12 July 2023
Head of Bolton School Girls’ Division Lynne Kyle welcomed the audience listening both in the Great Hall and online via the livestream. She also welcomed Lisa and described her as ‘a shining example to the current generation of pupils … of how to embrace opportunities in life.’
Head Girl Anika Maini then introduced Lisa’s lecture by briefly recapping her journey after leaving Bolton School, from gaining a first class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, to jobs in consulting and working for non-governmental organisations in Tanzania and India, to her current role as CEO of Funding Circle, a commercial lending platform.
Lisa then took the podium to deliver her address and opened by thanking the School for the invitation to speak at the Platt Fisher Lecture: ‘It is such a joy and an honour to be back in the Great Hall and in this wonderful school, which holds so many memories of fun and friendships and learning for me.’
To begin, Lisa explained that FinTech is the coming together of two industries: the financial services sector and the technology industry. Though financial services have been around for thousands of years, in the past decade there has been a huge acceleration thanks to progress and developments in technology, and Lisa described the changes she has seen since leaving Bolton School.
She went on to talk about how the seeds of her career in FinTech were in fact sewn at school. In the Sixth Form, she and a team of three friends took part in a national business competition, focused on the disruptive nature of tech. Their concept for a tech-enabled business, which would provide a card for teenagers to allow them to spend online, ultimately won them (and former teacher Mrs Haslam) an all-expenses paid trip to San Francisco!
Those seeds lay dormant for the next decade while she studied at university, travelled the world, volunteered, and worked for a strategy consulting business in London. Though she loved her consulting work, solving problems for a variety of businesses, she was desperate to have more of an impact and at the same time was getting really excited by tech.
‘Sometimes, there is an innovation, a technological leap forwards, that acts as a catalyst for change, and a whole tsunami of creativity and innovation is unleashed, and I witnessed two of these in quick succession,’ she said. These were the public launch of the world wide web in 1991, hot on the heels of the 1980s development of the internet. This unleashed a whole raft of innovation throughout the 90s. Secondly, the launch of the iPhone in 2007 accelerated these innovations as technology became much more accessible. Lisa also spoke about how e-commerce disrupted bricks and mortar retail and streaming services like Spotify and Netflix further disrupted the entertainment sector.
She said that she could see how disrupting the financial services industry could change the world: FinTech entrepreneurs were looking at the places where the old system wasn’t working and using the power of tech to improve things. She offered several real-world examples of this.
Lisa therefore joined Funding Circle, for two reasons: to be at the centre of this moment of transformation, and because she was inspired by the company’s purpose and mission, helping small businesses get the funding they need to win. She started at the Chief Strategy Officer, became the Managing Director of the UK business, and is now the CEO. She talked in detail about how the company has developed in that time, including how she led the business through the challenges of Covid. She said that she was most proud of the impact Funding Circle has had on small businesses to fuel their amazing stories and dreams.
Looking beyond the world of FinTech, Lisa offered four pieces of advice and also shared the story of ‘the rogue monkey’: according to research conducted at Chicago University, 1 in 78 monkeys will challenge the status quo in order to get a reward that they have learned is unachievable or dangerous to go after. In closing, she said, ‘So this evening, if you take away anything, I would ask of you to question things, be curious; to take risks, but calculated ones; to build those resilience muscles; and to be a rogue monkey.’
The evening ended with an enthusiastic Q&A session, in which Lisa gave nuanced answers about the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in FinTech and Healthcare, having the confidence to take calculated risks, how she got her first job and what her current role involves day-to-day, thriving in a male-dominated sector, starting a disruptor business and how ‘rogue monkeys’ can get funding, and finding a good work-life balance.
Deputy Head Girl Ananya Ajit offered a vote of thanks to bring the evening to a close.