Wednesday 15th November 2017
Yesterday marked the launch of the 16th annual Summit of the Global Banking Alliance for Women in London, bringing together nearly 200 people from 50 countries and more than 60 organizations. The day began with a Master Class highlighting the value of the Women’s Market and why banks should be paying attention to it, hosted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development at their headquarters. The Master Class was followed by the GBA Policy Form at Westminster Palace, which concluded with a welcome reception and guided tours of the Houses of Parliament.
The Master Class brought the business case for financial services providers to serve women with a holistic value proposition into the spotlight. In the first session, Paul Jenkins, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company and a GBA Board member, shared research from GBA and McKinsey demonstrating that banks are struggling to find growth opportunities in their existing markets and that the Women’s Market is growing faster than the market overall. The research identified a US$24 billion revenue opportunity for banks among unbanked women alone – excluding SMEs and those who are under-banked. Rebecca Ruf of the GBA expanded on these results, showing aggregated data from GBA banks that make a strong case for the profitability, stability and loyalty of women financial services clients when they are served with a robust value proposition that includes both financial and non-financial services.
The session then explored three in-depth case studies from GBA best practice banks from around the world. Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise, Business Banking, at Summit host NatWest tracked the history of the bank’s Women in Business program from 2003, sharing how it grew to be the champion of women’s SMEs it is today. Recognizing that relationships are paramount to their Women in Business customers, NatWest seeks to deepen them both by training staff on how to best enable female business owners to succeed and by providing clients access to markets, networks, information and other resources. Their efforts have resulted in double-digit increases in lending and account switchers in the last year.
Tania Moussallem, Assistant General Manager of BLC Bank in Lebanon and Chair of the GBA, then walked attendees through her bank’s journey. Tania stressed the importance of tracking gender-disaggregated data in order to benchmark the program and track its growth. She also noted that culture can be a key sticking point, so changing the paradigm internally can prove critical. As Lebanon is a small market of 4 million clients served by 65 banks, copying products is common. Yet because We Initiative is thoroughly embedded in the bank as part of its DNA, it cannot be easily replicated. The program was launched 5 years ago and still has no serious competitors in the market.
Felicity Duffy, Head of Women’s Markets at Westpac in Australia, then shared the bank’s journey with its established program of more than 20 years. Westpac aims to be the Bank of Choice for women and girls and is accomplishing this in a number of ways. Chief among them, the bank is walking the talk internally: As of October, Westpac has a 50/50 gender split at all levels of management. The bank ensures it can be there for its women clients at every stage of their life cycles, and has a strong non-financial services proposition to support this that includes access to business and financial education and information, as well as a variety of networking mediums. The bank also seeks to create role models for women and girls through its well-known 100 Women of Influence Awards, given annually to 100 women who are doing great things in Australia.
A panel highlighting the experiences of four banks implementing EBRD Women in Business programs in Kazakhstan (Forte Bank JSC), Kosovo (TEB Kosovo), Georgia (TBC Bank) and Turkey (TEB) followed. The EBRD works with banks in these countries and others throughout the region to provide access to finance and the know-how to go with it. Banks shared lessons learned, including the importance of getting buy-in from the top for a Women’s Market program, the need to train frontline staff, and the necessity of offering financial education to customers – sometimes before they even begin to truly interact with the bank.
After the Master Class, participants navigated to the Policy Forum to explore how stakeholders in the UK ecosystem can best enable the creation and growth of women’s SMEs. In a Parliamentary meeting room, attendees observed a working group of the Women in Enterprise All Party Parliamentary Group, where Jill Pay of the Pink Shoe Steering Group, Helene Martin Gee of the Pink Shoe Club, Karen Mathiasen of the World Bank, Julie Baker of NatWest, Baroness Lorely Burt of the House of Lords and Craig Tracey, MP and Chair of the Women and Enterprise All Party Parliamentary Group, discussed how the private and public sectors can work together to provide more opportunities for women in business. Options raised to move the needle on women’s access to finance include a fund with a government-sponsored first-loss guarantee, better financial and business education offerings for women, and taking steps to reduce unconscious bias in lending and in the VC space.
The day concluded with a welcome reception in the Members’ Dining Room and a tour of the Houses of Parliament, where tour guides shared the story of the suffragettes who fought at Parliament for women’s right to vote, highlighting just how much work has been done to empower women – and the success that comes with tenacity.