The Keys to Success: From Females in Fintech

This year LendIt hosted their first annual awards ceremony. Among the awards was the recognition of top female leaders in fintech with our Fintech Woman of the Year award. All of the finalists have had a significant impact at their firms which have now turned into thriving businesses. To help inspire others we reached out to the finalists to get their perspective on what it takes to be successful.

Olympia De Castro, Partner, Strategy & Investments – Community Investment Management (CIM)

Set audacious goals. Be driven and motivated to build, do or achieve something truly extraordinary, that challenges and requires you and your team to stretch your limits and grow.

Collaboration and teamwork. Attract and work with people who are talented, committed and complementary, who speak their minds and share common values.

Picture the end before you start. Think long term, choose what really matters and be relentless.

Innovation in fintech is disrupting financial services and filling gaps in lending, some of which emerged after a crisis largely brought on by short-term thinking. As investors in the sector, we seek to align incentives and strive for long lasting win-win scenarios where borrowers, lenders and investors all benefit to create a sustainable ecosystem which ultimately will ensure the long-term success of this nascent industry.

And finally, remember to have fun and enjoy what you are doing!

Jilliene Helman, CEO –

While there are many different factors one can attribute to success, three qualities I believe are core to attaining it include patience, resilience, and tenacity. It’s important to celebrate the small accomplishments, as well as the big ones, and to remain focused on your goals in the face of obstacles. As any successful businesswoman will tell you, challenges will always exist – how you handle them and what choose to take away from these experiences can have a significant impact.

Krista Morgan, CEO & Founder – P2Binvestor

I have found that hard work and success go hand in hand, there are only so many hours in the day and I try not to waste any of them. I also believe authentic and transparent communication with your team, your clients, and your stakeholders is critical to your success because it builds trust and confidence in you as a leader. Lastly, I do my best to forgive myself for all the mistakes I make – I simply learn from them and focus on the future.

Kathryn Petralia, Co-Founder & Head of Operations – Kabbage

Take advantages of exciting opportunities when they present themselves and don’t be afraid to try something new. When the going gets tough, or you find it difficult to juggle your work and personal lives, don’t hesitate to ask family and friends for help! It takes a village to raise a startup and a family 🙂

Denise Thomas, CEO & Co-Founder – ApplePie Capital

1. Visualize what success looks like and work backwards. This includes using multiple of your senses. What does it look like? What does it feel like?

2. Persevere in the face of all odds. Never give up.

3. Be willing to be uncomfortable and even misunderstood for long periods of time. Also, look at a no as an opportunity, not a rejection.

Eva Wong, Co-Founder & COO – Borrowell

One of the keys to being successful is the willingness to ask questions. It may feel like we should already have all the answers, but things are moving really quickly and changing all the time. Whether it’s my colleagues, service providers or others in the industry, being willing to ask questions has helped me learn from other people’s experiences and helped Borrowell accomplish more, faster.


The reality today is that fintech is a male dominated field. By highlighting some of the female leaders we hope this imbalance will begin to shift. There are clearly many success stories already and this article has given readers a sense of what it takes for, not just women, but for anyone looking to become a successful fintech executive.

Looking to hear more? In a recent Exchanges at Goldman Sachs podcast Clare Scherrer, global co-head of the Industrials Group in Goldman Sachs’ Investment Banking Division gives her perspective and advice after navigating her 20 year career in a historically male dominated field. The discussion starts at 16:35.