Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Abbey Road Sessions: Wincie Wong on Female Entrepreneurs
Wincie Wong, Head of Innovation for Supply Chain Services, RBS on female entrepreneurs. The discussion covers the Alison Rose Review Report of Female Entrepreneurship ("Rose Review") women in tech and Girls Can Code network.
Hosted at Abbey Road Studios by Jeff Kavanaugh, Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute. The podcast is a part of our special series on an important global topic, Achieving Resilience in the Stakeholder Capitalist Era.
“I get such immense joy of making something. When you are making something, you're offering something of yourself to someone.”
- Wincie Wong
Wincie talks about Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship
In Wincie’s roles at NatWest, what did she do prior to taking on this Rose Review position? She shares her background.
Wincie looks at education for 10 to 13-year-old children across the UK, both boys and girls. What is it about that age? Why it holds a potential for the future?
Given the context of what needs to be fixed, Wincie talks about her role and her work with the government.
Wincie explains five top barriers for female entrepreneurs
Wincie talks about three groups of solutions and initiatives they designed to address these barriers.
What do people get wrong about female-led businesses? What is the popular misconception?
Wincie is a professional cook. Wincie tries to relate what she likes about cooking to what she is “cooking up” on her day job.
Who or what's been a major influence on Wincie’s life and how?
How can people find Wincie online?
Jeff Kavanaugh: Despite advances, there is still a significant gender gap in business leaders. Wincie Wong in your work to reduce this gap, can you share a particularly striking example of empowering UK female entrepreneurs?
Wincie Wong: Her Majesty's treasury commissioned Alison Rose, who's the NatWest CEO last year to issue a report on female entrepreneurship, so we embarked on this journey as a bank to issue what we call now call the Alison Rose Review for Female Entrepreneurship, which is shortened to Rose Review. And the Rose Review one of the major findings that we found which we weren't expecting at the onset, but we did find is that if we were to allow female entrepreneurs to start sustained scale businesses at the same rate as men, we would add 250 billion pounds to the UK economy. I want to emphasize that this is not just a let's all do good, feel good bit a charity, ESG CSR type thing there is a business case behind it and it's critically important. This is a huge underserved population in the UK where there's enormous opportunity.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Great and female entrepreneurship is what we'll be exploring in today's conversation. Welcome to a special edition of the Knowledge Institute Podcast where we talk with thought leaders about achieving resilience in the era of stakeholder capitalism. I'm Jeff Kavanaugh, head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute and today we're coming to you from London's iconic Abbey Road Studios. We are here with Wincie Wong of NatWest head of the Rose Review implementation empowering female entrepreneurs. Wincie was born and raised in New York and now works in the UK the leading edge of creative and disruptive innovation in the banking industry. An international speaker and digital evangelist, Wincie is co founder of the Royal Bank of Scotland's Girls Can Code network and a founding member of Tech She Can an organization of a hundred plus corporates working together to increase the number of women technology. Wincie thanks so much for joining us.
Wincie Wong: Thank you very much.
Jeff Kavanaugh: In your roles at NatWest, what were you doing prior to taking on this Rose Review position?
Wincie Wong: I've done quite a wide variety of roles I would say. I originally studied as a qualified accountant so I am a certified public accountant back in the States. I used to run audits of hedge funds, private equity funds and investment management at Deloitte in New York. As I came over to the UK, NatWest was one of the first places I worked at and I started out as the finance director looking after the real estate, but pretty much all our toxic assets. So they started me with real estate and it was straight after the crash was in 2009 and at that time the RBS group of which NatWest is a part of was facing quite a lot of bad press, a lot of issues, biggest bailout in the world so on and so forth and I was looking after the property portfolio. Moved on to look after their structured finance portfolio which was also a very interesting time.
Wincie Wong: And before I decided after a while that I really wanted to do something different met the MD of digital and ended up there. Started running our digital teams and in particular I watched the team grow I think from around 15 or 20 people when I first joined to probably over 300 by the time I left. So really right in the crocks of when the huge amount of growth was happening in that space for all the banks not just our bank. I was running our digital propositions team that was responsible for the future digitally led customer experiences for the bank and in particular for our personal customers and our small business customers. At the time we were looking after both and I remember completely very eyeopening and a huge I think that point of satisfaction of doing what I was probably meant to be doing for a long time, but I'm someone who's done quite a lot.
