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Janine Hirt, CEO of Innovate Finance

Public policy-focused non-profits have an essential role in society and deal with all kinds of issues and challenges. Financial services have become integral in helping people manage their day-to-day lives and secure their financial futures. J.R. Lowry dives even deeper into both these topics with Janine Hirt, CEO of Innovate Finance. Janine talks about giving aid to people in the UK to address challenges brought by the increased cost of living, changing government regime, and a market full of uncertainties and instabilities. She also shares her realizations and lessons from her past roles that shaped her into the resilient leader she is today.

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Janine Hirt, CEO of Innovate Finance

On Bolstering FinTech In The UK And On A Broader Career In Public Policy-Focused Non-Profits

My guest is Janine Hirt, who I first met when I was working in London 7 years ago. Janine is the CEO of Innovate Finance, which is an industry body that represents and advances the global FinTech community in the UK. Prior to joining Innovate Finance in 2015, Janine worked as Head of Corporate Relations for Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs. It is an independent policy institute based in London whose mission is to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous, and just world. If you’ve ever heard the expression, “Chatham House Rules,” this is where it came from.

Janine’s earlier experience includes work for the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York and for the recruiting firm Michael Page. She also taught English as a second language in Japan and then worked as a supervisor and trainer for iTTi, the firm for whom she was teaching. Janine earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English and Political Science from Boston College and spent one year abroad at Oxford while an undergraduate. She earned a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics. She, her husband, and child all live in London.

Janine, welcome. It’s good to have you as a guest.

Thanks so much for having me.

Tell our audience a little bit about Innovate Finance, what your role is, and who makes up your membership.

I am the CEO of Innovative Finance. We are the industry body for UK FinTech and for global FinTech based in the UK. We are a not-for-profit, we’re a membership association, and we bring together FinTechs from all verticals of innovation, your more traditional plays like P2P (peer-to-peer) and FX (foreign exchange) transfers, but also cybersecurity InsurTech, RegTech, and crypto. We also convene the large incumbent financial institutions that are looking to transform and disrupt themselves. We bring many of the large consulting players and investors to the table, and then we connect that entire ecosystem to government and regulators to ensure that we’re creating an environment here in the UK that allows innovation and FinTech to thrive.

What always struck me as being unique about Innovate Finance is its linkage to government. There are trade associations that sometimes will do a bit of lobbying. You have more of an actual obligation to the UK government.

It goes back to our initial founding. We launched in 2014 off the back of a government consultation, but we were set up to be a completely independent entity so that we could advocate and lobby on behalf of the sector. We have very strong relationships with all departments of government, HMT, but also BEIS, DCMS, and DIT, because it is critical that we work together to create that environment where FinTechs can grow. We also work very closely with the regulators, the FCA, PRA, CMA, and PSR, because it’s absolutely critical to make sure we have effective regulation that protects the consumers. It also enables some of these new entrants to provide these new offerings to the end consumer as well.

For you running this group, what do you think makes it different with this strong public policy mission that you’ve got, relative to running a more traditional nonprofit?

There’s something special and unique about the FinTech community as a whole. There are many founders that have launched their companies or startup companies because they saw an opportunity or a niche in the market where they could make financial services work better for the end consumer. In general, there is a feeling that FinTech is making financial services more effective, democratic, and inclusive. At the end of the day, it works better for everyone. When we talk about the public policy angle to that, it is important that we talk and create the dialogue and the narrative around FinTech, to bring in that positive impact that financial innovation has on society more broadly.

CSCL 20 | Policy-Focused Non-Profit

Janine Hirt of Innovate Finance: It’s critical not only to have an effective regulation that protects consumers. There must also be some new entrants to provide new offerings to the end consumer.

 

We’re coming out of the COVID pandemic, a period that ultimately underlines how important technology is to every aspect of our lives. Particularly, when it comes to financial services, we saw FinTechs play a huge role in helping all of us navigate through that pandemic. Now we’re sitting with a cost of living crisis, where in the UK, we’re expected to see a drop in living standards more than we’ve seen in 70 years since recordkeeping began. It’s imperative that we work as a financial innovation community to support all of us through this period.

