Partner, Payments Practice Leader
Diana Halder is Payments Practice Leader at EY Canada, a role she has held since September 2019, becoming a full Partner in the firm three months ago. A vastly experienced payments industry executive, she previously spent six years at Accenture, as well as working in payments and global banking at Scotiabank.
While she catches up with us from her office in Toronto, Canada it’s clear that this experience has set her in good stead. But she acknowledges that, even though she’s been in the industry for over 18 years, she’s always learning new ways to become a better leader.
“Putting people first definitely matters,” she tells us. “It’s important to understand their interests and ambitions to keep them motivated and engaged.” She characterises the tenets of strong leadership as ‘four Ps’ – people, patience, persistence, and being provocative when it comes to innovation.
Women in finance face ‘a lot of noes’
“You tend to get a lot of noes as a female and as a minority in a male-dominated industry. There can be a lot of ‘no you shouldn’t do that’ or ‘no you need to wait’. Her message is all about being persistent and confident in your vision.
“My parents immigrated here from a country hampered with social and political challenges,” she explains. “In Canada, I got access to free education, free healthcare, and I've been able to take advantage of those tools to get me to where I am today. This is one of the reasons I spend a lot of time with minorities and with females to empower and enable them – because I got that opportunity.”
Indeed, gender equality and breaking down barriers for women are common threads woven through many areas of financial services worldwide. According to a report published last year1, women land just 21% of board seats and only 19% of C-suite roles within the sector globally. That figure falls to an astonishingly low 5% when it comes to the CEO position.
It’s an issue that matters both to EY Canada, which has developed a programme called ‘Women. Fast forward’ to address gender equity in the workplace, and to Canadians. The country currently has a gender-balanced cabinet, meaning there are equal numbers of male and female members, and the Canadian government has previously introduced disclosure requirements that bring the issue of gender parity in the workplace into the spotlight, whether companies want it there or not. In case you’re wondering, women represent 51% of the workforce at EY Canada including 45% of management roles.
Canadians need to press for innovation
Talking about the things that inspire her in fintech, she name-checks the proud Canadian export Shopify, which she credits with identifying a problem and setting out to solve it. It’s an apt answer for someone who works at consulting giant EY, which assists its clients on a daily basis to face down the biggest challenges the world can throw at them.
She is able to see a trend among the fintechs that impress her most: “The common themes are that they're all very provocative in the way they go to market. They're very forward-thinking in their solutions. They leverage technology and they are creative in their deployments.”
Halder admits that she would love to see more choice for Canadian consumers – not just in financial services, but in other areas like telecoms and utilities. But she admits that Canadians, by their nature, are not prone to being that demanding. “We’re very easy-going. We don’t pound the table when we don’t get what we want.”
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