CEO & Co-Founder, Lucy I A Financial Technology Firm
(In her 50's)
Her story (as shared by her nominator)
Debbie had an unprivileged start in life – she grew up in a council housing estate in the UK, and left school at 16 to work at a provincial branch of a high street bank. She became the first woman in the bank manager’s memory to leave the bank for another role (“every other woman that has worked here left to have a baby”) and progressed through increasing levels of seniority in business and financial IT solutions providers until the start of the new millennium – when everything changed. An unexpected redundancy gave her the chance to re-evaluate what she wanted from life, and she took a year out and travelled to Cambodia to do voluntary work.
The destination actually became the starting point. She first founded two award-winning social enterprises that provided jobs for local people, and then started providing technology strategy consulting to micro-finance companies. This evolved into managing large complex inclusive finance projects and global teams, working in 35+ countries – and she realised that there was so much that could be done to improve access to finance for women and small businesses, but no-one was really doing it. So Debbie quit her job as Managing Director of Fern Software, and dove into the uncertain world of startups, and founded Lucy. Lucy is a financial technology platform built to serve women who are overlooked, underestimated and underbanked by the existing financial system. Lucy raised more than SGD700,000 in pre-seed funding from a variety of female leaders who see the same gap in the market.
Throughout her life Debbie has been focused on helping others, in particular underbanked populations. Quitting a well paid job when you have kids in School in Singapore is not easy. It is a huge risk that not many people take. Debbie did because she is committed to the mission.
Debbie is not simply a dreamer, she is a doer. Her belief in doing good while doing well is mirrored in her actions. Her leap in Lucy took a great deal of courage and her commitment, in the midst of a pandemic, to stay the course, is remarkable.
In her words:
In getting a startup off of the ground, every achievement is a case for celebration! But I think that raising more than $500,000 in pre-seed funding in the middle of a pandemic, from a group of 21 female investors who came on board because they truly believe in our mission, may be one of the best ones so far.
Biggest challenge thus far
I resigned from my previous Regional Director role with a team of 40+ and extensive international travel to co- found Lucy on 1 February, 2020, just before COVID-19 took hold. This ultimately meant I had two big changes to cope with at the same time - but I managed to stay cheerful, positive and focused, and am delighted to say that the Lucy app is already in closed live beta and will be launching imminently.
what judges say
Great to see Debbie leverage her expertise to provide a service that supports women in their journey to financial empowerment.