Corporates Supporting Startups: Does it all have to be about the money?

By: Hari Rajmohan, SC Ventures | 24 Oct 2019

I first spoke to Edward Neequaye on an teleconference line, along with a few other employees of Standard Chartered Bank. By then we had shortlisted Edward/ Built and another start up, from amongst over 100 contenders to be the recipient of a $50k cash award and a 1 year mentoring program, in partnership with One Young World. The theme was to support a start up with an idea or a product that would positively impact the world through the lens of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) #9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Edward and his company Built Accounting fit the bill as they were trying to address the youth unemployment in Ghana though financial services training, particularly targeting the large and underserved SME segment of the business community.

After that first call where we spoke about Edward’s vision for Built, what that means for the Ghanaian SME community, and what we as Standard Chartered Bank could assist with in getting there, the interview panel decided unanimously to move ahead with backing this young and zestful accountant-turned-entrepreneur from Ghana. Given the clear confluence of technology, finance and entrepreneurship on this project, some of us at SC Ventures (the innovation arm of the bank) decided to run point on the engagement.

Over the many engagements that our team has had with Edward in the past 6 months, we have discussed financial forecasting, brand & marketing strategy, technology team hiring strategy, Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) structuring, to name a few. This was possible thanks to the support we received from the in-house team members at SC Ventures as well as the rest of the bank – be it technical advice from our CTO Thorsten Neumann, leadership and problem solving technique training from one of our innovation coaches, sessions with our local marketing team in Accra, and financial forecasting and capital structure tips from yours truly (!)

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In August of this year, Claudia Marcusson, an innovation coach at SC Ventures (Singapore) was in Ghana and during her time there, she ran Edward and his team through the best practices in ethnographic research. She accompanied Edward in visiting some of the existing and potential customers to help give context on how we think about understanding (and more importantly anticipate) customer needs. Over in Ghana, Edward was also introduced to the Chief Executive Officer of our country office, as well as senior members of the credit team, who have agreed to provide consultation to Built’s product management team on best practices of credit profiling, specifically on what data points, and trends do market leading lenders look for when they lend to SMEs.

The $50k would be used to support the growth of the technology team, as well building capabilities on marketing and infrastructure support.

I hope this serves as a reference point to corporates out there, who are trying to connect with early stage companies trying to have a positive impact in their respective communities. It is not easy, but it certainly is not hard.

The other day, I had coffee with Edward in the Basinghall office of SCB London. He said (and I paraphrase!) “I want cheap credit accessible to as many mom and pop stores in Ghana as possible“. I wish that happens (and that Built plays a role in that journey)….and more. We would be delighted to be part of that journey.


Finding the Silver Lining of Covid-19 for startups

By: Alex Toh, SC Ventures | 16 June 2020

(Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer)

Being in the startup scene, you tend to be (or after a while become) optimistic as you’re surrounded by passionate people building their dreams. On the VC side, you can do as much due diligence, research and scenario planning as possible, but every single investment is always still a leap of faith. Calculated, but still risky nonetheless.

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Fail, repeat. Keep trying, until successful enough to raise a 2nd fund and repeat again.

Too many unknown unknowns exist, and as we’ve seen in the past months, the emergence of a new coronavirus has effectively changed everything. We’ve seen how the pandemic has overturned the airlinetourismretailF&B and many other industries. However, there are also others that have ‘benefited’ from the situation; e-commerce, delivery, online payments, telecommuting, gaming, social media, heck, even toilet paper manufacturing. Multiple articles have already covered these sectors.

In trying to keep up with the mood of positivity and optimism, I’d like to focus on the underlying changes and positive knock-on effects that this situation has created and share some observations and thoughts.

Digitisation becomes a thing.

In 1955, John Hancock (now Manulife) digitized 600mb of life insurance policies. A 2018 survey findings revealed 70% of companies have a digital strategy (or are working on one). This buzzword in the early 2000s is being embraced by corporations and Covid-19 may just be the catalyst to make it the norm. 75% of Fortune 500 CEOs surveyed think so too.

