A young bank operating in a competitive environment, Laos’ Banque Franco-Lao (BFL) is seeking to double its share by targeting the Women’s Market.
BFL was created in 2008 with the joint-venture of French bank BRED Banque Populaire and leading Lao bank BCEL. Today, the bank serves more than 22,000 retail and business clients through 22 full-service units and 43 ATMs. With an asset base of $150M, BFL has a variety of financial solutions, including loans, savings products, debit cards, internet banking, and money transfer services. BFL’s client base represents approximately 2.5 percent of the market in Laos, but the bank is currently seeking to grow its share to 5 or 6 percent by supporting women as a distinct segment.
In 2015 the bank launched a financing facility for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with 50 percent risk sharing from the International Finance Corporation (IFC). This facility has helped BFL provide loans to women entrepreneurs who would otherwise have been ineligible for financing due to a lack of guarantee or insufficient business history – an important modification for women, in particular, as many women-owned enterprises in Laos would be considered “start-ups.” In addition, the bank grants some SME loans without requiring collateral, on a case-by-case basis. BFL formally launched its Women’s Market program in 2016.
28 percent of businesses in BFL’s customer base, representing 45 percent of SMEs, are women owned.
43 percent of all businesses that bank with BFL and 58 percent of its SME clients have a female CEO.
62 percent of all businesses served by BFL and 75 percent of SMEs have at least one woman on the executive team.
Half of the bank’s staff, including management, is comprised of women.