There’s a tremendous amount that’s happening out there that affects aspects of what you’re trying to do in terms of the public policy piece. I’m sure that’s keeping you quite busy.

We’ve got a changing government here in the UK. It is shifting up and down. There’s a lot of uncertainty and instability in many cases, but one stream that underlines all of that is this need to try and create a better environment for the end consumer, the individual on the street. FinTech has a very important role to play. Part of our role at Innovate Finance is to shine a spotlight on how FinTech can play that role. When we’re talking about financial wellness, inclusion, and health more broadly, both for individuals, consumers, and SMEs, that is a large part of the conversations we have with government and with different policymakers as well.

Apart from that public policy piece, there’s a sales aspect to what you have to do. You’ve got to get corporate members to join. You’ve have to seek other forms of financial support as any nonprofit does. Did you see yourself as a salesperson when you were earlier in your career?

I’ve been in industry bodies and membership associations for a long time. I never see it as sales because I feel like membership is slightly different. It’s about the relationships you build. If you can create a relationship where you’re delivering the proposition and what you promised your members and your customers, then you are going to bring people to the table. You’re going to grow and expand your business and membership base.

For me, it’s slightly different. There’s always going to be a sales aspect in any role, but it’s not so much this hard sales concept. It’s more about developing those relationships, making sure you understand what your member needs, wants, and how you can help them, and then delivering on that. By doing that, you will then expand and grow as an organization. It’s a softer sense in terms of business development, but it’s very much down to the relationships.

What are the challenges that are affecting you as an organization?

One of the biggest challenges, and it’s also a reason that Innovate Finance is so unique, is our broad diversity of members. We have everyone from your two-person shop that’s starting up in a garage to, all the way, on the other extreme, the likes of your Schroders, Lloyds Bank, and JPMorgan. Making sure that we are able to cater across that broad diversity of membership is important for us. We only lobby and advocate for FinTechs and for high-growths, but we also think it’s important to have the big institutions at the table when we talk about partnerships, when we talk about disrupting the incumbents, helping them, and supporting them in terms of transformation as well, even when you look at the high-growths.

We have the likes of Revolut, TransferWise (now Wise), Monzo, many of the crypto players, and Klarna as well. Making sure that we can cater to all of them on the public policy side and advocacy side, that’s a lot of different areas and a lot of different verticals that we need to cater to, and we’ve only got less than 25 people on the team as staff.

It’s a small organization, particularly given all of the different verticals, the DeFi, InsurTech, RegTech banking, capital markets, and asset management. You rattled them all off earlier, better than I can. Each of those spaces has its own unique things going on. There is a common thread of finance, but other than that, it gets pretty different pretty quickly. You and your team have to keep your arms around a pretty broad array of, not just player types, but also industry verticals. What do you like most about what you’re doing? What’s the part that’s most enjoyable for you?

Whatever you do, commit to doing it 150%. Otherwise, there is no point. Click To Tweet

It’s always the people. It’s my team. We’ve got an amazing team of passionate, driven, energetic people, but it’s the members as well. The FinTech community here in the UK but globally has such incredible individuals driving it. It’s people that want to see change, are driven to see this change, and are passionate. The energy that comes from this community makes it a real pleasure to work in every day. I love it. It’s all about the people for me.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Where did you grow up? I know you chose Boston College. How did you end up at Boston College and why English and Political Science?

I grew up in Connecticut and New York, but I have an international family. My father was a refugee from East Germany and went to Switzerland. He met my mom, and they then moved over to the United States, where I was born and raised. I chose Boston College. I looked at a lot of different universities, and I did an away night or a sleepover night. I fell in love with the atmosphere of BC. One of the reasons I loved it so much was that it had a core component of volunteering.

