Tuesday 16th December 2014
Arabic for Sunrise, “Shorouq” represents the promise of a new day brimming with productivity and progress. Below, General Manager of Bank al Etihad, H.E. Nadia Al Saeed, shares her views on the anticipated launch of Shorouq and what it means for the Jordanian woman.
Shorouq presents a comprehensive set of banking solutions, as well as financial and non-financial services, specifically designed for women. Bank al Etihad’s latest offering aims to empower women by allowing them to achieve the financial freedom and security they aspire to, and it is designed for all women segments – be it women business owners, professional women, affluent women, housewives, or women looking to invest for their families or retirement.
As an extension of Shorouq, Bank al Etihad created an e-knowledge portal that serves as a credible reference for women on various topics and as a platform to exchange expertise, knowledge and information.
Shorouq is a natural extension of Bank al Etihad’s corporate identity as a staunch supporter of women and a firm believer in equal opportunities and rights. This is particularly important to us, especially given that 45% of our team is women, and women have a strong presence in our executive management team. Shorouq was introduced in response to the increasing number of working women across the Kingdom and the steady rise in projects spearheaded by females, which reached 25% of all businesses.
Prior to launching the Program, we conducted several studies targeting female employees, business owners and homemakers looking for ways to achieve financial security for their families. The studies revealed a pressing need for gaining access to knowledge, funding and markets, hence enabling women to improve their financial status.
For the first time in the Kingdom, women can now benefit from an integrated set of banking services that are specifically tailored to the needs, lifestyles and priorities of females. For example, Bank al Etihad customers on maternity breaks who have taken personal, real estate or car loans will receive a grace period during their maternity leave. Women will also be eligible for collateral-free loans to finance their projects, given that specified criteria are met. Benefits also include home insurance programs in addition to child education, marriage and retirement savings programs. Women will also enjoy comprehensive electronic services and a unique banking environment that offer an extensive array of convenient, efficient, competitive and flexible banking solutions.
In order to complement the financial aspect of the Program, Bank al Etihad launched the
Shorouq website. This will be a space for women to interact, network and learn. The website comprises exclusive articles by a number of influential public and business figures and monthly features with prominent businesswomen and female entrepreneurs. It will also include a broad range of articles tackling various topics that are of interest to members of Shorouq, such as the latest advancements in the fields of business and economics, professional development, work-life balance, as well as physical and mental health. In the near future, Shorouq website members will have access to a myriad of knowledge resources and tools to help them with new projects and startups, financial consultation and advice, and much more.
Our focus is on women from all backgrounds, age groups and walks of life, including young professionals, business owners, entrepreneurs and homemakers, among others. I strongly believe that empowering women, who make up half of our population, is fundamental to the advancement of the national economy and the establishment of a financially knowledgeable generation of females who believe in themselves. Giving women the tools they need to succeed can directly impact the gross domestic product, as female unemployment rates currently stand at nearly 25.4% compared to 9.6% for males, despite over 55% of unemployed women having attained an academic education.
In order to learn more about the reality of today’s market, we polled a number of women throughout the Kingdom. The poll revealed that female employees within various professions are looking to achieve professional development, improve their financial status and hence their living standards, and manage their finances in a manner that suits their aspirations. On the other hand, more experienced businesswomen expressed their need for highly flexible, secure, straightforward and credible banking services that can cater to their busy lifestyle requirements. They also showed a need for collateral-free, low-interest loans. Female owners of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) pointed out that they want support services to grow their operations and manage their finances, as well as recognition and the opportunity to promote their businesses.
Armed with this vital information, we developed Shorouq, which was designed to facilitate the process of gaining access to knowledge, finance and markets.
With regards to Jordan in general, the access to finance provided to women is still weak. Support for this particular segment is minimal – with the exception of microfinance and donor-funded initiatives, both of which only lend up to a certain amount and thus do not cater to the needs of growth-oriented female entrepreneurs.
According to a survey published by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), 25% of national enterprises in Jordan are headed by women, and an estimated US$585 million financing gap exists for such businesses. Another IFC-McKinsey survey revealed that 45% of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) led by women are either underserved or not served at all by banks, with only 5% receiving adequate banking services.
The fact that no banks in Jordan specifically target or engage with women has created a considerable divide, consequently presenting us with a huge opportunity. As such, the concept for Shorouq emerged. Looking at the experiences of leading global banks in this regard, we developed our Program on par with international standards. This was achieved based on our membership in the Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA) and in partnership with the IFC.
Launching Shorouq has positioned Bank al Etihad as the first bank in Jordan to deliver products that specifically target women, cater to their needs and enable them to overcome various challenges posed by the many roles they play within society.
In my opinion, there are a number of factors that make gaining access to finance more difficult for women than it is for men, which undoubtedly deters females from embarking on an entrepreneurial journey. There are also other cultural and social challenges, whereby networking, building professional relations and the opportunity to promote a business are naturally more available to men than to women. Worldwide, and even more so in our culture, the dual responsibility of having a job and tending to household chores and childcare leaves women with less time for their private businesses. As such, a large percentage of working women prefer to work within the public, financial and education sectors, rather than have their own business.
However, we have begun to notice the emergence of businesswomen in several key subsectors such as medical supplies companies and laboratories within the medical sector; various industries within the IT sector, which is becoming increasingly popular among females; in addition to preschools within the education sector, most of which are owned by women. Furthermore, there is a significant number of women working in the fields of event planning, advertising, public relations and cosmetology. I am very optimistic about the future of female entrepreneurs in Jordan, especially given the availability of specialized support services that aid them in fulfilling their ambitions.
I am very excited about the launch of the Program, and look forward to creating a paradigm shift by empowering women to reach their full potential and fulfill their greatest aspirations. I would like to invite each and every woman across Jordan to join us on this thrilling journey for a better today and a brighter tomorrow.