Money20/20’s Tracey Davies & Scarlett Sieber On Pushing Fintech Forward
Tracey Davies and Scarlett Sieber are buzzing with excitement. We’re cozy in the MoneyPot podcast booth at the Money20/20 show in Amsterdam, listening to the chatter of conference attendees walking by before producer Rachel Morrissey shuts the booth doors and hits record.
Davies, who vigilantly takes notes during the recording session, is all smiles. “It’s all about the three’s,” she said. “I’ve had three coffees this morning; it’s the third day of the event; there’s three of us together.”
On this sunny day in June, she is immediately reminded of the early days of being recognized as Tracey Davies, the President of Money20/20. If you don’t know, Money20/20 is like the Met Gala for fintech. The best and brightest show-up, show out with stellar content (for the record, I’d like our outfits to match), and build relationships that set the pace to move the industry forward.
When Davies thinks about the “earlier days” of the 2016-2017 era, she’s reminded of how women would come up to her and say they’d never seen a woman keynote at an industry event. It’s one of the seminal moments that made her realize Money20/20 had a job to do to represent the true composition of this industry.
“Those women existed then; they exist today,” she said. “They just weren’t public enough on our stages.”
And that sparked the mission to be super intentional and vigilant about who they put on the biggest stage in fintech.
Reflecting on our time as public speakers, all three of us are very aware of how scary public speaking can be. “The only way to get comfortable is to just do it,” Davies said. “You keep walking out there.”
Innovating Fintech Narratives
Fintech is still vastly underrepresented, meaning our industry looks as pale, male, and stale as traditional finance. One of the best ways to help is to be the one who controls the narrative.
Why should men dominate the stories we tell about the industry when so many incredible women are also building and operating in fintech?
As storytellers and content creators, we realize together that it’s not just about dedicating our careers to showing up – it’s about helping others show up, too.
“It’s about us using our platform and voice to help elevate the voice of others,” Sieber said. “Our responsibility is to set the pace for the industry, and we need to make sure that the voices doing that reflect what our industry actually looks like.”
Years ago, Davies set a mandate to have speaker quotas with realistic minimums and built that number yearly. Today, Money20/20 has over 45% women across all stages.
“It’s really easy to just throw a stat out and say whatever else,” Sieber said. “But we make sure that from the biggest stage to the smallest stage, we have representation there.”
It takes a lot of work to be intentional, but it’s worth it. You can see a positive difference in the industry when you put in the effort.
Sieber excitedly tells me about an instance in 2019 when a company had a keynote opportunity, but the CEO was transitioning and could no longer join the big stage. The company had put a female powerhouse as his replacement and changed her title to a C-suite one for her debut on the main stage.
“I literally have goosebumps!” she says. As she should, the Money 20/20 stage had simultaneously brought a woman into the fintech spotlight and C-suite. That’s the power of intentional content.
But this momentum comes with criticism. Davies took a lot of negative heat, even from female peers, about setting a speaker quota because there’s a perception that setting a percentage means just checking a box.
Let’s be clear. Would Money 20/20 just throw someone on the stage to check a box? The reality is the event doesn’t need to do that. There are more than enough subject matter experts, women, to put on stage. It’s the organizations or companies that weren’t typically putting them forward.
In my experience, which includes hosting and curating content for finance-focused industry events that range from 100 attendees to 2,000, that checks out.
And when we face a 200+ year gender gap, let’s be honest, we need the damn quotas.
“You gotta measure it,” Davies said. “If you don’t measure it, you don’t publish it, and it isn’t going to change.”
But Davies acknowledges the discomfort of making these decisions while being so heavily in the public eye of our fintech industry.
“It was uncomfortable for me because I don’t want anyone to think, ‘Oh, I spoke at Money 20/20 because I’m a woman,'” she said.
Once again: Money 20/20 puts you on that stage because you’re a subject matter expert.
As an organization, the quota ensures they’re baking inclusion and diversity into the fabric of what they do.
Because whether you curate content or a management team – being reflective of society means you understand what society wants. There’s this whole connection between the composition of an organization, the products they put out, and how they serve all of the markets.
It’s a trickle effect. Putting women on our industry stages is necessary for the products built in the fintech ecosystem to serve the marginalized communities we, as an industry, claim to serve.