Almost everyone that gets accepted into Boston College has spent some time volunteering, doing civil service, or public service as well. There was this strength of community at the school. You could feel that even from the first day. I had an amazing time there. We’ve got our 20th reunion coming up in 2022. I’m looking forward to going back. It was wonderful.

My most recent memory of Boston College is post-Heartbreak Hill running down past the campus on the way into the city. You’re just thankful that it’s mostly downhill from there. Certainly, from my time working at both Fidelity and State Street, there were huge Boston College contingents in both of those companies.

It feels like a bit of a family. It was a nice place to be. I enjoyed it well.

You went and taught English in Japan immediately after school. How did you end up there?

Completely random. I said, “After university, I want to travel, but I don’t quite have the money to do as much traveling as I want to.” There was a recruitment session at Boston College for a Japanese company. It’s the largest publishing company in Japan. They were looking for individuals to come over and teach English. I didn’t speak a word of Japanese. I didn’t initially have any interest, but I went to this meeting and got the job. I said, “I’m going to go.” I went over to Japan. I taught English for one year there. The idea was to stay there for one year. I was promoted through the ranks. It was a large company with about 10,000 people, but I had a phenomenal opportunity and was put in place as the lead cultural and corporate trainer for the whole organization.

I stayed for four years. I trained several hundred people every year, both on how to engage in the organization and teach children, but also I was their cultural trainer. When they first came to Japan, I was their lifeline. I had a fantastic experience. I met lots of people from around the world and also learned a lot of things about my own culture that I probably wouldn’t have had I been in a different place.

When you’re an ex-pat, you hear your native culture reflected back at you, sometimes in ways you don’t expect. I’ve been particularly amazed at how many people outside of the US are obsessed with the idea of driving Route 66. How did you find living in Japan when you were over there?

CSCL 20 | Policy-Focused Non-Profit

Janine Hirt of Innovate Finance: Work with optimistic people that inspire you to give your best. If you want to make a difference, do it with great people around you.

 

I learned so much, and I loved it. One of the parts that I enjoyed most was the connection to nature that you feel when you’re there and the tradition. It comes out strongly every single day, this value for life and nature. I enjoyed it. I stayed three more years than I had planned, and it was a great experience. Japan at that time was one of the last isolated places in the world. Ninety-nine percent of the population in Japan at that point in time was Japanese.

Being a foreigner was different. For my first year, I lived in a small town about three hours north of Tokyo. I was probably the only non-Japanese person in that town of about 200,000 people or so. Sometimes, the young kids would see me and would scream because they’d not seen a White person before, which was always an experience. Sometimes, in the first couple of classes, the students were getting used to my face. Those kinds of experiences are amazing and once in a lifetime.

How did you do in learning Japanese?

I was all right. Not great, but I could get by with a lot of gestures. I was okay by the end. Now I don’t remember anything other than arigato.

I’ve always heard it’s a tough language to learn.

It’s very tough, especially if you’re a visual learner, because you have to spend so much time learning the characters as well.

You came here to London, and you got your Master’s from the London School of Economics. What drove that step in your career journey?

I’ve always been interested in International Politics, Engagement, and Relations. I have American-British, Swiss, and German citizenship and passports. I’m a real believer that it’s important for us to understand different cultures and countries. It’s for all of us to look at how we solve these massive societal issues by working together. That’s what led me to go to LSE. I studied International Affairs there. It was again a phenomenal year. I did a lot of work on the emerging markets, international organizations, institutions, negotiations, and policy. It was great. I met some great people, both in terms of my peers in the classes and teachers there.

When you left LSE, you then did something completely different. You went off and worked a recruiting firm Michael Page. What was that experience like for you? It wasn’t a very long one that I know.

It was an interesting experience working at Michael Page. I was in the team that was appointing senior risk officials and CROs at some of the major banks in New York. It was very interesting because it was around the time of the financial crash and crisis. I had some good people that I worked with that were on my team. It wasn’t quite my niche. I was happy to move on where I was able to work more in a role that was bringing the industry together with policy and do some of the advocacy work within that.