The reality of being physically apart has forced corporations to accelerate digitization strategies for their customers, employees and business as usual practices. Using banking as an example, customer complaints of manual paper processes like account opening have to be at least digital if you cannot visit a physical branch. Wet signatures to approve the document have to move to a secured e-signature platform. Efficiency needs to keep up with customer expectations and repetitive but important processes like KYC need to be automated with some form of Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

What this likely means for B2B startups is;

  • Corporates would have more problem statements around digitization and relevant technologies
  • They will have bigger budgets to solve them
  • Perhaps more importantly, the buy in that you needed from the head of department is now coming from the group CTO. Once large structural changes are made to go digital, they are unlikely reverted to the old processes of before. This further ignites a cyclical change from the “legacy” organizations to embrace technology or be the only one left behind.

Startups I speak to have experienced cold conversations suddenly turn warm and those in pre-production seen their obstacles cleared to get their product out as quickly as possible during this period. My own portfolio company product has been rolled out months ahead of schedule and peers from other financial institutions tell me the same. This speed of adoption would mostly be unheard of in the banking world if not for this virus. And, I’m hoping this mindset will stay after the virus situation recovers.

Instead of coffee, it’s now zoom.

As CIOs struggle to cope with the 10–100x increase in remote working as governments move employees to work from home (WFH), teleconferencing becomes the new norm of meetings. Also, instead of networking drinks, VCs and startups now play fortnite together (seriously).

What this likely means for startups is:

  • Instead of expensive and inefficient travel trips for B2B sales, you can now do it online and close sales. This applies to pitching and closing investment rounds from VCs online too.
  • WFH also means remote access for B2B startups is now being granted (or at least working with client’s on premise staff via teleconferencing). Engineers do not need to be in client premises and this means arbitraging labour in cheaper countries; EVEN MORE.
  • Collaborative and communications software usage is increased. Corporate firewalls, especially found in banks, start to ease or formal work-arounds are developed. The actual ability to access and use these SaaS tools for corporates creates new opportunities and employees pro-actively explore more tools. The increased usage can create network effects within and between large organizations.
  • Traditional on-premise only customers are migrating to a hybrid or cloud solution. Those corporates that were in your long term pipeline could possibly be your customers by December 2020.
  • Network improvement and cybersecurity plays likes SD-WAN, Microsegmentation, Multi-factor Authentication, etc. all rise in importance for corporations and move ahead in the queue for getting into production. Especially for the legacy systems customers above. Procurement procedures and onboarding now move quicker for such key systems.

During Singapore’s ‘lock-down’ period, I’ve learnt of a ‘conservative’ local bank allowing a fintech remote access to key data to continue working on an important system. Some startups are now citing onboarding into large banks in weeks instead of months and I’ve seen startups close enterprise sales and VC peer closes deals via video. I have been doing due diligence with a few fintechs purely online and might be closing some deals entirely remotely.

As the world moves out of lockdown, physical human interaction will definitely continue. However, as we’ve seen pure online work in this period, I know deals can be closed with less physical meetings and more efficient video follow ups. I hope that the often nightmarish onboarding procedures will continue to be nimble and MNCs continue to allow more SaaS tools to be accessed via through corporate network firewalls.

Being real;

Now, I would like to think of myself as a realistic optimist. I know that there have been many cases when startups lost funding opportunities or large contracts because of the economic environment or they couldn’t meet in person. Overall VC funding has likely been reduced too. The situation is what it is, and we can only decide how we deal with it. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes;

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credits to Iron Mike and an amazing poster sold on Amazon

(and see Mike Tysons’ explanation on what he means here)

If you are a founder or working in a startup, nothing is going according to plan and you are now going through the extreme worst case scenario in your projections. How you deal with it will define you and your company. And remember, many great companies were created in bad times. I hope this post can help us try to look a little on the bright side and carry on the best we all can. 💪

If you haven’t, do read these great articles on what to expect, how to better pitch online, and inevitably dealing with layoffs.

Amid 2nd wave fears, and knowing that it may be many months or even years before a vaccine or cure is found, at least we know the world is working together to get there. Fingers crossed, I expect to meet friends from the ecosystem in person soon. An actual cup of cappuccino to catch up sure beats a virtual ☕ over zoom. Stay safe!


Digital CVP - the elusive segment of ‘one’

By Sachin Rajat Sharma, CPO, nexus | 24 August, 2020

 

Are financial institutions ready for hyper personalisation?

Sachin R Sharma with Vipul Gupta ,23 August 2020

You were talking about a holiday and lo and behold!, an advertisement for ‘weekend getaways’ appears on your social media wall. ‘This is spooky, are they listening to me?’ . Well as it turns out a sophisticated algorithm is curating advertisements customised to your very unique profile, timed to your recent activities and web searches.

