Letter from Inez: February 2016

Tuesday 23rd February 2016

Inez Murray squareEarlier this month, I was privileged to participate in a Study Tour hosted by GBA member BLC Bank in Lebanon. An intense few days of learning against the backdrop of a wonderful spring in Beirut, one was particularly inspired by the consistency of message, from the top of the bank — BLC Bank Chairman, Maurice Sehnaoui — to the front-line staff, on the strategic value of serving women well. Indeed, in the few short years since BLC Bank launched their We Initiative, the bank has punched well above its weight.

In his remarks to the audience, Najib Choucair, Executive Director & Head of the Banking Department of Banque du Liban, spoke about how We Initiative woke the Central Bank up to the fact that women received just 6 percent of all credit from banks in the country in 2010. He shared his institution’s work in supporting banks’ lending to women through guarantees that reduce collateral requirements as well as reducing the Central Bank’s reserve requirements on loans to women. Pointing out that discrimination takes many forms, he cited the Central Bank’s success in changing specific aspects of the country’s Merchant Law, which had mandated that married women ask permission of their husbands to start a business (Article 11) and that husbands had the right to cancel their permission (Article 12) should they see fit.

While changes to discriminatory legislation can take time, banks can sometimes find innovative solutions that work within the law. BLC Bank was the first bank in Lebanon to actively promote a solution to the problem that women cannot open a savings account on behalf of their children unless they have written consent from the father. The Bank’s Mother Fiduciary Account is an account that is owned by the mother and managed by BLC Bank as the fiduciary, for the benefit of the child.

Proving the business case for serving women through the sex-disaggregated data it is able to produce, Banque du Liban is consulting with BLC Bank about what kind of sex-disaggregated data should be made available from the banking sector to track Women’s Market development and performance in Lebanon. GBA will continue to work on this topic in 2016 with Central Bankers through the Association for Financial Inclusion (AFI), advising on the practical aspects of encouraging the supply of sex-disaggregated data so that National Financial Inclusion policies’ gender targets can be tracked. We look forward not only to a far-reaching statement of commitment to gender equality in AFI’s 2016 Maya Declaration, but also to building on those commitments during our policy session with central bankers as part of our Policy Forum at the 2016 GBA Summit Oct. 18-20, hosted by Chase Bank in Nairobi, Kenya.

This month I am delighted to announce a new strategic partnership between the Dutch Development Bank FMO and GBA. FMO offers specialized financing and capacity building to banks that want to increase the number of women-owned SMEs that they serve. FMO’s sponsorship is supporting some of GBA’s peer learning activities, and they will host our first All-Stars Academy, taking place June 13-16 in The Hague, the Netherlands. This prestigious training brings experts from four GBA banks that excel in serving the Women’s Market to guest lecture at an intensive 3.5-day workshop, in which participants will learn from the best and develop their own strategies for the Women’s Market in real time. The program is open to GBA members and non-member banks, and is part of our support to all our Development Finance Institution partners to encourage widespread adoption of the Women’s Market by banks. We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to FMO for their generous sponsorship.

Last but not least, Türk Ekonomi Bankası (TEB) is hosting a Study Tour April 14-15, in which they will showcase their incredible financial and non-financial services offer for women-owned MSMEs. This tour is a must for the many GBA members who are grappling with defining the right mix of non-financial services to support small-business owners, how to offer that cost effectively and how to build the core capabilities required to create long-term competitive advantage.

TEB’s generosity in opening their doors to fellow members reflects a key reason why the Alliance is so successful. As Arton Celina, Deputy CEO of TEB subsidiary TEB Kosovo — the newest GBA member — explains, membership in the GBA offers unique learning opportunities and a platform to openly share concerns and to contribute to others.



Inez Murray
Chief Executive Officer
Global Banking Alliance for Women