Gillian Painter, Head of Membership and IA Engine talks to Shanny Basar about fintechs, best practice and change
Gillian Painter, Head of Membership and IA Engine*, says she likes new challenges. This is demonstrated by the fact that she worked in technology, telecoms, education and even tailoring before joining the Investment Association (IA), the trade body for UK investment managers, in 2016.
Painter says, “I’ve had quite a varied career to date, and I’m very grateful for that because it’s meant that I’ve never sat back and got too comfortable. I’ve always had to continue to learn.”
After graduating with a Business Studies degree, Painter worked for IBM managing tech rollouts, service delivery and networks. She describes herself as always being interested in technology as it is about innovation and working smarter and more efficiently. So it is appropriate that she now leads Engine, the IA’s fintech hub, which was launched under the name of Velocity in 2018.
Engine’s mission is to fuel the adoption of technology within investment management for the benefit and changing needs of clients. The hub was set up following the raft of regulatory and operational changes caused by the impact of the MiFID II regulations in the European Union. Painter explained that innovation had been quite prevalent on the sell side in banking and payments and was also taking place in investment management, but MiFID II generated a real influx of firms and solutions that were directly affecting the buy side throughout the value chain.
“We were the first, and I think we’re probably still the only, buy-side fintech hub and accelerator and we got a lot of traction very quickly,” she adds.
Painter continued that customer experience is absolutely front and centre for asset managers, along with operational efficiency and the regulatory challenges to ultimately create competitive advantage. As a result, best practice now involves personalised portfolio construction, better client engagement and customer centric strategies that harness data science capabilities.
“It’s about making sure that we’re continuing to develop data architecture and the digital experience, for the end-consumer and also for the employees within these organisations,” she added.
Adopting fintech can take time as it involves cultural change, but Painter said IA Engine has seen significant growth. The accelerator has built an advisory panel of 28 industry professionals, who provide mentoring and expertise, and an ecosystem which now consists of more than 150 fintechs who are specific to the buy side.
The IA Engine Innovator Programme focuses on fintechs that have a viable product, are post-seed or Series A in terms of their funding cycle and have some industry traction. They are keen to work with IA Engine as it has relationships with more than 270 investment managers.
“20 firms have been through the Innovator Programme and have experienced a significant benefit in fundraising, building industry exposure and increasing traction,” says Painter. “One firm stated that the six-month programme helped them generate over a million pounds in additional annual revenue.”
The fourth cohort joined the Engine Innovator Programme in March 2021 and applications for this year’s cohort are being assessed. The most recent cohort of five fintechs consists of Acin, a technology platform that digitises operational risk; Auquan, which helps investment teams discover alpha opportunities from 120,000+ online data sources; ESGi, a provider of trusted environmental, social and governance data; Jacobi, a technology provider to scale and connect investment and client engagement processes; and Net Purpose, the world’s first dedicated data provider for responsible, sustainable and impact investors.
The Innovator Programme lasts for six months and last year IA Engine launched SPARKS, which lasts for one month and works with super-early stage startups for the first time.
“We felt it was important to have conversations really early on so we can help firms pivot or reposition their products, where appropriate,” she says.
Last November two pre-seed fintechs were chosen to take part in SPARKS – Ethical Equity, the UK’s first dedicated, ethically compliant investment platform connecting ethical start-ups/scale-ups with like-minded investors; and Imperium Compliance, which automates the process of integrating guideline review with rule coding for all guidelines.
Ali Kazmi, Founder of Ethical Equity, said in a statement at the time – “We can’t wait to work with the IA and its members on devising solutions for institutional investors to invest and support early stage startups that are delivering social, environmental and cultural impact. Institutional investors have the power to change the landscape of early stage investing, which is desperately needed in the UK.”
Painter is looking forward to seeing the firms that join SPARKS work with IA for a month and then be in a position to apply to the next cohort of the innovator program.
IA Engine has also continued expanding its Global Partner Programme to establish connections with key fintech hubs and last year signed agreements with Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia.
“It is all about education, information, connectivity and collaboration,” says Painter. “We have to work together in order to create change and it’s not just a London conversation, it’s a regional and a global conversation.”
In 2019 IA Engine launched a fintech hub in Birmingham in the UK.
The aim going forward is to continue to build a network, collaborate and make sure that IA is accessing the best tech and innovation for the investment management sector.
“We will continue to run the innovation and early stage programmes whilst working with our global networks,” says Painter. “We look forward to our EmTech (Emergent Tech) conference twice a year to showcase our outgoing and incoming cohorts where we explore how tech and innovation is transforming our sector.”
Painter is a huge advocate of never giving up and that is what she tells her children.
“If you think you’re not going to be successful, you’re not going to be successful,” she added. “You need to go with the mindset of ‘I can do this, I know what I’m doing.’ ”
She also believes that success requires working hard, listening hard, and stepping out of your comfort zone. As a result, her advice to women who want to work in finance is that they are going to have to work hard and believe in themselves.
“If you champion innovation, champion change, then you will be able to seize the opportunity.,” said Painter. “Surrounding yourself with honest, good people and supporting others that allow you to change the status quo is also incredibly important.”
One significant issue she would like addressed is that there is very limited education for children and young people around anything other than accounting when it comes to finance. Starting with the grassroots, schools and actively engaging young people is also necessary to improve diversity, which can include race, social classification, neurodiversity and different generations in addition to gender.
“I’m really excited about Investment 20/20 which is focusing on creating a more diverse and inclusive industry,” said Painter.
Investment20/20 was established by IA to give young people access to a large network of investment management companies.
IA Engine’s current cohort has three female founders and a number of fintechs have started working with Investment 20/20 to bring on young people from more diverse backgrounds. Within the Global Fintech Partners Program, the principal leads in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Hong Kong are all female.
Painter concluded, “It won’t change overnight but I’m confident that by the time my children get to my position, we will have a more representative sector.”
*Engine is the new name for Velocity, the FinTech hub launched by the UK’s Investment Association (IA) in 2018.
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