Samantha Seaton: ‘At the top that glass ceiling is definitely still there’

February 22, 2019

In October, Samantha Seaton, CEO of Moneyhub, was named Fintech’s Woman of the Year at the 2018 Women in Financial Advice Awards. In our latest ‘Women in Finance’ interview, she shares how her industry is well-placed to embrace change on the technology front and why the future is bright for young women entering a traditionally male-dominated environment.

Straight-talking, passionate and optimistic. That’s what comes across during 30 minutes in the company of Moneyhub CEO, Samantha Seaton. You can also tell she’s the type of person that welcomes change with arms wide open.

Having spent two decades working in financial services, taking in stints at Towers Watson, eValue and Momentum, she’s particularly excited by the advent of open banking and the customer-focused opportunities it presents to reshape an industry that in her mind has been ‘very one dimensional’ for too long.

“The customer has, in general, been really, really poorly served by financial services,” Samantha tells us.

“The industry has focused on creating products that it believes it can sell and then has focused on how to market and, dare I say it, flog them to the customer.

“I genuinely think the era we’re moving into is about putting the customer first. As a sector we’ll have to come up with products that a customer might actually want. It’s thanks to new technology and the ability to personalise, at scale, that this transformation is taking place.”

Embracing an ever-changing digital landscape could daunting for an industry that has remained stubbornly robust over the years, but Samantha, a self-confessed e-commerce early adopter, points to the evolution of online shopping and its effect on the high street as evidence that the technology debate can’t be parked for much longer.

“I think about how long it took the retail world to accept and acknowledge that online shopping was going to be a problem,” she notes.

“I’d like to think financial services could be a bit ahead of the game on that front. Instead of waiting for its normal mode of operation to be eroded, that it acknowledges the disruption taking place, gets on the front foot and evolves its business models.”

Even if some in her industry choose not to look ahead — an exasperated Samantha shares one example of a CEO citing TSB’s re-platforming as a reason not to touch open banking — she insists Moneyhub is determined to spearhead the conversation.

“Fintech with teeth,” is how she once described her company’s financial management technology; best known to consumers as an app that ‘puts you at the centre of your financial universe’.

Asked to elaborate, she says: “Because it’s got an edge to it. It’s not just about allowing you to have visibility of your finances, it’s allowing you to do something about it.

“It’s about making good intentions become reality,” she adds. “We’re all very busy and often bad at managing our money. I’d like to make managing money easier so that it works harder for you. We call it frictionless finance.”

Is the tech landscape’s rate of change being mirrored in the workplace? Having been one of only three female students on her Information Systems degree at Curtin University prior to life in financial services, Samantha says she’s grown used to being outnumbered by men. She admits that attending October’s Women in Finance Awards was a revelation and a sign of things to come.

“All my life it’s been a very male-dominated world,” she says. “We’re a long way from having lots of women in positions on the board or position of influence, but we’re getting there. We’ve made some decent steps forward in the last year or two.”

Conversation turns to Samantha’s experience of everyday sexism and a boardroom encounter that drew a quick response from her sharp Aussie tongue. After one particular chairman suggested using a ‘hairy arsed bloke’ to deal with a tricky investor, she was quick to point out that the hirsuteness of someone’s behind shouldn’t have anything to do with the decision.

“It struck me that at the top level that glass ceiling is definitely still there,” she reflects.

Despite the unpleasantness of that particular situation, Samantha is full of encouragement for women weighing up a career in financial advice. “You have to be very excited right now,” she points out.

“The whole industry is developing and the way women are conveyed in the workforce is changing. They are likely to find it far easier to be successful than they have to date.

“People who can empathise, understand and communicate well are going to really rise and shine in the advice world. Women tend to do that very well…it’s their time to shine.”