Explore the Course


Explore the

All-Stars Academy

Across the span of one week, the Financial Alliance for Women All-Stars Academy takes participants through every step of developing, launching and embedding a program that gives women customers the financial and non-financial offerings they need to succeed – and helps the financial services provider to succeed in the process. Experience our multimedia preview of the course topics by scrolling through the sections below, or jump to a specific subject using the navigation links to the right.


Strategic Case for Targeting the Women’s Market

Women are already contributing in a major way to the global economy, and their position is only going to grow as women around the world become more educated, enter the workforce and start businesses. Women make or influence up to 80 percent of household purchasing decisions worldwide, including where to bank and where to invest, yet 73 percent of women report being unsatisfied with their financial services providers (FSPs). Up to one-third of all private businesses in the world are owned or led by women, yet there is a US$1.7 trillion credit gap for women-owned MSMEs globally. Sixty-eight percent of women’s SMEs have unmet credit needs, and women are 20 percent less likely than men to have borrowed from a formal financial institution.

In 2019 the GBA became the Financial Alliance for Women.

Financial Alliance for Women research reveals that women are excellent customers if served well by their FSPs. Because men and women often have different needs and preferences when it comes to financial services, serving women well means going beyond providing them with access to finance – encompassing a holistic set of offerings that also includes access to financial and business information, education, networks and recognition for their successes. And because women are not a monolithic market, these offerings often need to be tailored based on specific segments and/or key life moments.

Providing women with such offerings has proven to be a revenue-generating strategic differentiator for Financial Alliance for Women members. Our annual “Economics of Banking on Women” report shows that across regions and segments, women are strong savers and have very low non-performing loan rates. FSPs that have committed to serving women over the long term have superior results with the Women’s Market, with higher shares of female clients, credit volumes, deposit volumes and products per customer, and even lower non-performing loans from women. This paints a very strong picture of the business case for FSPs to target women strategically as a distinct market.

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Understanding the Opportunity

Internal Analysis & Data

To explore its potential with the Women’s Market, an FSP will first need to understand its current portfolio of women customers. This requires developing a strategy for collecting data on existing women customers and establishing a baseline. The Financial Alliance for Women’s “The Power of Women’s Market Data: A How-To Guide” offers step-by-step instructions for those looking to get started:

1. Identify needs and set definitions – Determine what data is currently being tracked and where there are gaps. Set consistent definitions to be used across the organization for women’s businesses, women’s individual accounts and anything else that will need to be addressed based on local context.

In 2019 the GBA became the Financial Alliance for Women.

2. Data planning – Identify the critical metrics that will be necessary to measure from the start as well as the nice-to-have metrics that will not be immediately necessary. 

3. Systems and processes integration – Work with the IT department to adapt internal systems as necessary. Modify processes for classifying, verifying and monitoring sex-disaggregated data for new and existing customers.

4. Data capture – Sex-disaggregate data on existing accountholders to establish a baseline, and plan for future data collection by ensuring all staff are aligned with proper processes.

5. Data analysis and use – Analyze and use the data to inform decision making on a regular basis. Determine if it is possible to automate the data extraction, and develop dashboards to aggregate datasets.

Remember: Data is not the ultimate goal. Information is.


External Analysis

The next step in understanding the Women’s Market opportunity is getting a clear picture of the size and primary demographic characteristics of the market. This is key in defining levers for potential growth and estimating expected market share. A number of datasets exist that reveal extremely useful country-level sex-disaggregated data, such as the World Bank’s Global Findex, which offers a look at 60 indicators for more than 140 economies including bank account usage, lending and saving. Other datasets that will provide rich insights on the female economy in an FSP’s home market include: IFC MSME Finance Gap Database, IFC Enterprise Surveys, IMF Financial Access Survey, UN Demographic Statistics Database, UN World Population Prospects, World Bank Doing Business Data, World Bank Gender Data Portal, World Bank Poverty and Equity Data Portal, World Bank Women, Business and the Law Report.

It is also critical to supplement these quantitative insights with qualitative research, conducting studies of the market to determine what women in the region want and need from their FSPs that they are not currently getting, and how they view the financial services sector in general. Not only is this essential to get a full picture of the opportunity; it will also be invaluable as the program enters the design phase.

Quantifying the Opportunity

Using information gleaned from both the internal and external analyses, it will be possible to determine a projection for the FSP’s potential revenue to be gained from the Women’s Market and likely growth scenarios. Many organizations choose to factor the program’s investment requirements into their projections, using a metric such as the internal rate of return (IRR) or net present value (NPV) to discover whether the program is likely to succeed from a business standpoint. The IRR shows the overall return provided by a project’s cash flows, while the NPV shows the value of a long-term investment in today’s currency by discounting future cash flows to the value of currency today.

In 2019 the GBA became the Financial Alliance for Women.

