100WFinTech Changemaker Series – Time to be Visible

May 13, 2024

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 this ‘100WFinTech Changemakers’ issue, we share the journey, mission, and learnings of 2 senior fintech women in our global Public Directory Dr. (Mrs.) Markie Idowu and Jessica Liu  this month. We tell stories of how the 100WFinTech Changemakers have created and leveraged opportunities that were open to them via their entrepreneurship, investing, talks, courses, 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.

If these stories and missions resonate with you, please share them with your network, get in touch with us, or join the Public Directory.

We are always looking for Changemakers to profile, please contact us if you know someone we should feature.


Dr (Mrs) Markie Idowu, GMD/CEO, Xpress Payment Solutions Limited

Location: Nigeria, Africa

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-mrs-markie-idowu-ba6b3374

Website: https://www.xpresspayments.com/about-us/details2/?id=Dr%20(Mrs)%20Markie%20Idowu


First, let us introduce Dr. Markie Idowu.

Dr. (Mrs.) Markie Idowu, recently named Chair of Women in Technology in Nigeria (WITIN) Advisory Board 2023 – 2024 for her numerous contributions in the tech space, has over 35 years of experience in Banking and IT, with 28 years in the banking industry. She worked for several banks including GTBank, Fidelity Bank and Polaris Bank, where she left as Executive Director (ED), Retail and Lagos Commercial Banking. In her current role as Group Managing Director/CEO, Xpress Payment Solutions Limited, a leading financial technology (fintech) company in Nigeria, Dr. Idowu is leading major strategic initiatives and the transformation of the company to be the preferred choice for e-payments in Africa.

A life-long learner, Dr. Idowu holds an MSc in Software Engineering with Distinction and Best Result from Aston University, UK. She graduated at 19 with a first-class degree in Computer Science from the University of Benin, where she also finished as the Best Graduating Student in the Faculty of Science. She received her Master’s in Business Administration from Lagos Business School and a PhD in Credit Management. Dr Idowu has also attended executive education programmes at Harvard, MIT, LSE, INSEAD, Euromoney, LBS, among others, to stay in the forefront of 21st-century knowledge.

Dr. Idowu was in 2022 crowned as Best Female Fintech CEO at the Nigerian Fintech Awards. She was also honoured as one of “Africa’s Most Inspirational Women in Leadership 2023”, bagging the same honour in 2022. Dr Idowu is a Fellow of the National Institute of Credit Administration, where she is also the Vice Chairman of council, as well as an Honorary Senior Member (HCIB) of the Chartered Institute of Bankers. She is a recipient of the prestigious British Chevening Scholar Award (1992), Distinguished Leadership in National Development Gold Award (2005), Africa’s Best Payment Solution Personality of the Year (2020), League of Africa Development Student (LEADS) ”Africa’s Patriotic Amazon of the Year” (2022), and Payment Solution Personality of the Year (2023). She is also a member of the Institute of Directors (IOD).

Dr Idowu has served on the board of several companies. These include Polaris Bank, MainOne Cable Company, Equity Assurance, IHS, NIBSS (where she represented the GMD, Polaris Bank), Mainstreet Brokers Limited, etc.

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Dr Idowu is fully involved in economic empowerment and capacity building via her people development/mentoring initiatives through which she supports the underprivileged and empowers individuals and small businesses. She is a believer in diversity and inclusion and is immensely proud of the strides Xpress Payments’ Agency Banking business is making at driving financial inclusion in Nigeria. Throughout her career, she has helped businesses recognise their unique capabilities and position them as top-notch by implementing business strategy, policy formulation and execution, resulting in significant revenue and profit growth.

Let us hear her story and her valuable insights and vision for the financial industry in Nigeria.

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What has led you to join Xpress Payment Solutions? How is it revolutionising finance in Nigeria?

“I was led to join Xpress Payment Solutions Limited because my values aligned with the mission of the company, which was established in 2016 to provide innovative financial technology solutions that would democratise the payments space in Nigeria and also reach the financially excluded, in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s financial inclusion drive.

My role in leading the company has been to foster a culture of innovation and operational excellence within the company. This has ensured we remain firmly committed to making affordable, convenient, efficient and secure means of payment accessible to all demographics and locations across Nigeria. Our ever-abiding mission has been to make life easier for all by providing seamless payment solutions across the entire value chain for all Nigerians.”

What have you learned in the process? If you could redo the process, is there anything you would change?

“If we could go back in time and redo the process, we would have loved to work more closely with the industry regulators, to help them with resources that would have accelerated their understanding of the emerging fintech sector and enhanced their capacity to quickly provide policies, regulations and incentives that would, in turn, have accelerated the growth of the industry.”