The only way to be successful is to learn from other people ahead of you on the career ladder. Click To Tweet

You ended up at the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, which also feels a little bit like an unexpected turn.

I had the most amazing five years there. It was incredible. I had done a bit in my Master’s degree on the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and the emerging markets there. I was very interested in Brazil in particular. There was an opening at the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce. I went to meet with them, and the CEO at the time was Japanese-Brazilian. We had a connection. She asked me a lot about my time in Japan.

I came on board. We were a small team, under 10. I had great opportunities there at a younger age. I was meeting with ambassadors and with the President of Brazil. I met with the President of the US as well at that point in time. It was great. I keep going back to this being about the people, but the people that I worked with and the CEO at that time, in particular, were phenomenal and inspirational. I enjoyed it a lot. I love the Brazilian culture.

Where’s your favorite place in Brazil?

It’s got to be Rio.

This was your first stint at a policy-focused nonprofit. What did you take away that you’ve used in your career since then?

I was very privileged to have one of my best mentors ever in terms of the CEO of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce. She was female and had come from different cultures and backgrounds too. She taught me to always give 150%. She also taught me that so much about succeeding in business is down to the people and relationships you make. If you’re authentic, honest, and trying to find how you can support others, be it those on your team, vendors, or clients that you work with, you’re much more likely to be successful. Also, be able to be content with where you are in terms of your professional development. She has been a phenomenal mentor for me.

You then moved over here again to London and took up your job at Chatham House. Talk about what you did there.

I was leading corporate relations when I was at Chatham House. Some people will know of Chatham House because of Chatham House Rules, but it is the Royal Institute of International Affairs. It’s one of the leading think tanks in the UK, more than 100 years old. It has driven a lot of the documentation and the advocacy work that goes into government thinking. On the corporate relations side, we also are a membership organization. I managed all of the corporate engagement that we had across all sectors.

It’s financial services, but also oil and gas and different industries feeding into some of the work that we did. Once again, it was a cross-section between industry and policy, which has always been my passion, like at the Brazilian-American Chamber. I got to meet the Queen. That was lovely. I got to meet Melinda Gates, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton when I was there. It’s a nice opportunity to meet with some inspiring people.

CSCL 20 | Policy-Focused Non-Profit

Janine Hirt of Innovate Finance: Learn from people that are more junior than you because they bring different things to the table. If you ever stop learning and trying to change, you will stall.

 

You’ve worked in public policy jobs that covered the UK, the US, and Brazil. What differences do you see across the three in terms of how they approach their public policy work and how the people in the public policy space work?

I’m going to focus on the US and UK, because one of the most interesting distinctions between here and in the US is that in the US, it’s much more natural and fluid in terms of people moving from industry into government and vice versa. You have less of the occasions where you have a permanent long-term politician or a civil servant, because we don’t really have that model in the United States.

In the UK, it’s much more divided in terms of having either those that have chosen to go into industry for their careers and generally tend to stay in the industry, and then you have all the civil servants who have potentially never worked in industry before. It’s rarer to find those that have done both. Approaching government, politicians, and civil servants is done in a slightly different manner when you are in industry. That would be one of the biggest distinctions or differences that I’ve seen between the two.

I can only speak from limited personal experience, but when you watch the way that these public policy debates happen here in the UK and the way that they happen in the US, it stands in stark contrast in a lot of ways. What led you over to Innovate Finance?

I was tapped when I was at Chatham House. I had been doing quite a bit around the financial inclusion and financial wellness space. Innovate Finance launched in 2014, and they were looking to create their leadership and management team. I was reached out to by the CFO at that time. I joined a few months after the initial launch of Innovate Finance. I was part of the early team, and it goes back to the people, but our team that built and developed Innovate Finance from the ground up, still are some of my absolute closest friends. We had an amazing experience in terms of creating Innovate Finance. We had a great leader at the helm, Lawrence Wintermeyer, who took over from Claire Copperton as well.