Financial Alliance for Women Business Case Tool

The Financial Alliance for Women has a tool (available here) that helps the user begin to develop a business case for the Women’s Market by quantifying the market opportunity and estimating an FSP’s direct financial benefits from strategically targeting the female economy. The tool – which aggregates the world-renowned datasets that are most useful to helping FSPs size the Women’s Market in their home countries – was created to help financial services practitioners interested in designing a Women’s Market strategy or program to determine the potential such an initiative holds with concrete numbers.

Building the CVP: Financial Services

Once the business case for serving the Women’s Market has been established and the project has received the go-ahead, an FSP must then develop customer value propositions (CVPs) for the Women’s Market based on which segments of women they are choosing to target. For example, FSPs may choose to segment based on demographics, business ownership stage or key life moments a customer may be experiencing. Regardless of segment, CVPs for financial products and services should focus on customers’ real-world goals and clearly communicate the value women customers will get from the Women’s Market program.

In 2019 the GBA became the Financial Alliance for Women.

The offering for each segment should reflect any findings from market research done in the exploration phase of the process. Additional desk research, internal analysis, focus groups and interviews with customers and non-customers, and advice from thought leaders and gender experts should also be taken into account. Critically, CVPs must focus on meeting the customer’s actual needs – not the bank’s needs and not marketing slogans.

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Building the CVP: Non-Financial Services

Rationale for NFS: Information, Education, Networking, Recognition

TEB Case Study Thumbnail
TEB in Turkey is a leader in NFS

To truly provide women customers with the tools they need to succeed, a financial services CVP is not enough. Organizations must also integrate a non-financial services (NFS) component like business and financial information, education, networking and recognition for successes. These are important from both the customer’s and the FSP’s perspective: Women tend to want more information before making a decision, have often had less financial and business training, are under-networked and seek out these relationships, and have less visible roles; FSPs can leverage NFS to differentiate themselves from competitors, expand outreach to current and prospective customers, and increase the financial knowledge and business management practices of women, making them better overall clients for the FSP.

Maximizing Customer Impact with NFS

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NatWest in the UK has become an expert at leveraging the Women’s Market ecosystem for NFS

Implementing a holistic set of NFS can be expensive. Partnering with respected local and international organizations can help mitigate some of these costs. Strong partnerships with high-quality organizations lower costs of delivering the NFS, increase effectiveness of the NFS by enabling access to knowledge and expertise beyond the bank’s four walls, can be a branding and reputational win for the FSP, and enable the FSP to gain access to more potential customers by tapping into the partner’s network.

FSPs in the Financial Alliance for Women ecosystem have partnered with a number of strategic organizations to help them deliver high-quality NFS, including nonprofits, universities, government institutions, development and international finance institutions, private sector mentors, and chambers of commerce. However, it is important that the partnership is a win-win, with commitment from both parties, flexibility and mutual understanding of goals.

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Marketing the Program

A number of gender stereotypes remain engrained in societies around the world. Despite recent efforts by some major brands to move depictions of women in advertisements forward, a great deal of marketing materials globally still reflect these stereotypes. Women are often seen in advertisements only in their traditional roles of wives and mothers; they are commonly depicted cooking, cleaning or shopping; and many products marketed to women are “pink washed.” Because women are routinely depicted using these conventions, they can often view marketing messaging as condescending and tend to mistrust it. Combating this requires avoiding gender stereotypes and treating women as serious, valuable customers of the FSP in all advertising and marketing.

Hot tips:

  • • As with your CVPs, tailor marketing based on the specific segment being targeted
  • • Conduct research to find out what resonates with each segment
  • • Across the board, resist the three Ps: pink, patronizing and passive
  • • Don’t focus on how different women are from men
  • • Be sincere and authentic in your messaging
  • • Don’t hesitate to change something that isn’t working
  • • Include women across every phase of design and launch


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Internal Alignment: Structure, People, Engagement and Communications

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Banco BHD León in the Dominican Republic has achieved full internal alignment

The long-term success of the program will require that everyone in the FSP is aligned on the value of the Women’s Market to the organization. To give the initiative the appropriate authority, it is important that it is centralized in one business area; has a dedicated senior-level leader; and is driven by a core team responsible for strategy, implementation, engagement, communications and PR/marketing. Depending on the segments they have chosen to target, some FSPs may decide to house the program in Business Banking, some may place it under Marketing, and some may opt to make it its own business area. Wherever the program is housed, Gender Champions and Ambassadors at strategic and operational levels across the organization can help ensure it is fully embedded.

To achieve internal alignment, all employees throughout the FSP must understand the value of the Women’s Market to the organization and how to serve them well. Therefore, engaging with staff who are not directly responsible for the program is also critically important. Earning support from key upper-level stakeholders can make it easier to gain buy-in from other levels of the FSP. Internal communications on the Women’s Market program should be a priority and need to explain the business case, include messages of support from the top of the organization, highlight the name of the program and its CVPs, and elucidate next steps for the program and what it means for staff.

