Natalie Cartwright

Co-founder and COO, Finn AI

NatalieNatalie Cartwright, who has two master’s degrees and has lived in eight countries, comes from a family that prizes education. Although she’s never owned a car, her parents have given her pair of jumper cables as a graduation gift, she says, to remind her to think of education in a similar way: “It’s something that you carry with you and you can use for your own benefit, but more often than not you should use it for the benefit of other people.”

After earning a BA in psychology and pathology from McGill University in 2005, Vancouver-raised Cartwright did a master’s in public health, specializing in global health, at Sweden’s Lund University. She worked in international development for the United Nations before moving to Geneva in 2010 to co-run the Global Fund, a US$250-million vehicle that invested in low- and middle-income countries’ HIV, tuberculosis and malaria programs. “I loved feeling like I was doing something that was contributing a net positive into the world,” Cartwright says.

Going on to complete an MBA at IE Business School in Madrid, she returned to Vancouver in 2014 to co-found what became Finn AI with fellow student Jake Tyler, who serves as CEO. The company, which had 55 staff as of January, has developed a white-label virtual bank that uses what it calls conversational AI to help people manage their money better. So far, Finn AI’s customers include banks in Africa, Europe, and North and South America, such as BMO Financial Group and South Africa’s TymeBank.

Finn AI’s mission is to improve the financial well-being of 100 million people by 2025, Cartwright says. “We’re aligning doing something good with the world at huge scale—banks have incredible scale— but we’re aligning it with a profit motive.”

When it comes to attracting investment, having a female founder has been an advantage. Last fall, Finn AI raised $14 million in Series A financing. Among the investors: BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Fund and New York–based 1843 Capital, which backs companies with diverse founding teams.

Half of Finn AI’s board and three members of its eight-strong leadership team are women, says Cartwright, who wants to see society move beyond gender roles. “It’s not just a problem for women; I think that it’s equally a problem for men,” she says, citing the stigma they can face for taking parental leave.

Cartwright, who often speaks at young-women’s clubs and at conferences, says it’s important to set an example. “My No. 1 strategy for getting women into tech and into finance is to be as ridiculously successful as I can.” —Nick Rockel

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