Another day you wonder - ‘Are they really listening to me? As you struggle to explain your credit card transaction issue to your bank’s customer service agent who seems to be more interested in selling you a personal loan that you do not need.

Despite financial transaction data widely being accepted as the most valuable data set in customer profiling, traditional financial institutions struggle to make effective use of it.

Digital natives are used to relevant, specific and timely marketing interventions. Your social media wall is tailor made for ‘you’ no second user experiences the same feed, in effect you are a hyper customised ’segment of one’

For your bank credit card proposition on the other hand you must fit into more or less one of these categories

●     Cashback crazy

●     Miles Junkie

●     Rewards seeker

●     Foodie

●     Shopaholic

Too bad if you cut across these categories

The reality is that most of us are a little bit of all, and our preferences constantly change from time to time. As such we will end up having multiple cards with constantly shifting loyalties

This may have been good 10 years back with little digital penetration and most of us dependent on the ‘physical’ media for making our choices. But not anymore, big tech has completely changed the game and banks need to keep up.

So what will it take to bridge the gap, and can it ever be bridged ?

This article lays out a 5 point plan to get there

 I.        Get the data in one place

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The bank started operations in 1961, a time of paper ledgers, in the 80s they introduced the first computer systems and by early 90s they had a state of the art core banking system to manage deposits and payments

A few years later credit cards were introduced followed by an overhaul of lending systems in the late 1990s. The databases of all these systems were maintained independently and nothing has changed in the last 20 years. The only place you can see a ‘consolidated’ view of the customers holding is in the servicing system that has painfully sourced data from a large number of federated databases. No access to a consolidated data set and limited opportunity to drive customer engagement

The problem statement ‘how do you consolidate federated data into an all encompassing, accessible data store or data lake’

Financial Institutions face a three-pronged challenge in leveraging the real power behind the data that they hold across myriad systems - most of them legacy and sometimes running into the hundreds. The problem I see most often is that most of the institutions are solving for only a part of the problem!

Physical availability of data (Breadth and Frequency)

Hurdle: Traditionally the data availability has been primarily dictated by the institution’s ‘Reporting’ needs. This limits the number of data points readily available for consumption and also the frequency of refresh is also in most cases monthly. This fundamentally affects the capabilities of any analytics function because they then have to resort to ad hoc requests to secure required data and spend ~80-90% of the time preparing the data.

Solution: Technologies like Hadoop / HaaS etc provide almost unlimited storage at a fraction of the cost earlier. Financial institutions can leverage these solutions to create a Data lake where ALL the data from ALL the systems can be dumped at a frequency of choice. This would ensure ready and quick access to any data element for the user

Understanding of data:

Hurdle: But will physical availability alone solve the problem? While it might seem so, often due to multiple legacy systems, products and its features are booked in complex fashions across systems. There is limited knowledge of how to filter for the right data and also how to join data elements across systems. So you might have 100k data elements in your data lake, yet not know how to use most of it!

Solution:

-       Value your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)! They are the ones who can partner with business and unlock the true value of the hidden gems in data. Banks need to start treating their System and Data SMEs with respect. In today’s data-driven world they are worth their weight in gold. Banks on account of myriad cost pressures over the last decade (Post-Lehmann) have failed to realise the importance of this aspect and substantial such SMEs have been lost to ensuing expense line management actions. Hope they do not repeat the same mistake post-Covid.

-       Data dictionaries – While banks have started creating individual data element dictionaries with some basic descriptions, these are often not enough for actual usage. Banks need to create ‘Data Block’ dictionaries which store logical joins and filter conditions to arrive at a usable data attribute. For e.g. I might need to use 5 different tables in my cards system to arrive at ALL valid transactions by a customer and I also need to know the conditions for identifying only ‘valid’ transactions. This will ensure widespread and consistent usage of data across the organization

The Organisation's Data Culture

Hurdle: Banks have various units working in silos and often monopolistic ownership of data. This is a strong hurdle in building a data-driven decision-making culture. Any new initiative which cuts across functions seems a mammoth task to navigate in the highly matrixed organizational hierarchy, killing many data dreams even before they are born. Also with a traditional mind-set the focus for the failure of any new initiative is too often focused on blaming individual team members.