Wincie Wong: Very soon after that I became head of innovation for our supply chain services and I was very much looking at all the partnerships we do in the bank and all the innovation programs that we had across the bank of which we hadn't many going on. And we needed to figure out what we were doing with all these partnerships that we were doing so I was doing that when the Rose review got released. And because of my background and because I've also always been a bit of an entrepreneur on the side and I did a lot of work in education, particularly in tech from the Tech She Can Charter. I lead our enrich education work stream as well looking at education for 10 to 13 year old children across the UK, both boys and girls. And because of all these kinds of different aspects of then Alison and her office asked if I would take on the role to lead the implementation of which I sprung at the chance. Definitely my dream job as far as I was concerned and have been busy running with it ever since.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, no shortage of energy whatsoever. Before we jump into the entrepreneurs piece let's talk about those. Our president company, Ravi Kumar talks about the first 20 years, the middle and the last 20 years of life and quite often people focus only on the work part. It seems that you've got a pretty good focus on those first 20 years the 10 to 13 year olds. What is it about that age that you're interested in and you think holds a potential for the future?
Wincie Wong: So when I started working in digital I think that's when I started noticing how different things were. I think when I was in finance I felt a little bit more a gender equality I would say and a little bit more diversity. I felt it probably a little bit less when I started working at our very British bank but then there was a desire for that change. It was when I got into digital and tech that I really felt it then all of a sudden all the rooms I was in already changing and I felt there was a tremendous need and I started looking into it. And turns out at that young age so I have a firm belief that things start at the home and they start very young before you even go into school in terms of forming your conceptions of what a man is, what a woman is, what you're being taught all kinds of those things.
Wincie Wong: And what we found is that at the age of 10 about 72% of girls were interested in careers in tech and about 75% of boys. So that's fairly even then PWC commissioned research to look at what it was like at the age of around 16 so GCSE H and what we found is that girls were only 27% interested in careers in tech and boys were about 67% and of the girls, only 3% listed tech as their number one choice. And that was horrific to me because one thing that I can definitely say as a bit of a geek, a tech and a digital native and all of that is that tech is powering all parts of our lives now. We can't live without it and to think that only half of our population is building most of those solutions is terrifying and there was that extreme need. So that was where that focus came from.
Wincie Wong: The Tech She Can Charter slightly well on the side, but interesting story to me anyway, it started out really when I started The Girls Can Code effort in the bank. So I can code myself and I found a few others who could and we decided there needed to be something about core tech. And then through that journey I met a lot of other really kick ass amazing women in tech and there are about 18 of us at the start. We said you know what, we're all doing things in our organization let's harness that energy and try to do it together to amplify. And we said well where is the area that's missing? What are people not focused on? And that was what we found that no one was focused on that education bit in that 10 to 13 year old. Although they were focused on overall STEM education, they weren't focused on the inspirational part of education and I think that's really important.
Wincie Wong: So children and well most people get inspired by role models. What we're hoping is actually not teaching them how to code at that young age, but giving them a flavor of what it could be like, what tech enables and therefore hoping that later on in life that they go and choose that path. So that was set up and now we're at over 140 organizations signed up in less than two years I would say. And which has been absolutely tremendous and it just goes to show what a huge focus this is for so many companies, both large and small across the UK.
Jeff Kavanaugh: So you've tapped into something that was burgeoning, they just didn't know how to harness it. So it sounds like you gave it an outlet, maybe the time was right.
Wincie Wong: It was. This is what I would say, I think I had faced all the usual stories about when people talk about gender or race or misogyny and all the isms I guess you would want to call it. And one thing I have a firm strong belief in is to harness negative energy for good. So how do you take negative experiences that happened to you and turn it into something good for others or for yourself and to not focus on that negative. And that was why I had a tremendous amount of passion and energy to try to do and change things for that next generation. I mean someone had to fight for women's right to vote and now it's absolutely normal, everyone would expect would be horrified if women weren't allowed to. And that's the same when I think about careers in tech, how do we make it so that it is just normal for everyone to get involved.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Why do you think there are relatively few female entrepreneurs, especially in digital space?
Wincie Wong: Well, I think it goes back to there's not enough going into tech to start, it's a pipeline. So across the UK most recent studies show that only 22 to 23% of all STEM roles so science, technology, engineering, maths roles in the UK are filled by women. And that is a stark contrast, if you drill down to tech it's a lot lower and even less are going into studies in computer science and engineering versus even 20 years ago. So it's actually dropping, it's getting even lower and that is well for me I guess really scary because there's data over and over again that people are dying because systems aren't being built for them or are right for them. Just the same things like how phones are built for man hands because on average men have bigger wider hands, et cetera.
