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Letter from Inez: April 2019

Wednesday 10th April 2019

Inez MurrayLast month, the Royal Bank of Scotland made a huge contribution to our understanding of what must be done to build female-friendly entrepreneurial ecosystems in its seminal research, “The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship,” led by Alison Rose, Deputy CEO, NatWest Holdings and CEO, Commercial & Private Banking, at the request of the UK government. The review found that up to US$326 billion could be added to the UK economy alone if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men. By systematically analyzing the entrepreneurial journey from intention through start-up, sustain and scale-up for both male- and female-owned businesses, the report identifies key actions that need to be taken by the UK government, financial services providers and civil society to close the gender gap in entrepreneurship. Top of the list is promoting greater transparency in UK funding allocation by asking that financial services providers report sex- disaggregated data on investment in female-led businesses. GBA has advocated for this globally over the past 4 years, including at the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Women and Enterprise at the House of Commons during the 2017 Summit hosted by NatWest, and is delighted to see the monumental impact of the Alliance’s work.

The second recommendation is to launch new investment vehicles to increase funding going to female entrepreneurs, calling on banks and investment funds to commit to assist their high net worth clients and institutional investors to invest in women entrepreneurs. The third recommendation is to “ring-fence” institutional and private funds toward ESG related investments with a specific focus on gender diversity or launching funding rounds for businesses in female-dominated sectors, such as healthcare and services.

Financing female entrepreneurs will top and tail this year’s GBA Summit, under the wider theme “Building Resilience Through Inclusion.” Resilience is an interesting word in 2019.  As we look at climate change, the rise of populism and nationalism, the breakdown of social infrastructure and persistent inequality, we also have huge opportunities as businesses to make a difference, and we are making a difference. At this Summit we will be looking at innovations and new market opportunities from our incredible membership and beyond for supporting women throughout their lifetimes, in good times and in bad. Not least, Summit host AXA – our first insurance company member and also the world’s largest – will showcase their large, wonderful array of ecosystem plays to support women during their Study Tour, while we endeavor to leverage our presence in Paris to influence the G7, the presidency of which is held by France this year.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Speaking of inclusion of women, the All-Stars Academy hosted by the Central Bank of Egypt two weeks ago in Cairo was our first in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region with the highest financial inclusion gender gap in the world. The event brought together 11 of the top Egyptian banks and their CEOs as well as a wonderful mix of banks and central banks from the MENA, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. A big thank-you to our Experts from BLC Bank, NatWest, Bank al Etihad, IFC and the Central Bank of Egypt for sharing their insights with our amazing group of learners. We very much hope to have catalyzed serious action among the top players in financial services who attended.

This cross-fertilization of knowledge continues through our expanded online peer learning services, which saw the launch last week of our second Working Group on building diverse and inclusive organizations, entitled “Getting Women Into the C-Suite.” With over half the membership participating, and supported brilliantly by Mercer, we still welcome more. For information please contact hilary.nichols@gbaforwomen.org.

This month, we welcome our newest member, The City Bank in Bangladesh, to the Alliance. In this issue we interview Managing Director Mashrur Arefin and learn about his vision for being the bank that targets the exact segment of women that most don’t: informal and start-up very small businesses. The backbone of many a household and national economy, we are encouraged by Mr. Arefin’s vision for being the bank of choice for women in Bangladesh.

From London to Cairo to Dhaka and now on to Paris. We very much look forward to seeing you at the Summit.

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