An entrepreneurial spirit: Building a business and fostering diversity in financial services and beyond

We spoke to Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou – Founder and Chief Executive of award-winning consulting group GFSC Global – to find out more about her experience leading the company, her focus on diversity and how the firm is addressing the key challenges ahead

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“An entrepreneurial spirit led me to start my own ventures,” says Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou, Founder and Chief Executive of Global Financial Services Consultants (GFSC Global) – an award-winning consulting group offering services across the corporate, legal, regulatory, financial and banking fields. “I founded and managed several businesses and thrived on identifying opportunities, taking calculated risks and driving growth,” she says, crediting “a relentless drive for innovation and a commitment to making a positive impact in the business world” for her success.

Success story
Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou founded the company after gaining considerable experience and good knowledge of international legislation. She set about creating an international brand, GFSC Global.

Today the company operates in more than 70 countries, providing advice, planning support, structural management and licensing services to clients across the world – in fields ranging from technology to finance, banking, crypto, manufacturing, entertainment and beyond.

“We work with a broad range of corporate and private clients, including multinational corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), start-ups, entrepreneurs, financial organisations, banks, crypto exchangers, investment funds and high net-worth individuals,” she says. “We specialise in worldwide licensing, (Brokerage, Crypto, Investment Funds, Banks, Payment Services, EMIs, Gaming), AML/compliance support, legal support and company formation, providing tailored solutions with over 20 years of experience.

“Our team of experienced consultants offer deep expertise in their respective fields and work closely with each client to understand their unique needs within a global, ever challenging financial environment.”

A background in leadership
So how did it all begin? “I began my professional journey by obtaining a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration,” says Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou. “This gave me a strong understanding of business principles and management practices. I then studied for the Master of Laws (LLM), which solidified my understanding of legislation.”

Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou also gained certifications with various organisations, including the International Compliance Association (ICA), the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) and the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), and joined organisations including the Cyprus Investment Fund Association (CIFA).

Female founders and CEOs in the financial industry may encounter gender bias

She then took on various managerial positions within multinational companies, gaining experience in strategic planning, project management, team leadership and other key areas. “I honed my skills in the business development, banking, financial, corporate and legal fields, gaining a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of running successful businesses,” she says. “Alongside a passion for inspiring and motivating teams and for thinking strategically, these all helped me with founding and running the brand GFSC Global.”

Overcoming gender bias
For Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou, founding and running the business has come with an abundance of rewards – but it hasn’t been without its challenges, especially when it comes to gender equity, she says. “Being a female founder and chief executive in the financial services and legal industry can be both challenging and rewarding,” she explains.

“I have faced a number of challenges due to the historically male-dominated nature of the sector. Breaking into leadership positions as a woman often requires overcoming biases and stereotypes that may exist within organisations,” she says. “Female founders and CEOs in the financial industry may encounter gender bias, where our leadership abilities are questioned or underestimated based on our gender.”

She believes the under-representation of women in senior leadership roles can in turn make it harder for female founders and CEOs to find mentors, sponsors or role models who have navigated similar paths. “The other issue is around work-life balance,” she says. “Juggling demanding leadership roles with personal commitments and family responsibilities can be particularly challenging.”

But for Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou, being a woman in a male-dominated industry can also offer opportunities. “Female founders and CEOs have a chance to drive meaningful change within their organisations and the industry as a whole, shaping policies, practices and cultures, while contributing to greater gender diversity and inclusion within the industry,” she says. “Successful female leaders can inspire other women to pursue leadership positions in finance and break down barriers for future generations, which is really powerful.”

Fostering diversity
Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou believes cultivating that diversity doesn’t just benefit women; it leads to better outcomes for everyone involved. “Companies with diverse leadership teams tend to perform better,” she says. “Female founders and CEOs can contribute to improved business outcomes through their unique perspectives and experiences.”

Learning from her own experience, she has made it her mission to encourage greater diversity in all forms. “I believe creating an environment where all team members feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and ideas is crucial for encouraging diversity,” she says. “My top tip for leaders looking to cultivate diverse input is to encourage open communication, active listening and collaboration among team members to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and valued.

“It’s also crucial to recognise and celebrate the unique backgrounds, experiences and perspectives that each team member brings to the table,” she continues. She suggests organising events or activities that highlight different cultures, traditions or holidays to foster a sense of appreciation for diversity within the team.

“I also believe it’s important to ensure that leadership positions within the organisation reflect diversity by actively promoting and supporting individuals from under-represented groups,” she says. “Seeing diverse leaders at the top can inspire other team members and demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity.”

Adapting to change
That progressive leadership style isn’t just seen in Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou’s response to diversity; it’s also reflected in the company’s approach to major challenges – most notably demonstrated during and since the pandemic. “Post-pandemic, our business experienced a significant transformation,” says Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou. “The pandemic brought about unprecedented challenges and opportunities, and we had to adapt and innovate to stay ahead of the curve.”

Companies with diverse leadership teams tend to perform better

Despite the challenges, GFSC Global managed to not only maintain its market position but continued to grow, improving its financial results in 2023. “We did this by focusing on our strengths and building on our core competencies,” she says. “We put the emphasis on strategic cost management, innovative business models and digital transformation.”

The firm invested in technology to enhance its operations, improve customer experiences and streamline processes, and saw an opportunity to explore new markets and diversify its revenue streams. “With shifts in consumer behaviour and preferences, we sought opportunities in emerging markets and untapped demographics,” says Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou. “This involved strategic market research, analysis of consumer behaviour and targeted marketing efforts to effectively engage with new customer segments.”

Those shifts include substantial growth in e-commerce and digital sales channels, according to Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou, as consumers continue to prioritise convenience and safety. “We adapted our marketing strategies and product offerings to align with these changes and the shifting purchasing patterns and preferences,” she says.

Regulatory challenges
Beyond the after-effects of pandemic, what other challenges lie ahead? “The state of the corporate and legal industry is constantly evolving, influenced by various factors such as technological advancements, regulatory changes, economic conditions and societal shifts,” says Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou.

The rapid pace at which regulations are changing makes it challenging for corporations to keep up

She points to the increasing complexity of regulations and compliance requirements as one of the key issues. “As governments around the world strive to protect consumers, investors and the public interest, they have implemented stricter regulations across various sectors,” she says. “This has led to a greater burden on corporations to ensure compliance with these regulations, resulting in increased legal and regulatory costs. The rapid pace at which regulations are changing makes it challenging for corporations to keep up with the latest requirements.”

Future vision
But if the company’s past approach to challenges is anything to go by, these setbacks will only create further opportunities for innovation, adaptation and growth.

“My future vision for GFSC Global is to further expand the business internationally, continuing to be a trusted partner to our clients worldwide,” says Isavella Korelidou-Evripidou. “We’re approaching new jurisdictions for new licenses in brokerage, crypto, gaming, banking, investments funds, blockchain and many other projects, which we’re really excited about.

“2023 was a busy year for us with many new clients, strong results and many successful projects,” she says. “We aim to continue that in 2024 and beyond, using our experience and knowledge to deliver the best possible service to our clients – while continuing to cultivate a diverse, supportive team that not only benefits the bottom line, but inspires others to break down barriers and achieve their ambitions, as I am proud to have done.”