Solution: Traditional organisations need to be more open towards ‘test and learn’ or ‘fail fast’ experiments to break new ground. The culture needs to move away from punishing every failure which will be a key enabler for a cutting-edge analytics culture. Data Silos need to be broken and its usage should be democratised with the right controls. Many banks are starting to adopt Agile ways of project execution with teams organised as Tribes and Squads to overcome some of these legacy shortcomings.

II.        Make your data work harder

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 While banking transactions data is undoubtedly valuable, it is not enough for a ‘contextual engagement’

For that you need, search, location and off-us transaction data as well. Going back to the facebook example, not just every like and reaction on facebook is tracked but through a product called ‘Pixel’ facebook also gets access to your activity on partner websites.

In brief you need to make your own data work much harder and have a solid foothold in the data partnership ecosystem

Better usage of internal data

In many cases the bank’s own internal data hasn’t been utilised yet to its full potential. Banks have a wealth of information about the customer revealing Financial, Transactional, Behavioural and Demographical dimensions across time. With physical availability of data, knowledge of how to use the data and powerful processing tools that are now easily available, banks first need to unlock this potential. For e.g. 1) there is a plethora of customer loyalty gaining potential in acting on real time data of ‘failed touch points / transactions’ for a customer and helping the customer out of it at that very moment. 2) Spending pattern changes for a customer over the years might indicate its time to upgrade the customer to affluent banking although he might not have placed the money with us

Data as a currency

Consumers increasingly are willing to provide access to their personal data in exchange for rewards. We walk into a mall and they ask for your details in exchange for free Wi-Fi, we agree to go ahead without giving it a second thought, sounds very familiar isn’t it? Within the ambit of data privacy, banks can increasingly integrate a rewards / convenience approach into their marketing strategies to gain better and informed contextual access to relevant information. For e.g. turn on location services on the mobile app in exchange for location specific discount offers?

Data partnerships

Banks can augment their understanding of the customer through data partnerships and external data (Bureau, Social Media listening, Product & Brand Sentiment Analysis, Alternate data - Utilities etc) of course by doing so responsibly and within the relevant data privacy laws and spirit.

Ability to remarket and build a dynamic 360 view of the customer can only be achieved with data partnerships There is limited understanding of these data partnership eco-systems within the traditional banks and the marketing teams are mostly dependent on agencies to ‘buy’ the right media for campaigns. This gap needs to be actively bridged. Working with google and facebook is not really a question anymore. How to make it effective is the question to ask.

Some readers may argue that banking regulation makes it significantly more difficult to strike data partnerships. This is a fair point, however at the same time with more regulations such as GDPR coming into effect, the playing field between bank and non- bank entities is evening out. It is time to actively engage regulators in a data privacy discussions, where consumers data can be shared safely and transparently for better experiences

 

III.             Engage digitally and track performance

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For ‘segment of one’ to work you need your customers to be engaged digitally. While most banks are investing heavily into their digital banking apps, getting all customers to use them have been an uphill task. Read my article Preaching to the converted

 The incumbents who have a substantial user base using the mobile apps (at least 50% of active account logging in regularly) need to move from ‘view and transact’ to ‘active engagement’

Also after significant effort the best incumbent banks get 50~60% of their user base on the mobile banking app, while nearly 100% will be using google and facebook services. In many instances these may be the best channels to reach not just new but your existing portfolio customers as well.

The metric for digital engagement measurement also need to evolve - ‘monthly logins’ need to evolve to measuring monthly ‘#digital transaction’, ‘new product applications’ and ‘participation in portfolio campaign’

The metrics for digital engagement should cover the following high level categories at the least:

Customer engagement indicators

‘No of successful logins’, ‘No of transactions initiated’, ‘Trend of transactions – Stable / Increasing / Decreasing by customer’ etc. ‘Count of types of transactions by customer’ et al.

Customer experience

 ‘No of failed logins’, ‘ No of failed transactions’, ‘No of app crashes’, ‘Time taken for specific transactions’, ‘Time taken to complete applications’, ‘App up-time %age’ etc.

New Business potential

‘New product categories viewed’ and ‘%age conversion’. These can be triggers for the bank's digital remarketing efforts.

