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BMO Harris Bank and 1871 Launch WMN•FINtech, Women’s Fintech Mentoring Program

April 28, 2020 | Financial inclusion

Earlier this week, BMO Harris Bank and 1871 announced a nationwide call for women entrepreneurs to apply for WMN•FINtech, a mentoring program for women-led startups. This is an evolution of the BMO Harris/1871 Innovation program, and marks the first time BMO and 1871 have partnered on a women-focused program.

Currently, there is a significant gender gap in the startup and tech community. Research shows that only 20 percent of global startups raising their first funding round in 2019 had a woman founder. BMO and 1871 created WMN•FINtech to help address this gap and give more women entrepreneurs the opportunity to bring cutting-edge technology and products forward.

The program is designed for startups that have created services or solutions for the financial sector, offer insights and advice to customers, or help identify customer needs. WMN•FINtech will provide selected startups with:

  • A three-month mentoring program with guidance from industry experts at BMO Harris Bank.
  • A four-month membership and working space at 1871, the number-one private business incubator in the world.
  • Curriculum focused on teaching enterprise sales cycles, vendor management, information security and risk and regulatory requirements
  • The opportunity to pitch venture capital investors for feedback, mentoring, continued connections and/or funding

Participants will also have access to 1871’s new “PYROS” initiative, a 13-week series of workshops, seminars and one-to-one mentoring built for founders to help them gain and grow customers and investor traction. PYROS will offer WMN•FINtech participants a path to scale their financial technology or services business.

Eligible startups have a woman founder or cofounder and are U.S.-based. Up to five startups will be selected to participate in this year’s program. The program includes a pitch day designed for startups to network and gather feedback from BMO senior executives. Participants may also get a potential future opportunity to pilot their product with BMO.

“We are so excited to launch our first WMN•FINtech cohort, doubling down on women founders focused on solving the hardest finance problems,” said Betsy Ziegler, CEO of 1871. “The time is now, and BMO Harris Bank is the perfect partner given their strength as a financial institution and their long-held mission to provide opportunities for women to come up and be powerful.”

“Women face unique challenges when running any business, especially startups,” said Niamh Kristufek, Head of U.S. Business Banking for BMO Harris Bank. “We designed this year’s program to help women innovators and entrepreneurs overcome barriers and bring new ideas to market.” Kristufek added that BMO also benefits from the program: “Working in partnership with the startups enables us to continue advancing our digital strategy and building industry-leading customer experiences. It’s a win-win.”

This program strongly aligns with BMO’s purpose to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life, and our bold commitment to empower women and break down barriers to inclusion within the workforce and the communities the bank serves.

WMN•FINtech applications are due by May 11, 2020, at 4 p.m. CT. More information and the application can be found here.

Read more about diversity and inclusion at BMO.

Read more about BMO for Women.


Written by Ishita Walia, Corporate Communication Manager in Chicago, IL. Ishita has been a part of the communications team at BMO for two years and enjoys traveling and cooking in her spare time.


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