crypto is going to be an important part of the Luxembourg industry in the years to come. That’s positive, because for startups that means opportunity. Because the traditional industry doesn’t have the skill set or know-how at the moment in these areas, and we’ll need access to solutions because it does require a different approach in terms of process and different approach and process usually means technology and systems, which therefore means potential.
Was there anything else that stood out for you?
Misconceptions still exist in the market and I think that crypto is seen as a rebellious community, which is associated with the tech and startup community. There’s still many misconceptions by the traditional industry and we need to work together to help overcome them. I think we need to stop talking in almost a different language to the rest of the world. The crypto community uses terminology and language that is complex. We need to try and be more inclusive of the industries we’re looking to work with and ultimately target the customer. The more everyone understands it, the more opportunity there is for companies to do things. This came up at a lunch I was having yesterday with a bunch of fund management professionals: the term blockchain.
Startups are basically touting themselves saying ‘I’m a blockchain company’. Most people don’t care about the technology. What they want is a solution to a business issue. The opportunities that these technologies offer boil down to helping people make money or helping people save money, create efficiencies. No-one talks about that. We shouldn’t be talking about blockchain. In my opinion, we should be talking about solutions.
This article was first published in the Silicon Luxembourg magazine. Read the full digital version of the magazine on our website, here. You can also choose to receive a hard copy at the office or at home. Subscribe now.