What are the challenges and opportunities when you build your company? Where do you receive the greatest support?

“In terms of challenges, we are in a very competitive industry with low barriers to entry, which ensure that new players easily join the fray to compete for a share of the same customer wallet that we are after. For opportunities, we have only begun to scratch the surface in the relatively new and emerging e-payments industry in Africa, so there is still so much space for growth and expansion.

The team spirit at work in the company provides my greatest support. Xpress Payment Solutions Limited has a young and dynamic workforce that works as one united and very focused team, which was the winning formula applied to successfully navigate a disruptive catastrophic event as huge as the global COVID-19 pandemic. Like the rest of the world, we did not see it coming, but we pulled through it successfully by working determinedly as a team. We have now incorporated many of the lessons and blessings that came in disguise during the pandemic in our day-to-day operations, so we will be ready for the next pandemic or another global catastrophe.”

What would you do if you were not doing what you are doing?

“I would set up a mentoring/training school for women and girls where I would impart knowledge and relevant skills following 28 years of very rich and multifaceted experience in the banking industry, which I left as an Executive Director.  I presently do a bit of this through Women in Technology in Nigeria (WITIN) where I am currently the Chairperson of the Advisory Board.”

Tell us about your vision and goal behind the TEDx talk, “Empowering Her: Strengthening Women Financially”? What have you learned you can share with 100WF members?

“My TEDx talk was inspired by my constant drive and steadfast dedication to using my position to advocate for, inspire and mentor the girl child and empower women generally. As a proponent of women’s empowerment and gender equity, especially in the fintech space where I never let any opportunity to share my story slip away, I continue to spearhead, as Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Xpress Payment Solutions Limited, several women’s empowerment programmes, especially through our Agency Banking network, which has onboarded so many women. Through the platform we provide them with free POS machines, collateral and training, allowing them to carry out agency banking operations and make a decent living. It is the same reason I am involved with WITIN (Women in Technology in Nigeria) where we are dedicated to ensuring the empowerment of girls in the fields of science and technology.”

What are you most excited about in the future? Share an amazing fact people don’t know.

“The huge potential in Africa is evidenced by our large technology-savvy youth population and our resource-rich countries. These point to a bright future for Africa if we can harness through technology the unbounded creativity, passion and energy of our youth, and undertake on the continent the manufacture of finished products from our abundant natural resources, rather than exporting raw commodities only to import the finished products made from those commodities.

African countries trade less with themselves than with the rest of the world. Hopefully, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will reverse this situation and ensure that Africa’s 54 countries conduct more trade between themselves than between them and the rest of the world.”

What is the biggest takeaway you want to leave with the reader at 100 Women in Finance/100WFinTech?

“You are enough. You have all it takes to contribute to building great teams, great units, great companies, and great systems. Don’t let anyone tell you or convince you otherwise. You are enough. You are good enough. You are capable. You are a gift to the world. The world stands to benefit because you are here. Don’t deny the world what you are capable of contributing to it. Let the world feel your impact.”


Jessica Liu, Founding Member of Planto.io, Board Director of Fintech Association of Hong Kong, APAC

Location: Hong Kong, APAC

Website: https://www.planto.hk/en/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-yj-liu/

Next, we chat with Jessica Liu, who is one of the Founders at Planto, a Hong Kong fintech company that equips banks for the Open Banking era. The company harnesses the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI)  to help banks build customer intelligence and provide personalized data-driven banking and lending experiences to their customers.

Prior to Planto, Jessica was a private equity and financial advisory professional at YCP Holdings Limited and Vice President at HSBC’s International Corporates division. Born in Singapore and originally from Taiwan, Jessica grew up in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong and graduated from The University of Hong Kong. She is active in several women’s advocacy initiatives, especially in the realms of fintech and financial inclusion, and is a member of Women in Tech HK.

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Jessica will talk about her Digital Banking fintech community building as a Board Director of the Fintech Association of Hong Kong (FTAHK), her mission and vision of open banking at her company Planto.io, and invaluable advice for women entrepreneurs in tech.

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Why did you co-found Planto.io and how did you get involved in the digital banking fintech community building within the Fintech Association of Hong Kong?

“We launched Planto because we noticed a major issue in the market – millennials and Gen Z, who are digital natives, were struggling to effectively handle their finances. The process of gathering and organizing information from various financial accounts, such as banks, securities, insurance, MPF, and loan providers, was both time-consuming and frustrating. Additionally, analyzing and planning personal finances proved to be a challenging task. To address these pain points, we developed the original B2C Planto application.

