Norah Prida Bay: "Don’t think that just because you are really good at one thing you will be good at any other; experience and specialisation play an important role."
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Norah Prida Bay is a London Business School Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy student who has developed a mobile app called Kitty10 that helps women gain access to credit. The app was launched last month in collaboration with Citigroup and digitises a tradition among women in Spanish-speaking countries to save for a large purchase or investment with a group of friends. Every month, each of the friends invests a specified amount of money in the communal pot and one of them takes the money saved. Each friend gets to take the saved money in turn, to invest in a business or purchase.

Ms Prida Bay grew up in Mexico and has an MBA with a specialisation in finance from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (Itam, Mexico). She has also worked for Mexican national bank Banamex and VTB Capital.

In her spare time, Ms Prida Bay enjoys running, interval circuit training and reading historic novels.

1. Who are your business influences?

There have been three big influences that have inspired me during my career: Ajay Banga, chief executive of MasterCard. I believe Ajay is a true visionary and has an ingrained sense of duty to help the disadvantaged. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operations officer at Facebook — the “Lean In” movement she started has inspired millions of women and men to strive for equality. She leads by example. And Richard Branson — he is always challenging the status quo, supporting entrepreneurship and going where no one else dares to go. Like these leaders, I want to push the boundaries and make a real impact on people’s lives for the better.

2. What has been your best business decision so far?

To incubate and develop the idea of Kitty10 at LBS. Kitty10 is a ‘WhatsApp’ style mobile app for saving and lending in groups and aims to open access to credit for the nine million people in the UK who don’t currently have access to the formal credit system. In particular I hope the app will help women, whom my research has shown have a harder time gaining access to credit than men. The school has provided me with an invaluable network, access to resources, research, support and inspiration throughout my start-up journey.

3. Why did you choose LBS?

There are only three institutions in the world that offer the Sloan programme: LBS, Stanford and MIT Sloan. LBS was the obvious choice. The diversity of the school is incomparable. Students across many nationalities and religions are represented and as a result, all discussions are enriched and knowledge is duly questioned, challenged and tested.

Moreover, the school is in London, the most extraordinary city in the world. It is the epicentre of the fintech revolution. The whole ecosystem is set to see fintech start-ups succeed, from government policies to angel investors and willing early adopters.

4. What are you enjoying the most so far?

Being able to apply everything that I am learning to my start-up. It is like conducting a real-life experiment. Specifically, I have had the privilege of attending lectures on managing and marketing innovation from Rajesh Chandy, professor of marketing. His groundbreaking research has given me incredible insights into the potential of creating disruptive technology.

Other teachings on creating a solid value proposition for customers, tactics of how to reach the mass market and how to develop a clear cut strategy have also been instrumental in Kitty10’s execution.

5. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I work in the fintech space and my background is in banking, both of which are male-dominated. Nonetheless, I believe we are living in a unique moment in history. The number of women entering and working in these sectors is increasing and society is shifting.

I am lucky to have a husband who supports and encourages everything I do. He also equally shares the family responsibilities. Balancing work and family life is no longer the barrier it once was. Flexible working patterns help people such as me to balance work and family commitments.

6. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

Start small. Think big. Be humble. Help the disadvantaged. Don’t think that just because you are really good at one thing you will be good at any other; experience and specialisation play an important role.

7. What is your favourite business book?

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote: “There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them.”

8. What has been your best business trip?

When Banamex Citi sent me to New York for a credit course. I was just an analyst, about 26, and it was my first international business trip. I felt so accomplished!

9. What are your top tips for networking?

Be real and establish true relationships. A good way to start a relationship is by finding out if the other person has a problem they need solving and trying to help.

10. Which three people, living or dead, would you invite to a business meeting?

Isabella I, Queen of Castille, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and Sheryl Sandberg. These three women found themselves in extraordinary positions of power and influence and had the courage not to run away from their destiny but to embrace it. All of them were true to their values. In crucial business meetings, staying true to your values can, in certain circumstances, be your main compass. Having the courage to embrace your destiny can allow you to think big, question the status quo, go beyond, create, disrupt, change and make this world a more equitable place.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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