Women still earn 84 cents for every dollar men earn. This gap increases to 23% when all earners (full-time year-round + part-time and part-year) are taken into account, resulting in $11,782 in lost wages every year.
The average woman in North America has a million-dollar gap in her pension fund by the time she gets to retirement age, yet she will live 5-10 years longer than a male partner.
The gender wealth gap stats could go on and on. The impact of that inequity compounds over time.
An Outsider on the Inside
Davies’ background isn’t in finance but a career in media and retail. She just happened to be at the company that bought Money 2020 in 2014, and they asked her to lead the brand.
She had experience running events, and when she visited the first Money20/20 put on in Europe, she knew it was unique – and accepted the challenge.
After moving to New York for two years, she fell in love with the company, the vibe, and the industry.
“Everyone is welcoming and generous, taking the time to explain the complex industry to newcomers,” she says. “Yes, I’m an outsider – but I like to think I’m now an insider.”
An insider she is. Under Davies’ leadership, Chief Growth and Strategy Officer Sieber is granted a level of psychological safety that allows her, and her team, to flourish.
Together, they continue to ensure that the Money20/20 platform is always used to progress the industry forward and never perpetuate any of the things they want to avoid.
“When you have a team of experts, I see one of them who’s staring at me right now with a beautiful face, allowing them to be themselves and test the crazy shit matters,” says Sieber.
At the end of the day, Money20/20 is under Ascential, a public company listed on the London Stock Exchange, and Davies and Sieber are just as hyperfocused on producing results for their shareholders as they are on changing our industry’s narrative. In fact, the two go hand in hand.
“Yes, we have to hit specific goals, but there are many different ways to do that,” Sieber said. “So it’s allowing us to do small tests in interesting ways.”
Sieber has been a breath of fresh air at the 3-day event, sporting a beautiful baby bump and leading interviews with leaders on the main stage. She is an essential part of the ecosystem, with her understanding that we can innovate far beyond the traditional paths of profitability.
“In my mind, we don’t have any competitors,” she says. “Of course, there’s a competitive landscape, but our competition is ourselves, and I challenge my team, and they challenge each other every day.”
If someone at Money20/20 did not get inspired and didn’t learn something, then “we failed, and we gotta do better next,” she says.
RiseUp & Amplify Is Born
Davies’ brain child – Money20/20’s famous RiseUp program – was born five years ago.
The program is designed for women and non-binary professionals to establish the relationships and resources they need to diversify the leadership in our fintech ecosystem.
To me, the program stands out because it’s more than just hosting a happy hour – which Davies proclaims, “Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cocktail party!” – and creates more tangible and meaningful connections.
“I wanted to create this program where we would bring women together, and one of the passions and real focus areas around that was building women’s networks,” Davies said.
Networking for women has been, admittedly, complex. From societal pressures to a scarcity mindset, women can struggle to support themselves and each other as we navigate corporate America. (Raise your hand if you know from personal experience)!
But building communities in our work ecosystems breaks those barriers. There’s a power to women coming together. Today, 300 women have been through the RiseUp program, with typically around 30 members a part of each cohort that expands across each show.
From there, the Amplify program was born for people of color and underrepresented groups to make the same strides.
Once again, Davies talks about the criticism she’s faced for implementing these programs. But, in her words, companies have to move away from the “cult of perfection.”
Change happens in incremental steps. And Davies feels confident in keeping her focus on the track the company is on because “we have to start somewhere.”
“We have the same strategy around the composition of our stages for people of color,” she says. “We’re also trialing technology for the neurodiverse.”
And with the constant criticism of being a changemaker, Davies leaves social media out of the equation. She understands that they’re not perfect – and hell, admitting that is more encouraging and introspective than many leaders out there.
When we think back to the psychological safety that connects everything Davies, Sieber, and myself discussed in this episode of Humans of Fintech, it all comes down to the relationship building at these grand events.
It’s using community to change each other’s lives. Davies and Sieber are humble enough to recognize that they just provided the platform; the cohort members have made the program what it is today.
At the end of our conversation, I thanked Davies and Sieber for being so gracious with their time and energy and for helping our industry move forward in the best way possible for people and profits.
Sieber stops me to say, “Same to you, girl. You’re inspiring a movement; we’re happy to be a part of it.”