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Women In FinTech Episode 3 Featuring Flori Marquez, Jessica Willis and Dale Sperling




This article was originally posted on Yahoo! Finance News.

For the 3rd edition of Benzinga's Women in FinTech event, host Jordan Robertson welcomed Flori Marquez of BlockFi, Jessica Willis of Pocketnest and Dale Sperling of Stash. Women in FinTech is a YouTube series by Benzinga premiering every Tuesday throughout March at 10:30 AM EST.

While this event features female trailblazers in their respective fields in celebration of Women's History Month, Women in FinTech is, at its essence, meant to continue Benzinga's mission of empowering all people to reach financial prosperity through education and a fearless approach to trying new things.

Women in FinTech: Our Guests Dale Sperling, CMO of Stash

Stash is an app that simplifies investing and Dale is in charge of a team handling customer growth and engagement as well as public relations and communications.

Dale began her career in FinTech after working with one of Stash's original co-founders at an EduTech start-up. While the start-up "went sideways", as Dale put it, she discovered a love for working in the start-up environment and working in tech.

When Dale realized that over 100 million people in the United States don't invest due to perceived barriers to accessibility, her acquired skill set and timing was perfectly positioned to create a platform like Stash.


Jessica Willis, Founder and CEO of Pocketnest

Pocketnest is a digital comprehensive financial planning platform designed specifically to meet the needs of Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z investors, bringing the full certified financial planner experience to people looking for a more modern relationship with an advisory service than the ones, say, Baby Boomers have with theirs.

Jessica began Pocketnest with over 20 years of experience in the personal financial services industry. She counts financial advisor, financial planner, certified financial planner (CFP) and certified private wealth advisor among her titles. Jessica describes Pocketnest's target demographic as anyone "looking for a more tech-efficient way to do comprehensive financial planning".


Flori Marquez, CoFounder + SVP of BlockFi

Flori is the cofounder of BlockFi, a platform bringing institutional financial products and retail consumers together with nontraditional assets like cryptocurrency. These products intend to deliver better yields than your average financial institution can deliver.

BlockFi offers 3 products:

  • The BlockFi interest account where you trade your cash for stablecoin and earn interest on your balance

  • Cryptocurrency buying, selling and trading

  • Loans secured by crypto

Flori got her start working at a financial and a lending company that was eventually acquired by another company, but Flori really wanted to keep working in the start-up space. Her expertise already included creating traditional financial products. Flori saw this opportunity as a way to bring useful U.S. financial products to a global market and increase accessibility to these products for those who would normally run into obstacles obtaining them -- including her family in Argentina, a major motivator for her work.


Working in a Male-Dominated Industry

When asked if she ever faced any challenges working in a male-dominated field that gave her unique skills to help her excel, Dale said, "Certainly being a communicator...being a mom, now...has benefited me. If you go to more traditional experiences, having that time in your life when you want to start a family, but you have to continue in your career, that's certainly a challenge.

"Those times and those challenges only make us stronger as individuals and give us that set of skills and that accessible space to really persevere. I think all of that has built me into the person I am now and I think it helps women everywhere having those challenges and being able to overcome them."

Jordan asked Flori if there was ever a time she felt intimidated working in the industry and if so, how does she deal with those feelings.

Flori said, "Yeah, I think it can definitely be intimidating, especially because I work in financial services and in crypto and in start-ups, so the population of women just gets smaller and smaller. So, I think while...it is difficult sometimes, I've definitely been the only woman in a room of 200 people...I found that the best way to look at it is to use that as an opportunity to stand out.

"If you're unique, it gives you the ability to be special...so, I think there are a lot of challenges to being a woman in finance and anyone who has risen through the ranks has experienced challenges unique to being a woman. And I think understanding the balance...all of those things have helped to shape me to be stronger and more of a Swiss Army knife than other people who haven't had to go through that challenge."


Leveraging Financial Literacy to Gain Social Equity

In response to a question regarding how BlockFi can help women specifically, Flori said, "One of the things that I see very often...that I would love to solve, is to basically demystify how to start investing. One of the things we do at BlockFi is to try to simplify crypto and investing in general."

"When I think about investing and think about giving advice to people who have never done it before, I think about lowering the first step, right? The reality is, you don't have to look at climbing the entire mountain, you just have to look at the 10 steps ahead of you."

Flori goes on to detail how starting with a savings account and getting that higher yield can translate into leveraging those gains into investing and, moving slowly through those 10 steps ahead of you, learning how to make your money work for you using financial products like the ones offered by BlockFi.


Overcoming Career Obstacles

When asked what her biggest obstacle she faced in her career, Jessica said, "I'm going to answer that question looking back. I recognize that there were times in my career I should've taken a jump, taken a risk faster. I was at one company for a really long time, really loved my job there, but I was outgrowing it. And so, the last couple of years were really uncomfortable for me. So, at the time, it felt like I was... broken like I was failing, like I wasn't succeeding at what I thought I had set out to do."

"And now, years and years later, feeling a lot more comfortable in my skin, knowing who I am, and I think also being a mom, I've got this lens on like, no, that was growth, that was beautiful, that was me growing out of an environment...so I think my advice to a younger Jessica would have been... to move a bit faster, take the risk. So that would be what I would say would be an obstacle, having that confidence to jump earlier."

Dale detailed her biggest obstacle, which she said was gaining the experience she needed to move forward in her career following a chosen trajectory.

"You have to advocate for yourself...to make those jumps faster. To push yourself beyond what you know you can do, challenge yourself and create experience. So, if you're stuck...and you know you need to learn about something completely different to make that next jump...you have to push yourself, potentially taking a step back."


Advice for Women in FinTech or Any Career

All the guests spoke about taking risks and investing in yourself. Whether it's setting ego aside to take a step back in your career and learn something new, or taking the risk to jump into a start-up where you might have to take a lower salary in exchange for an opportunity for growth, having the confidence to jump on opportunities is key to reducing disparities between men and women.

Flori spoke about cryptocurrency as an example, saying, "...crypto is a new technology, so everybody is a beginner. So we're at the ground floor here, and what that means is women have the opportunity to get in at the start of a new industry. Previous experience in crypto does not exist."

"And so it's a fantastic opportunity for you to pivot into something new, and when this technology is huge 20 years from now, you'll be able to say, I've been working in this industry for 20 years now and be one of those industry experts. So, I think it's an amazing opportunity for us to level the playing field and make a lot of the disparities we see between men and women in the workplace a lot more even."

When Jessica spoke about taking ownership of your personal finances as a woman, she said, "Personal finance and investing...this stuff doesn't have to be the rocket science it's made out to be. So, step 1 we always say is, take a pause, take a breath, and then make a plan and take some action."

"We say, baby steps, get your toes wet, just try, take some action. There's so many great platforms out there that make things really digestible and easy...go for it."


Up Next

Don't forget to catch the rest of the valuable insights from Flori, Jessica and Dale -- you can see replays of all the Women in FinTech episodes and the rest of our show roster on the BenzingaTV YouTube channel. And don't forget to tune in next week, when we welcome Kathryn St. John, Kathryn Van Nuys and Barbara Provost to the 4th installment of the Women in FinTech series.