Wincie Wong: So that's why women tend to get more shoes with their thumbs when they try to type all these things. So all kinds of everything from things as small as that to too much bigger and wider implications. So in entrepreneurship itself, first of all I think the leap into entrepreneurship takes a lot of courage and a lot of ambition, a lot of passion to go into it. And I think one of the things we found in Rose Review actually is that the women who were going into a lot of [inaudible 00:10:56] that were less productive education, service and health I believe. And actually the most productive sectors in the UK which are in financial services, technology and manufacturing was where we found women were least represented even when as little as they already are represented in an entrepreneur ecosystem. So there is a definite causation I think when you talk about it, it's not just a happenstance but because they're not studying tech roles, they are not going into it they are much less likely to start businesses because most people do start businesses in areas where they are more familiar with.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Makes sense. Once again, you're listening to the Knowledge Institute, the Abbey Road sessions where we're talking with thought leaders about achieving resilience in the era of stakeholder capitalism. We're here with Wincie head of Rose Review implementation and tapping into the unrealized economic potential of female entrepreneurs. Wincie given that you certainly laid the case in the context of maybe what needs to be fixed, what are some of the things that you're doing in your role including with the folks at parliament to make this mix a better place?
Wincie Wong: Absolutely. So it's important to remember I think hugely excited that it was the government, Her Majesty's these treasury who recognized the issue. And one of the things that Robert Jenrick, who was the MP at the time who commissioned the report he had said was look, we know there's an issue, people talk about it all the time. Can we do a proper in depth study which is what came out and-
Jeff Kavanaugh: Not some sugarcoating?
Wincie Wong: Not some sugarcoated-
Jeff Kavanaugh: As a real research review?
Wincie Wong: Exactly. And one of the things that we did... So the report itself it's not a short report, it's a 129 pages long and one of the things that we did is that we not only looked across research in the UK, but we looked at other best in class countries in terms of research and to see what they were doing and we compared how the UK was versus some of them. And what we found is that the UK has a lot of way to go I would say. In terms of a ratio only one in three entrepreneurs are women in the UK. So out there we found a lot of the Nordic countries are doing it right, they've had a tremendous success in closing the gender pay gap and other things as well. We found the Canada had a lot of really good policies and some really interesting things which has helped them to change the ratio of male to female entrepreneurs over time and Australia as well so those are few.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What about the Nordics? The thing is some people in the U.S for example say yeah but some of the Nordics they have a population size of Atlanta they're small. And so while it's wonderful what's going on, how do you scale it to these larger populations?
Wincie Wong: That's what's different also about the Rose Review. I think very much the implementation initiatives that we chose in the Rose Review we're looking at scale. There's a lot of really good work that happens in this space I would say all around the country by lot of really amazing people. But what was most important to us is that actually we need to do something big, we need to do something at scale so what can we learn from the other countries and what can we come up with that's unique to the UK that we can change? Probably the the five top barriers that we found for female entrepreneurs were which isn't probably all that surprising I think for those who are in the entrepreneurship space, number one is access to finance. So what we found were that female entrepreneurs were asking for 50% less capital than the men.
Wincie Wong: We found that family care was an issue. Although a lot of female entrepreneurs went into business because of family care, they find it the biggest barrier to continue to sustain and scale their businesses. And what we also found is that in the UK women were spending 60% more time on family care than men and that is one of the major reasons. We also have the double hit where you have young children as one side of the spectrum, but then an aging population where burden of that care also tends to fall in the female in the UK. Then you have things like risk awareness. So one thing we found is that the female entrepreneurs were more likely to start looking at many different aspects of an issue or many aspects of whether or not to go into business before entering a business. And therefore they were more cautious about starting businesses.
Wincie Wong: There were a lack of networks. Only 30% of women knew someone else who was an entrepreneur and we know that if someone else who started a business, you are way more likely to start one yourself. And then last but not least, they are more likely to believe that they lack the skills and knowledge necessary to start this businesses. So those are the five main barriers we found and we decided to come up with three groups of solutions and initiatives to try to address them. Because one of the things we were really keen on is that this wasn't one of those reports that we admire, we read and we stick on a shelf and we say thank you very much everyone we did a good piece of work, see it tomorrow. And one of the things we wanted to do is what are the things we can do that's actionable that is at scale that we can do quickly.