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Gender Diversity & Inclusion

Becoming Employer of Choice

Financial Alliance for Women banks have found that it’s essential to walk the talk when it comes to being supporters of the Women’s Market. Making gender diversity and inclusion a strategic priority has a number of benefits associated with it, including: more innovative business ideas and practices as diverse employees bring diverse skill sets and perspectives, better market intelligence on female customers as employees are better able to understand their target market, and more customized solutions for women as organizational teams that are representative of women are much more likely to develop successful tailored solutions for them.

In 2019 the GBA became the Financial Alliance for Women.

Moreover, data from McKinsey & Company shows a strong correlation between gender diversity in the c-suite and both profitability and value creation: Research from 1000 companies across 12 countries reveals that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity at the executive level were 21 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median and 27 percent more likely to have above-average long-term value creation than those in the bottom quartile.

Successfully prioritizing gender diversity and inclusion requires a holistic approach that encompasses hard-wiring policies and processes that support women around recruitment, retention, advancement and development to KPIs; soft-wiring organizational norms and culture to change mindsets, assumptions and values about women’s abilities and potential; and connecting internal gender diversity and inclusion strategies with Women’s Market performance.

Unconscious Bias

Unconscious biases about women are not limited to men. Everyone makes certain assumptions about others without realizing they are doing so. These judgments are based on each person’s individual background, cultural environment and personal experiences, and they happen largely outside of our control. Unconscious biases impact everything from recruiting and hiring to performance evaluation to promotion and succession planning – not to mention selling to women. Combating unconscious biases requires identifying and acknowledging the fact that the biases exist, learning to be wary of first impressions, becoming more aware of common stereotypes and consciously working to broaden understanding, countering stereotype imagery in communications, and working hard to use inclusive language. This is a very difficult habit to break and requires both training and consistent reinforcement – whether through ongoing internal communications, online seminars or more formalized in-person training programs.


Measuring Results: Establishing KPIs and Tracking Data

Developing quality and meaningful measurements is critical to evaluating program progress and business impact. The program’s KPIs should be linked to performance and established by the program’s owner. They must directly relate to the objectives of the institution as a whole, yet be limited to what the Women’s Market program can actually influence. Common value drivers for FSPs that a women’s initiative may have impact on include:

  • • Financial services: No. of accounts opened, No. of loans, No. of insurance products
  • • Customer engagement: Customer satisfaction scores, Net Promoter Score, No. prospective clients contacted
  • • NFS: Conversion rates for prospects attending NFS events, cross-sales, value to brand
  • • Diversity and inclusion: Percent women in management, percent promotions by gender, average salary by gender and position level

KPIs should be chosen based on what will ultimately best help to prove the program’s success, making the case to management for further investment and expansion in the Women’s Market.

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Regional Best Practices

Latin America


In Latin America and the Caribbean, a great deal of advertising and marketing portrays women using very traditional gender stereotypes. Local market research revealed to Banco BHD León that this messaging was not resonating with women, and they preferred to be represented in ways that depicted them more realistically – as they actually were or as they aspired to be. The bank’s branding and advertising for its Mujer Mujer program took this into account, attempting to avoid stereotyping and speaking to the actual needs and preferences of women in each of four sub-segments: salaried employees, professionals, heads of households and SME owners.


Financial Solutions

Across Africa, many very small enterprises operate in remote locations that are far from bank branches. FSPs in the continent are deploying a variety of innovative digital solutions to reach them. Access Bank in Nigeria and NMB Bank in Tanzania are both leveraging mobile and direct-to-door agent banking models, with the latter also making use of shop owners as points of sale. Access Bank is also a leader in credit assessment innovations, with some of its subsidiaries using hybrid credit assessments and/or psychometric testing. The bank is also working on a low-interest loan for women SME owners under its W Initiative Women’s Market program.


Internal Alignment

HBL in Pakistan is operating in an extremely male dominated society with deep-rooted patriarchal value systems. To ensure both men and women across the bank’s branches and at every level understood the value and potential of the Women’s Market for the bank, HBL worked with IFC to implement Gender Intelligence training. Following the training, there was a measurable increase in gender awareness and support for women at the bank. Those who were trained also showed a 9 percent increase in intention to sell more to women, and branches whose managers took the course outperformed untrained branches in terms of women’s deposits by a significant margin.

Middle East

Non-Financial Services

BLC Bank has been supporting women entrepreneurs in Lebanon with critical non-financial services since 2012 via its We Initiative program. The bank holds a variety of educational seminars for women business owners and has become known across the country for its annual Brilliant Lebanese Awards, which offer recognition for achievements and boost the business profiles of nominated entrepreneurs via months of multi-channel media coverage – from social media and blog posts to television interviews and commercials – culminating in a televised awards ceremony with cash prizes. The awards, which feature Woman Entrepreneur of the Year as a key category, also help to create role models for other would-be women entrepreneurs in the country.