Dinosaurs vs enlightened leaders

Julia Streets on talent and change in financial services

“We’ve got to get to the heart of why things aren’t changing fast enough”

Julia Streets is flying the flag for fintech and female entrepreneurship, innovation, equality, diversity and inclusion, and she wants the financial services industry to do the same.

Her drive to see positive change sees her frequently travelling the globe to speak in front of leaders from the world’s top financial services and technology companies. It’s also won her a big fanbase not to mention armfuls of awards and accolades including multiple entries in Brummell Magazine (AKA the City’s ‘little black book’) and a listing in the 100WFinTech directory.

As founder and CEO of Streets Consulting, Julia advises startups to some of the world’s largest financial institutions but that’s probably not her toughest audience. A stand-up comedian, Julia has done the Edinburgh Festival and once shared a comedy stage with John Cleese.

“I have this really mashed up life. My day job is running a business development and marketing communications consultancy, working with small startups to some of the world’s largest institutions. I’m also a recovering stand-up comedian.”

With an evangelical passion for financial services and fintech, Julia waxes lyrical about the game-changing powers of data, blockchain, AI, cyber and other technologies most people struggle to get their heads around. But she told the Upfront podcast that there’s a lot more she wants to see from the industry - and soon.

“Financial services need to look at the impact they make on society at large. Extending the distribution of financial products and services to people around the country for whom their relationship with banking and financial services is probably remote, if not non-existent, is a huge opportunity, which can only be good for everybody. The wonderful thing about the industry is that so much is up for grabs.”

The wonderful thing about the industry is that so much is up for grabs.”

So what’s stopping it from grabbing it? According to Julia, there’s something we need to talk about first.

“There’s an important conversation about social and financial inclusion to be had. If we want to be out empowering communities to engage with financial services, we have to bring in talent that understands what those communities need - LGBT communities, minority communities and disability communities. Positioning itself as a place where people want to work is one of the biggest challenges facing the financial services industry right now. I don’t think we appeal to people as an industry to work in. We need enlightened leaders who can reach out to these communities, find and harness talent and ultimately innovate.”

Keen to see a better conversation in the industry around diversity and inclusion, Julia created the DiverCity podcast to shine a light on positive progress while also calling out areas that need more focus and change.

For Julia, that change can’t come quick enough

“I’ve met amazing people doing incredible work in LGBT areas, ethnic minority representation, thinking about inclusion and access for people with disability, not to mention the world of gender, neurodiversity and mental health. And I’m thinking, ‘Why when so many people are doing great things and trying to bring more talent into the industry, have we still got financial institutions claiming that D&I is in their DNA when their brochures and behaviours suggest otherwise? Why is it taking so long to change? We’ve got to get to the heart of why things aren’t changing fast enough because that’s ultimately what’s going to drive the next generation and also the innovation that’s happening in the financial services industry.”

If there’s one thing Julia wants financial services to do, it’s to think bigger and bolder. A move that she believes will separate the enlightened leaders from the dinosaurs.

“There are certain things as leaders, as employees and as contributors in this industry that inherently hold us back. And what I would say now is ‘rip up that rule book’. The world has shifted like you’d never imagine. What are you doing to do? Go backwards? Or do you want to go forwards? Do you want to be an enlightened leader or do you want to be a dinosaur?

Listen to the ‘Out of the blue’ podcast to hear Julia’s razor-sharp take on financial services including why the industry needs to ditch assumptions and find a way to connect with communities.

What I love about financial services

There are five generations working in financial services, we’ve never had that before. If you think about what that means for legacy and innovation, the potential is phenomenal.

Julia Streets - Communications consultant