 

IV.           You have the data, run campaigns

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Most incumbent financial institutions have strong analytics teams. Large group of data analyst work on business insights for management decision making and find potential opportunities for marketing interventions

 

X no. clients had >$Y spend in the previous year now that has dropped to $Z - opportunity to ‘win back’

 

X no. of deposit clients have a high propensity of taking up a mortgage loan - opportunity to x-sell etc

 

Typically these campaigns cycle would be 2-3 months with high degree of ‘human interventions’

Automating a typical campaign cycle is a major challenge. The good news is there are a number of third party solutions now available for campaign automation (to some extent)

E.g. Adobe Campaign management

Automation is not a luxury anymore, especially if the bank has a mass market client portfolio. The challenge is to automate all components of the campaign life cycle. Not just identifying opportunities but also fulfilling them with the least amount of human intervention .

  

V.        Crank up the marketing

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 Having the data, partnerships, campaign automation and engagement platforms in place now it's time to ‘crank up the marketing’

This is perhaps the most challenging piece of the puzzle.

Consider this, Facebook has ten of thousands of advertisers generating content which when delivered to you in the right context feels completely customised to your needs.

How does a bank compete with that?

There are two problems to solve

  1. How does the bank prioritize between the multiple campaigns that the client may be eligible for at any point in time?
  2. How does the bank ‘customise’ the content to hyper personalise the message for that particular user?

The former is usually settled in order of ‘business value’.A prioritization ‘committee’ will probably choose an insurance campaign with a higher revenue opportunity over a low margin time deposit campaign.

In the short term target oriented scenario, this may be a reality. However to effect a long term change campaigns should be ‘algorithmically prioritised on ‘Customer lifetime value’.

For example -

The insurance campaign is prioritised, however a high value deposit into the customers account triggers an ‘event’ that brings the Term Deposit campaign upfront. The campaign message shows up in the bank mobile application with an easy process to set up the time deposit.

Recommendation engines – Platforms like Amazon, Netflix etc are heavy users of Recommendation engine algorithms to personalise customer offerings. These are based on customers past searches, purchase behaviour, what content they watch etc. It’s like creating an individualised marketing offer, pitch or nudge for the next action that the customer is most likely to take. Banks can similarly marry the plethora of information at their disposal and curate personalised offers on a ‘Offers for you’ wall for the customer. For e.g. 1) A customer starts buying from MotherCare or Kiddy Palace in Singapore (Indicating that there is a high probability of an addition to the customer’s family). There can be a personalised offer to the customer for discounts / offers for baby and post-natal merchants. 2) Customer starts paying university fees through his account; the bank correlates his income and fees and accordingly offers an educational loan.

Some resource on Recommendation engines:

Recommendation Engines | Recommendation System in Banks

A simple way to explain the Recommendation Engine in AI

This is easy to illustrate, difficult to execute. A lot of elements such as data engineering, AI programming and most importantly and mindset change towards long term engagement needs to come through to achieve this

The second part of the problem - ‘customised content’ is even more challenging. Any customer offer needs to have a business case behind it, $100 cashback for a spending $2000 over the next two months. 10% rebate from the first year premium if you invest more than $1000 per month. For asset products there can be further customisation such as risked based pricing. For every offer marketing content needs to get generated across multiple channels, in app, sms, email, digital banners etc. Not an easy task with limited marketing and business bandwidth

Again innovative third party solutions need to be considered. Content generators from the gig economy can be another source. In brief the marketing content bottleneck needs to be resolved for true hyper customisation

In conclusion, amongst the incumbent banks that we have in view, there are several who have taken great leaps towards achieving better use of data for customer engagement. However the foot can not be taken off the pedal just yet, there is a long way to go before retail banking customer can truly say ‘my bank is listening to me’

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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are our own and not representative of our organisations in any way. Commercial or brands mentioned in the article are only for creative reference and should not be considered as the authors recommendations.


Does safe online banking compromise accessible online banking?

By Bill Winters, Group Chief Executive at Standard Chartered

21 Oct 2020

Here is a constant conundrum many of us in banking face. How do you make your online banking services as easy and accessible as possible while ensuring they are completely safe and secure? Making select investments in savvy fintechs that think laterally about the opportunities and issues facing online financial services is a core plank of our digital transformation.

We’ve made three recent investments, via our SC Ventures innovation unit, in companies that help protect all of us when we bank, and do business, online. Secret Double Octopus | Forget your Password not only one of the best named companies I’ve come across, but are at the cutting edge of online authentication. Like many of you, I struggle with too many passwords – Secret Double Octopus are at the forefront of developing a practical solution to remove the need for passwords, whilst enhancing protection against cybercrime.