Wincie Wong: So we had three areas that we looked at. First is access to finance very much as I said, we have a three initiatives in there. The first one is what we call our investing in women code and that's where HMT has created a code where we have nine banks signed up, 22 signatories overall and the nine bank signed up have agreed that we will appoint a senior person to look after it. We will disclose data because if you measure it then you can change it. Certainly in this country, the larger banks fund and finance quite a lot of small businesses so by doing that we are disclosing how much are women led businesses. As well, we have also agreed that we would share best practices and adopt and that was really important because we wanted to make sure that we... This is a non competitive sport, this is such a big issue. 250 billion quid is a lot of money, more than a GDP of many small countries and if we don't work together to do the best practices, share them and to amplify them then we'll never get anywhere.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, especially in [inaudible 00:17:00] did a report last fall where it said we don't call it a talent shortage, talent famine since there aren't enough people doing the right things, the rising tide raises all boats.
Wincie Wong: Absolutely. So by doing that we're also looking at the VC side would you mentioned earlier today. So less than 1% of VC funding goes to female entrepreneurs in the UK and appalling horrific stat.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I think it's consistent with the U.S and some other places to.
Wincie Wong: But the U.S is double, it's at 2%.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well bully for that but it's still low.
Wincie Wong: It is still horrible so we have set up a council to look at that led by someone called Alex Daly who's founder of AA Advisors and also a lot of industry bodies and big players in the asset management space. Then in the second category we talk about family care and how do we support entrepreneurs through that. And what we decided to do is we did a load of research around family care and how banks were supporting them. The research pretty much showed that as far as entrepreneurs were concerned, they were more likely to try to hide the fact that they have family care incidents from the bank than come out and share them.
Wincie Wong: So what we did is in October we launched at NatWest a series a family first products which are if you have a family care event and you're an existing customer with us, we will either waive a fee or give you a couple [inaudible 00:18:15] a holiday as a gesture to show you that, "Hey we know this doesn't solve all your problems. This isn't going to solve your sales problem, your operations issues but here's a little gesture from us."
Jeff Kavanaugh: Certainly recognizes it's not a negative way or credit risk.
Wincie Wong: Exactly. Although there was a lot of credit discussions as part of this as you can imagine but it's trying to flip that dialogue. How do we change that dialogue to make sure-
Jeff Kavanaugh: I use the phrase reframe.
Wincie Wong: Exactly. Absolutely. And to say that actually when you have that issue you can come to the bank and ask for help and support just like you would come to us when you need help to buy house or other things, we're here to help you support you as a business. And then last but not least, is all about accessibility. So how do we increase access to mentorship networks, expertise. So what we've also done is we've seconded as NatWest 38 well more than 38 now actually what we call financial experts in residence. Where our own bank staff spend one day a week now in the local growth hubs at the local enterprise partnerships by the government to support small businesses. So we're starting pilots with other types of experts like digital tech expertise as well.
Wincie Wong: We've also formed the education coalition looking at secondary education in particular in partnership with the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department of Education and also 12 other big organizations across the UK who focus on enterprise education across the UK and we're looking at how we can fix that problem. And then last but not least we're also looking at a digital first stop shop. A new front door to give more accessibility to information for small businesses, both male and female actually in order to find what they need. Because what's out there right now is quite fragmented and difficult to navigate for any small business.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Having consolidated that then that's a great way for people coming to you as a trusted advisor.
Wincie Wong: So we hope.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Awesome. People hear this and say "Ah this is great it feels good." But what are the popular misconceptions people have out there about either profitability or it's hard to do or what do people get wrong about this?
Wincie Wong: I think it's probably what I was saying at the very start. This isn't a CSR initiative and that's a common thing that I hear over and over. I think a lot of people will say things like "Oh well I don't want to invest in just female businesses or just male businesses. I just want to invest in good businesses." Well then the question is then why is 99% of your investment into just male led businesses? And I think that's something where you need to take a cold hard look to see where the unconscious bias is. I remember listening to there was a psychologist who was speaking once and I loved how she put it. She says we have two modes in our brain, we have the bit that kind of operates like a pigeon and in Trafalgar Square where it just kind of bops around and it goes on autopilot. It's just bopping around and going looking for food or something.
Wincie Wong: And then you have the other one that's harder. The one where you're focused on harder tasks where you are writing a difficult email or doing other things like learning a new language or anything like that. And what we need to know is that too much of what we do turns into autopilot and that's where all this bias et cetera comes in. And then making a conscious effort to retrain and rewire our brains a little bit to think a little bit differently. And we all know that diverse portfolios are better at making lots more money so actually there is a need for that.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Great. Well on a personal note, I hear that you're a professional cook in your spare time. Can you relate what you like about cooking to what you're cooking up on your day job?
