What’s it like to be a Woman in Fintech, a Head of Compliance, and a Working Mother?

What is it like to be a woman in Fintech? Why are women underrepresented in our sector? This March, we are launching a series of blog posts aimed at bringing the spotlight to some of the most inspirational women in Rapyd. Today, we’d like you to meet Elaine Chan, Head of Compliance and MLRO at Rapyd in Asia Pacific. In this blog post, Elaine shares insights about her role and journey.

My role as Head of Compliance and MLRO for Asia Pacific, is all about safeguarding the company from potential regulatory problems, such as privacy, money laundering, governance or licensing issues.

A common misconception about compliance officers is… we are boring and inflexible.

A big part of my job is coming up with better ways to do things while adhering to regulations. To do this well, I need to have an open mind. For example, I spend a lot of time with business teams discussing the smoothest, most fuss-free way to onboard new customers, without compromising on compliance.

I joined the Fintech industry because… the industry chose me. I truly believe that the job chooses the person.

Fresh out of university, I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because it sounded glamorous, but it was not. And so I set out to look for a fast-paced role — I like to joke that I have a short attention span — where I would also have the chance to spearhead decisions. I found that in Fintech.

One difference between traditional financial institutions and fintech start-ups… is the pace at which decisions are made.

In traditional banks, there is established protocol and a long chain of command to follow. In Fintech start-ups, many times, you are the chain of command. Someone with just three or four years’ of compliance experience may already be asked to take the lead on projects and be a decision maker.

Many of my peers in traditional banks become niche subject matter experts, as they have the luxury of specialisation. In Fintech, you become more of a generalist who deals with everything compliance related, and this is what I enjoy.

Holding a non-technical role in a technology company… means you can’t be afraid to ask questions.

Talking to technical teams may seem daunting at first, but engineers are actually some of my favourite people. The engineers I’ve met are humble and patient. They are open to teaching someone like me with no engineering background, so I can better understand their perspective.

It’s essential to build a relationship based on mutual respect and remember we are all partnering together to achieve the same goal. I would never try to force my agenda onto other teams.

Doing my job in the male-dominated tech world is all about… proactive communication.

Compliance teams are typically split equally between genders, but most tech companies are predominantly male. In my experience, you must figure out effective communication strategies.

There have definitely been times in my career where I found myself taking on a more subservient position when dealing with male colleagues, especially if they have seniority over me. Sometimes the situation gets charged and it’s difficult for me to vocalise my thoughts on the spot.

I’ve learned to take a step back and follow up later, when emotions are less tense. I usually send an email with all the facts and protocols, then set up another meeting to explain them. By taking the initiative to follow up with stakeholders, I believe that I’m setting the tone for the quality of my work.

And one advice I have here is:

Never give in to anyone’s demands without proper business reasons.

As a working mother… it is imperative for me to find a workplace that respects my other responsibilities.

I believe working mothers are some of the most efficient employees, because we have honed our multi-tasking skills in the household and we are able to bring this to the office. Companies that support and uplift working mothers definitely get a plus from me.

Working in start-ups… can vary a lot, depending on the start-up’s culture and the stage it is at.

I joined Rapyd recently. It’s a company with great morale and a strong emphasis on employee welfare. It’s nice to be part of a company at this stage, when the company has established protocols and yet you are also able to help build and affect the culture.

In younger start-ups where culture is not yet established, don’t be afraid to discuss work-life balance in the negotiation stage. Everyone deserves to work hard, play hard and make time for their family.



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