Congratulations on the win. How does it feel?
Monica: It feels great! It’s always such an honour to win an award like this one. Diversity in business is something I speak about a lot, so it’s great to be recognised for something that I’m genuinely really passionate about.
Lopa: This year, which marks the 100 years of women’s suffrage, it was particularly pleasing that Monica Kalia was chosen as the Chairman’s Award winner. She is the first female winner although - given that each year the list already showcases the Top 5 Women - Monica was selected as the Chairman’s Award winner for her work rather than her gender.
Monica has previously appeared on the list in 2016 and 2017, but it was the cumulation of financial wellbeing provider Neyber’s strategy and the £100 million investment into employee lending that really impressed the Chairman, Dilip Joshi MBE.
“In my working life in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, payroll lending was commonplace but I hadn’t appreciated how complicated this process had become nowadays until I read about Neyber’s success in providing a technological solution for access to fair finance for millions of UK employees delivered in an ethical and sustainable way,”
“I was even more impressed that Monica and her co-founders had created this business and scaled it within just four years,” he added.
Diversity UK hopes that Neyber will go on to attract greater support from government and financial institutions in encouraging this form of fairer finance which provides better value for money for the employee and a greater loyalty and wellbeing for the employer.
Lopa, you’re the founder and CEO of Diversity UK. Tell us a bit about what the awards stand for and the story behind them?
L: The Top 100 Asian Stars in UK Tech is the definitive list of Asians working in the digital and technology sectors in Britain. The aim of the list is to showcase diverse talent; from startup founders, technologists, venture capitalists and investors; to the game changers and digital influencers in business and social enterprise. Dilip Joshi MBE, Chairman of Diversity UK, explains the ethos behind the initiative, “we started the Top 100 Asian Stars in UK Tech list to create a platform to celebrate companies and individuals who embody the spirit of our endeavours in diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”
Fintech is a really competitive sector, how were the winners and finalists chosen?
L: There is a robust process in choosing the finalists. The list is part curated by myself for Diversity UK. The nominations process opens in January and closes at the end of March each year, followed by a shortlisting process by a panel of judges who are experts in their field. Each nominee must be able to demonstrate; an executive level of seniority, impact, level of innovation, investment and growth, as well as a level of influence. Individuals are then assessed from a longlist to a shortlist by the panel of a dozen judges.
Monica, what do you think are the benefits of having diversity bedded into business culture?
M: Financial services is typically dominated by a very specific demographic, and as a fintech we get to shake things up a bit. To me, it seemed such a wasted opportunity not to reflect the progression and innovation of this industry in the way that businesses in the industry were actually run.
In the space that we’re in, we’re focusing on financial inclusion and that means providing something that reflects the diversity of the UK workforce.
At Neyber, we have people from almost every continent on the planet! My co-founders and I benefit hugely from this because we get to tap into that incredible global pool of talent to deliver products and services that suit our incredibly diverse customer base. We’ve got people in our business who can relate, and understand what our customers want to achieve in their financial lives. We’re very lucky.
How do you think business leaders can drive diversity in their business?
M: Creating a diverse and innovative culture starts from the top, and my co-founders and I recognize that every decision we make has a direct reflection on who we are as a business and the talented team we have working at Neyber. I think if people at the top buy into the importance of diversity, and consciously embed this belief in their practices and policies then it becomes synonymous with the business as a whole.