Wincie Wong: Oh absolutely. So I am a builder at heart I think, I've always been into crafts and those kinds of things. Something about seeing something tangible I think in front of you. And let me tell you I think it's important for people to focus and spend more time on the things you love. There's no point I personally think on spending time on things that you absolutely abor, otherwise life is way too short to make so painful. And one of the things I absolutely love is cooking. I absolutely love it and nothing makes me feel better or makes me feel happier than standing over a stove stiring that stew or that soup or whatever it is I'm cooking and then seeing the happy faces and my happy customers afterwards. And I think a lot of people always ask me why do you do this? You spend so much time on these things and it's so physical your nails get broken and all these kinds of things? And it's just like it's because I get such immense joy out of it.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You're making something.
Wincie Wong: You're making something, you're feeding people.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And you are offering something of yourself to someone else.
Wincie Wong: Exactly. Energizing and to me it's a bit of a legacy as well and in my day job I guess it's exactly the same thing. I am building something new, a new ecosystem, a new way of supporting female entrepreneurship and giving them that little bit of life in order for them to grow and succeed and to go on just like a happy customer with a full belly. Hopefully someone will be able to get access to the resource, information support or funding that they need when they walk away.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Wow. Well this has been great food for thought. I know you're respecting your time probably we want to wrap it up. Another personal question who or what's been a major influence on your life and how?
Wincie Wong: I'm going to talk about two things if that's okay. So one major influence in my life was always my mother absolutely 100%. I think she was an immigrant in the U.S, my parents were born and raised in Burma came to the U.S when they got to the U.S they thought it was magical. There was running water, there was meat and food everywhere versus the scarcity of life that they faced and very poor circumstances. And one thing she always taught me was as long as you work hard, as long as you're willing to work, you will always find it. You'll always find something to do, you always find work, you will always be successful as long as you're willing. And as long as maybe you're not in the poorest part of Burma where there is no opportunity I think it was just what she was saying.
Wincie Wong: And then probably the second... And my mother gave me all my recipes et cetera. She's inspired, she's always taught me and I think she's the one that I always knew would have my back. So because of that I think I have this tremendous ability to feel like I can do anything and that was instilled in me from a young age. And the second person I want to name is someone called Asma Kahn, who's the chef and founder of a restaurant called Darjeeling Express. And I remember I met her when she was cooking Biryani at her supper club and fell in love with her rice and I knew that this rice needed to go elsewhere there was no question in my mind. And we became really dear friends and I was really proud and excited when NatWest was able to fund her opening of a restaurant her very first restaurant.
Wincie Wong: She now runs an all female kitchen, all filled with women who are in their second inning, second daughters from different backgrounds. Most of them were nannies and Housewives and before they entered her restaurant and she was the first British chef on Netflix Chef's Table. Her restaurant has been a tremendous success and knowing that by giving her that little bit, that little boost to help her start that restaurant so she could become her own and flower and become such a mega superstar dish I think she is right now. That is what fills my heart with hope that we need to create as many of these and give the opportunities as many of these entrepreneurs, these female entrepreneurs to grow into their own and to become the superstars that they all are as well.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Wow. And thanks for helping them realize their dreams and potential.
Wincie Wong: Absolutely.
Jeff Kavanaugh: How can people find you online?
Wincie Wong: Oh, loads I am very active. Please find me on LinkedIn Wincie Wong I'm super active there and also my Twitter handle is @winciewong and if you're interested in just looking at pictures of food because literally that is all I do on Instagram then also find me @winciewong.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Great and everyone you can find details in our show notes and transcripts and at infosys.com/iki in our podcast section. Wincie thank you very much for your time and a very interesting discussion.
Wincie Wong: Thank you very much.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Everyone you've been listening to the Knowledge Institute, the Abbey Road sessions where we talk with leaders about achieving resilience in the era of stakeholder capitalism. Thanks to our producer [Yuli Dibari 00:26:49] and the entire Knowledge Institute team. Until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Wincie Wong
Wincie is Nat West Head of Rose Review Implementation. A female entrepreneur at heart, she is immensely proud to be leading the implementation of the Alison Rose Review for Female Entrepreneurship working with the UK Government to realise the £250bn we could add to the economy if we supported women to start and scale businesses at the same rate as men in the UK.
An international speaker on the subjects of FinTech and Banking, Wincie also has a tremendous passion about growing Inclusivity in Tech, having co-founded the Girls Can Code employee-led network in RBS and a founding member of the Tech She Can Charter with over 133 member organisations passionate about changing the ratio of women in tech through enriching education, image overhaul and policy influence.
- Connect with Wincie Wong: LinkedIn, Twitter
- Wincie’s Instagram - Burmese Kitchen By Wincie
- The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship
- NatWest Girls Can Code
Selected Links from the Episode