At that point in time, there was a huge focus on financial innovation. It was this period of recognizing that there is a way to make financial services work better. There was a shining spotlight on so many of these FinTechs that were starting to develop, grow, take market share, and impact the sector for the better. It was quite an exciting period to be in. We built Innovate Finance from the ground up. We went from around 50 to 300 members in two years and developed our whole proposition, engagement, and all of our policy and advocacy work.

I moved over, the first time I lived in London, right at the beginning of 2015. You all got going on Innovate Finance not long after Level39 was formed and started attracting startups to that space on Canary Wharf. It was interesting because it felt like around the 2014 timeframe is when things took off in terms of the buzz around FinTech. Certainly, people had been doing FinTech for many years before that, but it was a rejuvenation of focus on the sector and a bunch of new topics, not the least of which was crypto, blockchain, and all of that. There were a lot of other things, as you know as well as anybody, that had their genesis in those early days in that period back in 2014 when there was a lot of venture money flowing into the industry.

I remember some of our conversations, even back at that time, looking at how some of the larger organizations, the incumbent financial institutions, were trying to also transform, create those partnerships, and bring that talent in, as well as some of that expertise. It was an interesting time at that point and still is.

You see it from the perspective of your corporate and startup members. When I was at State Street, a huge company relative to the size, certainly of these FinTechs, and [it was an interesting experience] to bring together a FinTech firm and a bank. [State Street] isn’t a JPMorgan, that’s ten times the size of a State Street in terms of the number of people, but culturally, [banks and FinTechs are so] different. Even when these people in the startups had come from some of the bigger banks, their brains had completely changed in terms of how they thought day-to-day. It was about getting everybody on common ground and figuring out how to get something done together.

Setting aside the investment piece, which is always somewhere in the conversation, but figuring out how to get value out of the relationship, make it work, and help them scale is hard. I’m sure that dynamic plays out across other industries going through these big periods of technological upheaval with a thriving startup sector and how the big companies are interacting with them. It was definitely an interesting time to be involved in that back in that timeframe.

Make sure you have a vision in place and deliver on that whole thing. Be clear on the impact you want to leave in the short and long term. Click To Tweet

You’ve got a long way to go still in your career, but have you been opportunistic or intentional? You’ve certainly conveyed this sense of being more opportunistic in our conversation thus far, but do you feel like there were things that were very much part of your goals? The international relations focus might be an example of that.

For me, the most important thing is that I want to always work in a place where I feel comfortable to be me. I want to work with people that inspire me, who are optimistic, positive, and upbeat, because I feel like we spend so much of our days and our lives at work. I’ve always wanted to be doing something where I feel I’m making a difference, but also with great people around me. In terms of the opportunities, I’m a big believer in taking risks and sometimes doing things that you might feel maybe not the most comfortable doing, but could lead to positive outcomes.

I’ve done that ever since I picked up and moved to Japan. I was twenty or so at the time. I’m a big believer in taking a chance and seeing what comes out of that. Whatever you do, commit to doing it 150% because otherwise, there’s no point. That’s been the underlying belief that I’ve always carried through.

Are you at a point now where you feel like you know yourself, what you want to do, and what’s important to you? I asked this question to everybody. I got interesting answers from people about how long it took them to figure this out.

I’m still early on in my career journey, but I’m pretty comfortable with where I am, because I’m also very open to saying, “I make mistakes.” I’m a first-time CEO, so I’m very open to learning from people. The only way you can be successful is if you learn from people that are ahead of you on the career ladder. I have great relationships with my Chair, Louise Smith, my entire Board, and a lot of mentors as well. I also think that it’s important to learn from people who are more junior than you because they bring different things to the table. If you ever stop learning and trying to change, then I think you stall. There’s a saying, “If you stay with the status quo, that’s actually the biggest threat or the biggest risk.” I believe that is applied in the individual sense as well.

