Stéphane Leloup x International Women’s Day 2022

11 March 2022

This week is all about celebrating the amazing women at Banxa! 

This week, as part of International Women’s Day, we’d like to talk about the topic of encouraging an inclusive work environment and why it is crucial for men to participate.

We strongly believe that there are many ways in which men can support women in their day-to-day lives in order to encourage a more inclusive working environment in the crypto or tech space.

By doing so, we also believe that allies play a significant role in the fight against bias while establishing a true meritocracy. As a fast-growing company within the tech industry, we need to ask ourselves: How can we tackle unconscious bias taking place right from the beginning for example during hiring processes? Or how can we not only promote but maintain a gender-neutral working environment? These and other questions must be considered to ensure equal opportunities for all.

Here’s what Stéphane Leloup, Head of Compliance Europe at Banxa, is suggesting to enhance a more inclusive workplace within the finance and crypto industries and what changes and obstacles he has observed in recent years.

Hi Stephane. Thanks for your time today. Would you mind introducing yourself?

Hi, sure. My name is Stéphane Leloup and I am a BANXA-NIAN for almost 6 months now. 

Great, Thank you. What are your responsibilities at Banxa? 

I’m the Head of Compliance Europe. In other words, I ensure the company is acting in compliance with the applicable regulation when delivering services, with a special focus on the prevention of financial crime.

To perform, I have the opportunity to be working directly with 2 strong, smart and successful women: one as a co-worker and another one as my direct manager.

How long had you been working in the crypto / finance industry before you joined Banxa and have you noticed any change in the perception of gender balance? 

I’ve been working in finance for about 20 years. This included 6 years in crypto, and 14 years in banking or heavy industry.

The past 20 years, I have seen a lot of changes, in terms of gender equality. Some progress was made, indeed. But there is still a lot to achieve, hopefully before the next 20 years!

The most significant change I have seen was not the increasing number of women who were nominated at high positions in the hierarchy, but the fact that their empowerment did not generate inappropriate comments, I mean no stupid and sexist comments. They were respected as managers, considered as leaders. The “reaction to difference” is gradually shrinking. This is something I have also experienced and welcomed, as a mixed-blood guy.

However, I have seen too few women at board level, meaning that the strategy of a company is most of the time decided without using all available resources and energies.

I have no magical recipe to fix this… oh wait! Why not begin by becoming an advisor to a company on gender equality, or forming a group/association of women to become an investor and then be associated with strategic decisions?

I’ve seen and contributed to a superb initiative here in Luxembourg, to assist a company whose purpose is to provide financial knowledge to women.

I have been working as an expert for some national and international investment institutions that support banks located in the Middle East. Those local banks were providing microfinance to local SMEs (small and medium enterprises).

For most of the loans that were granted to women in those countries (Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Turkey), the rate of refunding was above 90%, whereas the figures relating to loans granted to men were a bit more…alarming.

I have seen the formidable energy deployed by those women locally and realised it was such a chance for those countries! 

Stephane, for many years, women have been underrepresented in the crypto / tech industry. What can everyone do to enhance a more inclusive working environment? 

Well… the crypto-industry is relatively new and it was initially a geek thing, where nerds were rarely women.

Regrettably, science or computer-related matters are domains which are not enough explored by women.

Marie-Curie should be used more often as an example of an inspiring scientific and resilient woman.

A few months ago, I discussed with the head of investment of a large life insurance company in Luxembourg; she was interested in cryptocurrencies, NFTs and all kinds of virtual assets. I have had multiple calls and meetings on virtual assets with women entrepreneurs, so it’s on the right track and we shall rapidly see more women involved in the crypto-tech industry and in jobs that are more often seen as “men” jobs.

Mechanically, the more women studying science, the more female techies will step up.

Men are encouraged to promote values of power, dominance, competition, which are values still promoted by most companies, and especially in times of economic crisis. This playground – some would say battlefield – is essentially made of those values which are powerful drivers, but they miss a proper balance. So I think that instead of seeing women trying to compete on that playground, I’d rather see women promoting and advocating for a playground made of different values, one of those certainly being the capacity to put one’s ego aside.

Why try to replicate the modus operandi of 51% of humanity whereas the remaining 49% sits on an unexplored source of energy without expressing it? 

What advice would you give to an individual who is interested in joining the crypto / tech space?

Read about virtual assets, check videos, as some of them last only 5 minutes and are extremely well-made. Once you have that piece of knowledge, use the vocabulary of that particular industry. You can really enjoy a party if you understand what the other guests say and if they understand what you say, right?

I have been making presentations and speeches on legal/compliance-related matters for almost 20 years and at the beginning of each session, I always tell attendees that for me, “there is no stupid question, what is stupid is not asking the question”. So if you ever feel hesitant to show up, express a different point of view as a woman, it probably means you are on the right track because you are going to innovate. I sincerely hope that this will inspire more women to stand up.

I see a lot of people trying to enter the FinTech space. It is a good sign that this industry needs talent. This is a new world we have here (virtual assets, NFT and all technologies surrounding the Metaverse and augmented reality).

In other words, this space is still constantly evolving and is not gender-polarized so I think it is the right time and certainly not too late for women to enter into it and enrich it.

How do you think a diverse working environment contributes to BANXA’s success?

When I started my career in finance, I had the chance to have a woman as my manager. She had made her way into a man’s world, and I’ll always be grateful to her (Annick, I hope you read these lines!).

I have witnessed the real added value of having women at strategic positions within a company, therefore, when I spoke with our Head of People & Culture during my job interview, some of my questions were “Do you have a policy on diversity? What is the percentage of women in your company? And with which title?”.

At Banxa, we build bridges between the new economy and the traditional economy.

Women empowerment creates bridges between people.

That’s really great synergy: we are successful at building bridges in the economy because we have built those bridges between men and women within our company as well.

That was very inspiring! Thank you so much for taking the time today. 

Do you have more questions for Stephane Leloup? Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.