Worldwide, women are leading the way in building and funding disruptive technologies in fintech to advance businesses, broaden access, reduce the disparity in wealth, and transform how people invest in digital assets. Many of these women are featured in 100WFinTech’s Public Directory and are the changemakers in their respective fields in fintech.
In the 100WFinTech Changemaker series, we are sharing the journeys, missions, and learnings of two senior fintech women in the Public Directory, Lydia Ofori and Zaf Chow, and telling the stories of how they created and leveraged opportunities that were open to them via their entrepreneurship, TED Talk, education, and community building. In the process, they open doors for women investors and diverse founders and broaden financial access for many. We hope the stories of these female fintech leaders can inspire the next generation of finance professionals to build a better and more inclusive world by leveraging technology.
We are always looking for changemakers to profile, so please contact us if you know someone we should feature.
Lydia Ofori, CFA and CAIA,
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Plainr (New York)
First, let’s chat with Lydia Ofori.
Lydia is the founder and CEO of Plainr, an intelligence front-office platform that helps investment and client reporting teams work smarter. Through Plainr, Lydia has been working on providing a holistic intelligence generation interface that acknowledges a variety of data types—unstructured and structured text. That contribution to fintech is enormous because 90% of data used by financial services teams is unstructured. The path to making sense of unstructured data leads to repetition of workflows, which costs businesses at least $140k per employee per year. Any platform that helps businesses save money and empower employees to do smart work is a phenomenal contribution.
Prior to Plainr, Lydia spent almost two decades in the investment management industry working across different asset classes. She holds CFA and CAIA charters.
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Lydia shared her journey as a woman founder to help investors make decisions effectively leveraging her AI-powered intelligent front-office platform to turn data into intelligence, the risks and opportunities with AI in finance, and the network (especially 100WF) she found helpful along her entrepreneurial journey.
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What led you to build Plainr? What is your vision?
“I envision a world where investment and client teams have little to no friction to their work. I went through a career where the legwork required to form an intelligent decision as a product specialist, investment executive, and client management executive outweighed the aspects of the work that relied on human judgment. I think that’s the generally accepted Pareto Law. But what if we switch the Pareto Law around and say 20% of the legwork will now generate outsized results (80%) thanks to the power of an intelligent front-office platform created by Plainr? That’s my vision and goal.”
What have you learned in the process? If you could redo the process, is there anything you would change?
“Every event experienced along the way of founding Plainr to date has either propelled us quickly to the next stage of our journey or has been a path-correction event. That means everything that has happened to date and will happen, pleasant or unpleasant, is a good thing. As a founder, the experience evolves, and I’ve learned to evolve with it.”
Are there any challenges when building your company as a woman of color? Where do you seek support?
“There are numerous challenges facing women in business generally and as a woman of color. This is the case whether you are building a business or in a corporation. Despite the visible and invisible challenges, I believe building a wide network of relationships really does help in overcoming what comes against us. I will borrow what I recently learned from Shelley Perry, founder and CEO of Scalelogix Ventures, at the On The Business Mastery Day produced by Cassie Young of Primary Ventures, which is that networking with a goal to find someone who will answer my call when I need them and building the relationship along the way really does help. Of course, for me within 100 Women in Finance generally and with 100 Women in FinTech, I have come to meet outstanding women who answer the call all the time.”
What would you do if you were not doing what you are doing?
“I think I’ll be doing what I’m doing right now. I am driven to solve this problem in whatever form. In an alternate universe though, I would have been an explorer of sorts.”
Tell us about the communities you are involved in/have built. What have you learned that you can share with 100WF members?
“First, I am involved in communities that help women connect and expand their insight about business and technology in general; for example, 100 Women/100 Women in Fintech is one of such communities. As a tech founder, I am involved with a number of tech communities in person and online. Each one serves a different purpose—for the tech communities, sharing ideas about what we are doing in AI, getting on top of AI models being created in the open-source world, and sharing ideas with other founders who are also building. I would like to mention Womenterprise—produced by Work-Bench, a community of females from the NYC enterprise software community, as one of such communities that I’ve recently leaned into. With 100 Women in Finance and other affiliated networks, my relationships are more aligned with the cross-pollination of knowledge, helping grassroots users at firms get acquainted with AI advancements and other technologies that will help them spend 20% on the legwork for outsized returns—80% or more.”
What are you most excited about in the future? Share an amazing fact people don’t focus on.
“We are just in the early innings of AI technologies and applications. And I should say AI is not equal to ChatGPT or generative AI. There is a vast spectrum out there that existed before the first version of generative AI was commercialized, and there are new technologies that are being worked on. I am excited to be working with these technologies to solve a critical problem at this stage of the cycle. We are an evolutionary species, so I think as early as three to five years down the line our world will be totally different as we figure out how we combine a series of AI technologies and apply the evolved technology across vision, text, and speech.”
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow a similar path (i.e., found a company)?
