In February, Felicia Kodderitzsch, Business and Operations Manager of Octopus Cash, was named on the prestigious Women in FinTech Powerlist for 2018. Felicia was also recognised as a Standout 35 Star, a special category for those making an outstanding contribution to fintech. We spoke to Felicia about what the award means to her, and why more women should consider roles in the industry.
Congratulations! Can you tell us about the work you did to make the Innovate Finance Women in FinTech Powerlist?
One of the best things about making the Powerlist was reflecting on everything I’ve done at Octopus. I helped to launch Octopus Cash – a digital savings product. Two years later, there’s £130 million on the platform, and over 1,000 customers. We’ve grown from a team of two to 20 people working full time, just on Octopus Cash.
Now, I’m working on a pay-per-mile loan for electric taxis. Diesel taxis are being phased out in London and across the UK. But electric taxis are expensive – and traditional finance products are difficult to find. Our pay-per-mile loan is different. It suits the working hours of taxi drivers: the more they drive, the sooner the loan is paid.
You’ve also been recognised as a Standout 35 Star. How did you earn this award?
The judges were interested in how I’ve shared my fintech knowledge with the rest of the team. I run the Operations and Customer team at Octopus Cash, so part of my role is to empower the team to make their own decisions, and encourage everyone to ask questions and get involved.
I’ve also been involved with our work experience program as part of the Octopus diversity workstream, organising placements for students from low-income backgrounds to introduce them to the worlds of finance and technology. We’ve given placements to more than 65 students over the last year.
How did it feel to hear the news?
My first reaction was genuine surprise. I didn’t expect to make the Powerlist, let alone be named a Standout 35 Star. There are so many people doing amazing things at Octopus. I just happened to be recognised for it.
Why are initiatives like the Women in FinTech Powerlist important?
Being a woman in fintech doesn’t affect how I work, but I do notice that I’m one of the few. It’s important to recognise successful women carving out careers in the industry, to encourage others to join.
Having a diverse team helps us develop well-rounded products. It means that the same mix of people who build the products, use the products too.
Hopefully, we’ll get to the point where we don’t need awards like this, but until then, I hope that making the Women in FinTech Powerlist will encourage more women to think about a fintech career – and join us here at Octopus.
What do you love about your role?
I love how varied my role is. I also love getting involved in projects at an early stage, so I can make a big impact on products as they’re made.
At Octopus, we have the freedom to go for it and change things for the better. I get to be who I am, and I feel comfortable enough to push boundaries and ask tough questions. We’re given a lot of responsibility, but having a supportive environment means we’re not afraid to make mistakes – and learn from them.
I’m also lucky to have amazing colleagues. I’m supported by everyone around me, like my manager, Sam Handfield-Jones, Head of Growth and Innovation at Octopus Investments. He nominated me for the Powerlist but – typically for Sam – didn’t tell me!
How did you get started in fintech?
I got involved in fintech a few years ago, when I worked at Accenture. Before that, I thought fintech was a typo! I worked on a big thought leadership piece about customer experience and innovation in banking. That opened my eyes to the possibilities of fintech.
My aim is to use fintech for positive social change – that’s why I joined Octopus. Our pay-per-miles taxi loan is a perfect example of how we build products for customers who are traditionally overlooked. We live and breathe it here through the services we provide and the technology we make.
What would you say to any women thinking of a career in fintech?
You don’t have to come from a certain background to do well in fintech. It’s more about learning as you go. I’ve met lots of young students who think, ‘I don’t have the right degree and I don’t know how to code.’ My background is in economics and public policy. And I didn’t know how to code either.
What you need is curiosity and a desire to learn. The rest is problem solving. At Octopus, you learn, develop and find your place. When you’re proactive and show initiative, the opportunities are all yours.
Find out more about The Women in FinTech Powerlist 2018.