Annelyse Fournier talks finance, fintech and family norms

Annelyse Fournier, the COO of PDX Global discusses why she entered fintech, what inspires her, and how the industry has changed over the years

Annelyse Fournier is the COO of PDX Global. Based in London and a trained economist, she holds an MBA from the European University, in Geneva.

She has over 20 years of experience in large multinational companies, including Philip Morris, Mondelez, Barclays, and First Data, covering Executive Compensation & Reward, corporate governance, large-scale project management, M&A, and IPO preparation. We caught up with her to find out why finance and fintech is her passion, how she entered the space, and what her predictions are for the industry.

What drew you to fintech and crypto - is there a story there?

Change is exciting – few people would say that – but this is what I like. I do find the payment ecosystem fascinating and at the same time daunting as it is becoming almost intangible: fewer people have cash in their pocket, we have a card, a phone, a watch….and this is part of my fascination for fintech. Where is it going next? What will payments look like in 10 years or even as soon as five years?

I am also fascinated by the power of the blockchain and its high-security level, and soon, the transparency it brings to transactions; we are only at the start of this revolution.

I have a love/hate relationship with Crypto. Let me clarify. I believe crypto is here to stay for the long term and my frustration actually comes from the observation that it’s not arriving fast enough. Crypto is still too often seen as an obscure mechanism for drug dealers and the dark web. Wrong! Crypto should be used as an everyday currency, and this is where PDX is coming into play. It is going to make crypto a mainstream payment tool.

How have you forged your own path in terms of going against family norms?

Determination is definitely a key criterion. I grew up in a conservative environment and a professional career was not really the norm. I decided to ignore my family’s preference, completed a Master’s degree, and headed for a corporate career.

I have always been driven by independence, both intellectual and financial, and I place a very high value on education, learning, and keeping an open mind. If I don’t like something, I think again. And I ask myself the question ‘WHAT’ is it I don’t like about it?

There are lots of reports in the news right now about older women in the workforce struggle to manage the pressure of their careers along with physical changes. How is it that you are more energised than ever at age 55?

I wish I could bottle the recipe and I would make a fortune! I am healthier, fitter, and stronger than I have ever been in my entire life and I have an amazing energy level.

It comes with some discipline but mostly I have reached a stage in my life where I am free and I have empowered myself to make the decisions that are right for me, whether personal or financial. I don’t have unnecessary barriers and it has transformed the way I approach business, life, and friendship.

You became an entrepreneur later in life and describe that as the best decision you've ever made. Tell us why?

I had planned my corporate career to be a learning journey as I realized I would be unlikely to stay 20 years with the same company. I set for myself the objective of learning, experiencing, and being the best I could in my field of expertise (executive compensation) while keeping in mind my goal of establishing my own advisory practice.

It is only when I took the plunge three years ago that I realised not only was it the right decision but I really am thriving in that environment. I went on to get involved with another fintech startup and I am a board member for some other businesses. I’m also looking at being an angel investor.

Giving back to society is important, and education is what I’m really passionate about. I had several miscarriages and did not have the chance to have children of my own and this has possibly strengthened my commitment to being a force for good. I am a school governor and this is most likely one of the most humbling experiences. I am also getting involved with a start-up in Hong Kong called Sophia which is dedicated to providing financial education to women. 

Why curiosity is the biggest factor in your success?

I am impatient and fast-paced and I have an immense appetite for learning and understanding. When I first got involved with PDX I took it upon myself to understand the blockchain. Curiosity gives me the opportunity to ask questions and allows people around me to share their views, creating a dialogue. I have not always been comfortable asking questions partly because I feared I would look ignorant or worse, that it might be seen as intrusive.

What are your tips to other women following 20 years of being the only female in the corporate boardrooms?

There have always been a few females in the senior levels of an organization and reflecting back, I would make the following observations.

Women are not always supportive of each other….. Know your worth – not only financially but know what you bring to the table as a leader. You are there because you are competent.

Be a team member and understand who you – and someone in your position – must interact with in the rest of the organisation.  What is your own unique selling proposition, and what makes you stand out?

Network, network, network! Inside the company, outside the company, professionally, socially, every person you meet is someone who can open a door for you, give you some advice or just be a friend.

Voice your ideas.  Sounds silly, but slow your speech and lower your voice. To add a very cliché thing – don’t be the note taker if you are the only female on the team.

Tell us about your hopes for the future of crypto/fintech and the opportunities for women

The working environment has changed a lot and accelerated in the last two years and I would encourage girls to study math and tech even if they end up in a totally different profession. These disciplines train your mind to be agile, rational, and inquisitive at the same time.

I will give you an example. My beautician decided in her mid-thirties to go back to college and study coding and cyber security. She graduated with honors and she cannot find a job in her chosen field – not enough experience, too old, female, you name it. She is now developing an app and launching her own business. I will help her to get funded and possibly even invest myself.

She said I inspired her to follow her dream – that for me is the most valuable reward ever.

If you could give one piece of advice today to your 20-year-old self - what would it be?

Get a mentor, someone who can guide you and who really cares. I followed my instinct, and I was right. I could have achieved the same with fewer bruises if I had been given better advice and surrounded by people I could trust to have my back. 

What inspires you in fintech today?

The sky is the limit and technology is brilliant – but ultimately it still requires a human brain. I think the next evolution is to bring digital banking to everyone – many people don’t even have a standard bank account. On top of that, we can simplify e-wallet set-up, and streamline Know-Your-Customer and Know-Your-Business verifications. Imagine your ID/biometric data being held in the blockchain from your birth. That would bring ID verification to an entirely new level.   

I think AI will continue to grow as well. By allowing us to make better choices faster, AI will help with a reduction of our carbon footprint by optimising the way we use energy.

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