“Entrepreneurship is an amazing way to discover and explore a different side of you. It may be a full-blown 100% path of founding a company or a lesser percentage. Either way, there needs to be an internal resolve of a strong why and purpose and an understanding that the path is barely a straight one. It is in the peaks and troughs that you have to be mentally and physically prepared. Ultimately it can be a rewarding experience.”
Zaf Chow, Chief Commercial Officer, Artifact Labs (Hong Kong)
Website: TEDxTinHauWomen: Web 3.0 – Opening Doors to Equality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql8CKQB_scM&feature=youtu.be
Next, let’s chat with Zaf Chow. Zaf is an advocate of Web3 development and adoption. As the former director of digital strategy and Partnerships at Animoca Brands, she played a pivotal role in promoting the mass adoption of NFTs and metaverses. Her successful entrepreneurship journey as the founder of an award-winning fintech and IoT start-up also showcases her passion for innovation. As a recognized thought leader, Zaf was selected as a TEDx speaker in 2022 to share insights on how Web3 can pave the way for a more equitable future.
Now with Artifact Labs, she leads collaborations with arts and cultural institutions, leveraging blockchain technology to solve real-world challenges. Her work at Artifact Labs blends tradition with innovation, reflecting the evolving art landscape shaped by technology. By empowering institutions to navigate the digital era, Zaf propels them toward ageless resilience.
Zaf is also actively contributing to the Web3 ecosystem by providing valuable guidance and support to start-ups and teams. With Zaf’s dedication to bringing positive change and her deep understanding of Web3’s potential, she is a driving force in advancing the adoption of decentralized technologies and empowering the next generation of digital pioneers.
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Zaf shared her experience on stage at TEDxTinHauWomen, discussing “Web 3.0 – Opening Doors to Equality” and bringing Web3 to the public. She believes Web3 can open doors for a more equitable future and hopes more women can join this emerging field in the near future.
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Why did you do the Ted Talk “Web 3.0 – Opening Doors to Equality” at TEDxTinHauWomen?
“I strongly believe in the transformative potential of Web 3.0 to bring about a more equitable digital landscape. I saw this talk as an opportunity to dispel some common misconceptions associated with Web 3.0. All too often, the public’s understanding of Web 3.0 is limited to cryptocurrencies; NFT trading; and, unfortunately, scams. These aspects, while part of the broader ecosystem, don’t accurately represent the whole promise of Web 3.0. I wanted to clear up these misunderstandings and highlight the broader implications of Web 3.0 for equality and inclusivity. Moreover, I hoped that by addressing this topic at TEDxTinHauWomen, I could encourage more women to explore and contribute to this emerging field.”
What have you learned from this TEDx experience? If you could redo it, is there anything you would change?
“Through this TEDx experience, I learned the power of storytelling in making complex topics more accessible and engaging for a general audience. If I could redo it, I would probably spend more time illustrating real-world examples of how Web 3.0 can advance equality, providing a more tangible understanding of the subject.”
What did not make it to the original talk?
“Because of time constraints, I had to leave out a deep dive into the technical aspects of Web 3.0 and its contrast with Web2.0. I also wanted to discuss more about specific projects that are leveraging the potential of Web 3.0 to tackle societal and economic inequalities but had to prioritize giving the audience a broad understanding of the topic.”
What would you do if you were not doing what you are doing?
“If I weren’t working in the field of Web 3.0, I’d likely be involved in some other technology-driven initiative that aims to bring about social change. I’m deeply passionate about leveraging technology to foster equality and inclusivity, so any role allowing me to work toward this would be a strong contender.”
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow a similar path (i.e., doing a TED Talk)?
“Firstly, I’d say, pick a topic you’re truly passionate about. Your enthusiasm will shine through and make your talk more engaging. Secondly, understand your audience and tailor your content to them. Make sure you explain complex ideas in a way that’s accessible to people who may not be experts in your field. Lastly, practice, practice, practice! The more familiar you are with your material, the more comfortable you’ll be on stage.”
What is the biggest takeaway you want to leave with the reader at 100 Women in Finance/100WFinTech?
“The biggest takeaway I’d like to leave is that Web 3.0 isn’t just a technological advancement; it’s a tool for social change. It can democratize access to information and opportunities, promoting equality and inclusivity. And importantly, women have a critical role to play in shaping this digital future. I hope that more women will be inspired to join and contribute to the space, bringing their unique perspectives and talents to the table.”
Upcoming events organized or cohosted by 100WFinTech are as follows:
- Q1 2024, virtual and in-person—three-part series, “Practice Executive Presence,” co-sponsored by 100WFinTech and NY Mid-Career Committees, hosted by Kadima Careers
- Q1 2024, London, England—panel, sponsored by Komainu
- Q1 2024, Munich, Germany—Future of Finance series: Wealthtech Panel & Networking, sponsored by Scalable Capital
- April 8–12, 2024, New York, United States—participation in FinTech Week
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This is the fourth article of our 100WFinTech Changemaker series. In the future, we will continue to feature fintech book authors, TED Talk speakers, lecturers, and influencers from around the world.