Women in Tech: Monica Kalia
Hey Monica, what do we need to know about you?
I’ve worked for the last 20 years within the financial services sector and began my career in investment banking. In 2014 I co-founded Neyber having identified that a technology based solution was needed to revolutionise personal finance and help drive financial wellbeing. I’m passionate about financial inclusion and have written several articles on the subject, and have championed the cause of diversity and the advancement of women in the global fintech community.
I am also a busy mum of three, so am constantly having to juggle my work-life balance. Like most people if I do have any spare time, it’s spent with friends and family.
What were you doing before you decided to create Neyber?
Prior to co-founding Neyber I worked in investment banking and spent a few years at Goldman Sachs, where my team was responsible for providing research and analysis on the European banking sector during the global sub-prime crisis and the European sovereign crisis.
It was a period of unprecedented stress for the financial system and as you appreciate it really gave me a front row seat in terms of understanding the issues the banking sector faced. In 2013, we were 5 years post crisis and had gone through years of restructuring. However whilst the system had thankfully been stabilised, banks were severely restricted in their activities and risk appetite.
The impact of this was that many people were unable access affordable rates of credit, for example it is still the case today that 6 in 10 applications for bank credit are turned down by high street banks. It was clear to me that we needed a solution; a solution that allowed people to readily access credit on affordable terms - and that’s why Neyber was created.
Getting involved in Tech is still a new thing for women, what was the motivation for you?
Seeing a genuine need in the market and knowing that technology would be an enabler to provide a solution to the problem.
How have you found your journey so far and what has been your greatest accomplishment?
Taking a concept like Neyber and bringing it to life has been an exciting experience and to now see the company flourishing is perhaps one of my greatest achievements. The fact that Neyber is already the third largest alternative lending platform in the UK, after only two years, show how far we’ve come as a team. Two years ago, Neyber was just an idea and now over 600,000 employees across the UK have access to fairer finance and our team has grown to over 60.
What has been the most challenging thing so far?
As a fintech founder the biggest challenge is to attract capital. This takes two forms, capital to grow the business and human capital. Raising investment capital can be a full-time job in itself and for the business to flourish investors need to be persuaded that you are solving a problem, but also that your business model is scalable. The other aspect of attracting capital is making sure you have the right talent on board to build a great business. At Neyber we have a great team of talented people that are passionate about making a difference.
Do you think more women should get involved in Tech and why?
It’s sad that we should still have to be discussing this in the second decade of the 21st century. There should be no barriers to people succeeding in the tech sector whatever their gender, cultural or economic background. At Neyber we have a totally diverse workforce that reflects the fact that we recruit based on talent and commitment to our mission. If every company was like this the world would be a different and better place for both men and women.
We do need to make a conscious effort to sow the seeds so that women embrace tech and other STEM subjects at an early age. Schools based initiatives to encourage participation and confidence are key, in my opinion. We all recognise that technology is going to drastically change the fabric of the workplace in the coming years, so that many of the jobs that people do today will become obsolete. There is a real danger if women don’t embrace jobs in tech that the gender balance will be exacerbated over time – so girls do really need to be encouraged to pursue subjects such as maths and ICT from an early age.
What advice would you give to young female entrepreneurs who are stuck on an idea?
It’s essential to follow your personal values when establishing businesses. Go for what you believe in and work with partners who share your commitment and entrepreneurial vision. This will ensure that you get the right support in place and bring the people on board who will make things happen for you.
I’m fortunate enough to have had some great mentors during my time in Neyber that who have emphasised that there’s no shortcuts in business, it’s all about hard work.
What does it mean to be a female tech entrepreneur?
This matters because you are able to demonstrate that success in the tech world knows no gender boundaries and is entirely based on merit. It is also exhilarating and challenging given the competing elements of family and work life, which as a mother of three young children I am keenly aware of.
I also strongly believe that a boys’ opinion of the role of women in society is first and foremost formed by their mother, and as a mother of three boys I’m ultimately a role model and will hopefully influence their perception of women.
Overview of how Neyber works:
Neyber is a financial provider committed to improving the financial wellbeing of UK employees through access to fairer finance and financial education. Neyber operates by partnering with employers to offer their employees access to affordable borrowing with repayments taken directly from salary.
Neyber’s mission is to give hard-working people access to fairer finance, when they want to borrow and save money. Neyber is driven by a commitment to deliver a genuine alternative to the solutions offered by financial service providers whose high-interest rates and low returns on savings have helped to create an unprecedented era of financial stress and fuel indebtedness.