Our goal was to create a smart and user-friendly platform that emulated an open banking model. With Planto, users can effortlessly consolidate all their financial data within seconds, making it a breeze to manage their personal finances. The success of our application led us to collaborate with banks, assisting them in developing similar solutions and integrating AI models for Open Banking.

As a result of our contributions to the fintech space, I joined the Fintech Association of Hong Kong. We have become a trusted fintech partner for banks, helping them enhance their digital banking solutions for both SMEs and retail customers.”

Can you expand on Planto’s open banking model a bit more; do you think this trend will grow in Asia/globally?

“Planto collaborates with banks in Hong Kong and Taiwan to develop Open Banking use cases and infrastructure. These use cases include personal finance management, business financial management, and credit insights, with a strong emphasis on data enrichment models capable of generating a wide array of insights. This trend is undoubtedly growing globally, with the rise of Open Banking in markets such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, the UAE, and the USA. We anticipate that this evolution will expand beyond just banking data to encompass information from other financial institutions.”

What have you learned in the process? If you could redo the process, is there anything you would change?

“The top 3 things I have learnt throughout my experience are 1) Embrace failure and take calculated risks, as they lead to valuable learning opportunities 2) relationships are key, and 3) Don’t shy away from addressing conflicts, but choose your battles wisely. Overall, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

What are you most excited about in the future? Share an amazing fact people don’t know.

“I’m most excited about the transformative impact of technology, particularly AI, on the banking industry. While banks are traditionally highly regulated, we are witnessing a shift in the approach toward embracing innovative technologies.

Over the next few years, I anticipate a strong transformation in the banking industry’s mindset and innovation practices. This has the potential to fundamentally change the way we access and utilize financial services.

The integration of cutting-edge technologies like AI is poised to revolutionize the banking landscape, making financial services more efficient, personalized, and accessible to a wider customer base. This technological evolution could significantly disrupt traditional banking models, ushering in a new era of financial innovation, consumer-centric solutions, and more affordable services.”

What would you do if you were not doing what you are doing?

“In all likelihood, I would be involved in the Fintech industry, either as part of a Venture Capital firm or a Venture arm of a financial institution.”

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow a similar path, i.e., co-found a fintech start-up / a community builder as in digital banking?

“One important lesson is to pursue something you’re truly passionate about while addressing a genuine problem. Instead of staying in your comfort zone, strive to constantly improve and find ways to do things even better. Also, always try to be resourceful.

You are one of the few Women in FinTech, what advice would you share with women who may be interested in going into tech entrepreneurship?

“I strongly encourage more women to enter the tech industry, especially in the field of financial technology. My advice is to always ensure you are solving a real problem that exists in the market. Stay focused and proactively network within the community.

There are many amazing groups of supportive women in the tech industry who can provide valuable mentorship and advice to help you along your journey. Leveraging these support systems and resources can make a significant difference in your success.”

What is the biggest takeaway you want to leave with the reader at 100 Women in Finance/100WFinTech?

Focus on things in life that make you happy and don’t waste time on things that don’t. Life is far too short.

Recent and upcoming events organized or co-hosted by 100WFinTech are as follows:

April 8, 2024, in-person event as part of Femme Leadership Summit during New York Fintech Week, New York (USA), ‘Transitioning Careers – Innovating Your Career Plan into Fintech’ Panel produced by 100WFinTech and co-sponsored by Nasdaq, Carta, Ramp and Grasshopper Bank

April 10, 2024, in-person event, Munich (Germany), “Investing in the future: unveiling digital tools and AI Opportunities” Panel and Networking, co-sponsored by Scalable Capital and BlackRock

April 17, 2024, 9 am EST, Webinar, “Unlocking New Possibilities for AI and Finance through Chat GPT & ABM’s or Other AI Tools”, Alicia Vidler, UNSW

Q2 2024, in-person event, New York (USA), “FedNow and Payment Rails”, sponsored by Fingercheck

June 2024 (date to TBC), in-person panel event, London, “AI in Compliance”, sponsored by SteelEye.

June 10, 2024, in-person panel and networking event, San Francisco (USA), “Meet and Greet – Female FinTech and AI Investors and Founders”, sponsored by Moss Adams

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This is the seventh article of our Changemakers in FinTech series. In the future, we will continue to feature FinTech book authors, TED Talks speakers, lecturers, and influencers from around the world.

If you are interested in partnering with us at 100 Women in FinTech, please visit our website and contact us here.