Innovation is a long-held driver of business growth. Especially in today’s technology-led and disruptive business environment, innovation is imperative for companies who want to remain relevant. But what drives innovation? As an advocate for diversity and inclusion (D&I) at Finastra, I had the privilege of attending several events in the past months gathering cultures and leadership from across the world to discuss this topic, D&I, and how together these elements can drive business to the next level.

Research shows that higher D&I in the workplace correlates directly to a higher return on equity, more collaboration, more innovation, and a very engaged workforce. Companies with the greatest gender diversity can generate 34% of their revenues from innovative products and services; with more diverse leadership teams, companies earn more from innovation, with higher EBIT (Earnings before interest & taxes) margins.

Recently participating on a panel discussing whether innovation or diversity should lead in terms of driving business success, hosted by FTI Consulting’s Women’s Initiative and the British Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Group, we were all in agreement that building a workforce that is reflective of the customer base will drive the best innovation.

At Finastra we conduct business around the world and have employees who come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and nations. We are proud of this diversity and hold each of our employees accountable for respecting the diversity of individuals and cultures among our workforce and within the communities in which we operate.

Innovation is less about technology, IT systems, new products and services, but about our customers and how we can improve their lives.

Customer experience (CX) will be the core differentiator between banks and banking services: by leveraging diverse inputs to better understand end user values, we can innovate successfully in this space. D&I will make us a better company, looking like the markets we serve and performing better as a result. Especially in the Fintech sector, where the pace of change is faster now than ever before, we cannot innovate fast enough if we do not have a diverse team of people.

The task of instilling a diverse and inclusive culture is first and foremost a leadership responsibility. Senior leaders’ mindsets prevail across the organisation; the tone has to come from the top. Leaders who give diverse voices equal airtime are nearly twice as likely to unleash value-driven insights, and employees in a speak up culture are 3.5 times as likely to contribute their full innovative potential.

Leaders need to start seeing D&I as part of the boardroom agenda and put in place policies that are able to create diverse and inclusive teams; teams that can challenge unconscious bias and gender profiling through fresh ideas like introducing ‘blind’ interviewing for new candidates and implementing programs that build mid-level talent to draw on for leadership roles.

Employees have a part to play and a learning mindset is important. It is about providing opportunities for continuous development and upskilling that create an engaged workforce and prepare high-potential individuals for management roles.

At Finastra, our mentoring and coaching programs are designed to equip high-potential individuals for future leadership. Beyond the organization, we start nurturing and building a future talent pool through supporting in-school coding programs to help shape future generations.

It is clear that what drives growth in our business is innovation – and what drives innovation is a diverse, inclusive culture where cooperation can thrive. This means teams that can draw on many different viewpoints and where leaders encourage questioning and dialogue. Enabling our colleagues to work together without fear or favor is the best way we can further a dynamic, growing company.

Article by Smita Gupta, Senior Director of Regional Marketing for Finastra Asia-Pacific