Silent Eight impressed us with the ability of their AI-based platform to significantly enhance the speed and accuracy of our ability to spot financial crime risk across the transactions we undertake. We partnered with them in 2018, and made our first investment last year. The significant increase in online banking since the onset of COVID-19 has shown the importance of having these tools in your armoury. Silent Eight has doubled in scale since the start of the year, and I’m pleased that we've continued to support their research and development via further investment.

With the increasing complexity of cyber threats, our recent investment in vArmour allows businesses like ours to control operational and cyber risk across any digital platform in a single view, so security across the critical banking applications we use can be enhanced. Our investment will help vArmour expand its services globally.

I always find it fascinating to talk to start-ups and tech companies that think differently about improving safe access to financial services. Using our SC Ventures unit, I am proud that we can get directly support and partner with ‘the best of the best’ - some of the most promising fintechs shaping the future of safe online banking.


Be a lady, they said

By Fernn Lim, SC Ventures | 15 Sept 2020

 

I've had the privilege to be 1 of the 30 women selected for the Money 20/20 ASIA RISE UP Programme, class of 2020. If you are part of the Fintech industry, you would know the Money 20/20 folks are a force to be reckoned with!

The RISE UP programme is designed to groom the next generation of women leaders within the Fintech space. Here, we are talking about building networks, sharing experiences and learning new skills that women leaders can leverage, to supercharge their career to the next level.

Being proponents of technology, no global pandemic could stop us from the original meet up. In August 2020, we convened virtually over our laptops, shared our ambitions, struggles and the conflicting bind women often find themselves caught in.. Career vs Childcare, Speaking in a lower voice vs Being authentic, Filling bigger shoes vs the Imposter Syndrome..

As with life, there aren’t any straightforward answers, but it’s useful to pause, reflect and share. I’ve taken some time to pen some of my thoughts down on the back of attending the Money 20/20 RISE UP Programme, SCB’s Women Leader’s ASCEND programme and Google’s #iamremarkable workshop and thought it might be useful to share this with a wider group.

To the women leaders in all of us — fresh graduates, experienced hires, career mamas, ladies on a career break, ladies looking for a career pivot.. This is for you.

1.The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

One of many things we have to remember is this — Your career experiences add up to who you are today. Often, females feel they aren’t “good enough” and have to work doubly hard to prove their worth. Statistically, this HBR article reports that women will only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the qualifications. Rarely, do we look back at our past achievements and acknowledge that what we have amassed over the years is more than some bullet points written on a word document. It is who we are, our collective self, that is “more than good enough”.

2. Keep punching above your belt

This was a mantra that my ex boss once told me and I’ve kept it close to my heart since. Be hungry. Stay hungry. Keep showing value. Keep punching above your belt. Be known for the one that always gives 120%. We only have one life. Why be mediocre when you can be awesome? As I re-read what he told me, it still gives me the adrenaline and drives me to propel forward.

3. Girl, Stop apologising

“Sorry to bother”. “Apologies for the delay in response”.

Sounds familiar? The word, sorry, is something women say far too often, without acknowledging how detrimental it can be, both on your reputation and on yourself. I attended a Google #Iamremarkable workshop and it made me realise how often women apologise unknowingly, because we try to be empathetic.. myself included.

Women tend to over apologise, shy away from self-promotion and end any achievement with self-deprecating humour or attribute it to luck. Remove the word sorry as a filler word. We can be authentic, assertive without being apologetic.

4. The art of influencing and negotiating

Perhaps a skill applicable to both male and female individuals would be that of negotiating and influencing. As part of the ASCEND programme, I attended a session led by Arti Shirish and was blown away by the points she made. Be factual. Lay out the pros and cons but let your proponent decide with the consequences in mind. The importance of negotiating is not about winning at all costs but to enable both parties to win in the long term.

5. Be you

At some point, some of us would have been recipients of well meaning advice.. “Speak with a lower voice”, “You need to learn how to play the game”, “Ahh.. you need to learn how to negotiate and FLEX”. What happened to authenticity? We all have one life, why live it with a different persona? Own your authentic self. Be ok, being you.

To this point, women still face the conflicting demands of gender expectations, regardless if it’s at home or at work. I don’t suppose we have completely eradicated the standards that have been imposed on us, but the first step is to break the purported glass ceiling/box.

Be a lady, they said.

I say, be you.