You had been with the organization for a while before you became CEO, but what was different? What felt most different to you when you became the CEO?

I was COO for four years. I played a strong role, obviously, with my former CEO as well, but it is a different level when you’re the CEO. Firstly, there’s the responsibility of making sure everyone in your team is delivering, enjoying themselves and executing at their best. There’s also setting that vision and saying to yourself, “What do I want to do with the organization? What kind of impact do I want to make in the time that I am leading it and going forward?”

It also was interesting that I was appointed during COVID. The adjustment from bringing a company that had been completely online back into the office over 2021 has been an interesting journey. For me, it’s more the sense of making sure that you have a vision in place, can deliver, execute on that, and thinking about what you want to do and the impact you want to have in the short and long-term as well.

Are you willing to share any of the mistakes that you feel you made in your early days as a CEO?

One of my Achilles’ heels in being a CEO is that I’m sometimes too sensitive. There are instances where you have to make the decision, and sometimes it might not be necessarily a popular decision. It may mean positive or negative things for certain individuals, but you have to make those decisions because it is for the benefit of the business, which then is for the benefit of all the other employees. Making sure to have that ability was important for me.

CSCL 20 | Policy-Focused Non-Profit

Janine Hirt of Innovate Finance: If COVID has taught people something, it’s enjoying the individuals you’re with and who you spend time with. Life is too short, so make sure you do what you love.

 

Having conviction in what you’re doing, you’ve thought it through, and you’re going to see it through. I see a lot of people who need more conviction. It’s one of those leadership traits that not enough people have, because if you can’t make those tough calls, and you are going to have to make tough calls, you have to get yourself comfortable with having faith that you are doing the best you can, making the best decision you can, and getting on with it. That’s hard for people.

Being a CEO sometimes is a lonely job. I can be an introvert and an extrovert because I love people, but I also like having my own time. I like connecting with people. I’m very lucky in that I have an amazing Chair, and she’s incredibly supportive. I couldn’t be as successful without that strong relationship. At the end of the day, I’m still CEO and have to make some of these decisions. That’s one of the big distinctions between moving from being the COO, where you have a CEO to talk with about things, and then moving into the CEO role.

You’ve talked about your Chair a few times. How do you interact with your Board, and how do you get value out of them to help guide your path as an institution?

I am privileged because I’ve got an amazing board, and I know not all CEOs can say that. I’m lucky. My Chair is an absolute inspiration, Louise Smith. She comes from industry but has had so much experience. She is passionate about culture, driving positive culture, diversity, financial wellness, financial health, and financial inclusion. We looked at our Board and we said, “Where are some of the gaps that we need to fill?”

We already have two phenomenal Board members, Ian Anderson and Danny Lopez. Danny used to be a console general to the US. Ian ran Cicero Group and is now the Executive Chairman there. We have that great background, and we’ve got gaps in a couple of areas, so earlier in 2022, we brought on board Adam French, who was former CEO of Scalable Capital and has understood what it’s like to bring a company to real fruition and success.

We also brought on board Simon Lewis, who was a CEO of an industry body for nearly a decade. He was also Gordon Brown’s communications director. He’s got that experience too. We brought Yvonne Bajela, who’s an investor through Impact X. She is investing specifically in startups and some of those as FinTechs. We brought on Parveen Kaur who is with Lloyd’s of London as head of operations there. We are making sure we have the FinTech voice, industry body, and expertise in PR and in international. It’s a great board.

Who else do you tap into for guidance?

I’ve been lucky in my career in that I’ve had a lot of mentors that I’ve worked with throughout the years, and many of those have been former CEOs. I’ve been able to talk with them for guidance. The Innovate Finance Alumni Community is important to me because we all came together at a time to develop something and connected on such a high level. I talk with a lot of them. They’re all doing amazing things in different areas, but also even some previous colleagues from the Brazil Chamber, and classmates and friends from the London School of Economics or Boston College. I’ve managed to keep a very strong network throughout the years. That’s important that people do that because, in those moments where you need different expertise, feedback, or perspective, you can rely on the people you trust.

It’s very true and easier than ever to keep up your network now.

They also know your weaknesses and your strengths, because it’s important to know your weaknesses as well. People that know you best will know that and will say, “This is her weakness.”

You can tell an organization's culture by how they treat their cleaning or reception staff. Click To Tweet

What are you working on developing in yourself? What’s top of the list?

 

I’m quite sensitive. Part of that is coming through having lived in some different places. You become more sensitive to the differences and the adjustments. There is some great work that’s been done on third culture kids. Kids that are growing up in countries where their parents aren’t from tend to be a bit more sensitive to nuances. That is a strength, but it also can be a weakness. I make sure that I’m able to balance that out and take on some of the tough goals and decisions when I have to as a CEO. It is something that I’m working through.

You’ve talked about people in the team a fair amount in our conversation. What do you look for in the people that you bring into the organization? What’s most important to you?

You’ve got to have energy and drive, and be passionate, especially because we’re a small organization. Potentially, if you’re in a larger organization, you need that less, but when it’s small and when you punch above your weight in the way Innovate Finance does, you need everyone there to be someone who’s giving 150%. They don’t have to be gregarious. They can be quiet, etc., but still give that full 150%. I also aim to make a diverse team. People from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds are all very important when you’re creating a high-performing team from a small team.

Especially given the size of the organization, as you say, every decision you make about hiring is important because in most of those jobs, you only got one of them. They’d better be the right one. Is there anything that you would do differently if you had to do something over again in your career so far?

I don’t think so, because I think I’ve learned from all the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t think I would be on the same path if I had changed or done things differently.

It’s hard to answer that question. I ask it of people anyway, but it’s hard, because if you think about it, it’s like, “Would you undo decisions that potentially led to serendipitous things, even if the decision itself wasn’t one that you look back on and say, ‘That was a good decision?’” It’s hard to think that through.

What other career lessons would you want our audience to take away from the discussion?

There are two things that I’ve always believed in my career. The first is to be kind to every single person. I was reading something the other day that said, “You can tell the culture of an organization by how they treat their cleaning staff or their receptionists.” That is absolutely true because no matter what someone does, they have as much of a right and equal standing as anyone else. Be kind to every single person, those above you and below you. Respect everyone and think about how they feel when you treat them that way.

The second thing is that in every single obstacle, there is an opportunity. In every single challenge, you can make something positive come out of it. That is core to the work that I’ve always done. It’s important that we believe in as a team in Innovate Finance, but overall as a life lesson. I’m a big believer in that.

Any final thoughts to share?

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s about enjoying the people you’re with and who you spend time with. Life is too short, so make sure you love what you do, or it’s at least on a path to get you to love what you do.

Certainly, a lot of people feel that way. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been going through this period of The Great Resignation, which ultimately is going to have to lead to the Great Whatever Comes Next. Janine, thanks. I appreciate the time. It was good to catch up, and I now know a little bit more than I previously knew about your career journey. Thanks for making the time, and have a good rest of your day.

Thank you so much.

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About Janine Hirt

CSCL 20 | Policy-Focused Non-ProfitJanine Hirt is the CEO of Innovate Finance, an independent industry body that represents and advances the global FinTech community in the UK. Prior to joining Innovate Finance in 2015, Janine worked as the head of Corporate Relations for Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Chatham House is an independent policy institute based in London whose mission is to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.
Janine’s earlier experience includes work for the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York, for the recruiting firm Michael Page. She also taught English as a Second Language in Japan and then worked as a supervisor and trainer for iTTI, which supports English language classrooms in Japan.
Janine earned her Bachelor’s degree in English and Political Science from Boston College and spent a year abroad at Oxford while an undergraduate. She earned a Master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics. She and her family live in London.

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