Tuesday 27th October 2020

The 2020 Annual Summit kicked off with a closed-door convening of C-Suite leaders from twenty-eight Alliance member institutions across five continents, at our CEO Roundtable. While acknowledging the real challenges facing businesses and women around the world, the leaders shared a sense of optimism about how the crisis can accelerate women’s financial inclusion and independence—particularly in light of the rapid digital transformation and increase in public-private partnerships. The conversation was moderated by Tanya Tarr, Senior Contributor at Forbes. 

“The pandemic has compressed five years of digital transformation into six months. This is an opportunity to create tools to pull women into the economy,” remarked Michael Miebach, CEO-Elect of Mastercard.  He emphasized that financial services providers must increase support for SMEs and women-led SMEs in particular in order to build back a more resilient economy, stating, “We need to recognize the role of SMEs as the largest employer in the world; and successful SMEs are often owned and run by female entrepreneurs. We plan to pull an additional 500 million people into the formal economy, and an additional 25 million women-owned businesses.”

Benoît Claveranne of AXA also focused on the importance of supporting female entrepreneurs during this critical time. Building on the insurance company’s latest research On the Front Line, The Global Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Women, on how the pandemic has impacted women’s economic outlook, Mr. Claveranne highlighted the opportunity to finance female entrepreneurs in emerging markets.  “In Nigeria, we found that 52% of women have thought of starting their own business. The question is: How can we support these women to emancipate, save time, and develop their businesses?”

Across the board, the C-Suite of Alliance member institutions are working to scale up their institutions’ financial and non-financial services to support women customers. Charles Mudiwa shared that Stanbic Bank in Kenya is partnering with Microsoft to provide digital bootcamps for customers; Katie Murray of NatWest Group in the UK reported a 600% increase in lending to women in 2020 as a result of the crisis; and Nadia Al Saeed highlighted how Bank al Etihad in Jordan is creating alternative loan guarantee programs for women, giving them flexibility to restructure during the crisis. 

In her opening remarks, Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chair of Mastercard and Chair of the Alliance, told the distinguished group, “Where you lead, your people will follow. That is the only way that we will shift the paradigm.” After hearing CEO’s from across our membership speak passionately about championing the female economy—as a strategic aspect of both commercial and global macroeconomic resilience-building goals—we have little reason to doubt that paradigm is shifting as we speak.

To accelerate that shift and foster collaboration across our network, we look forward to hosting a series of three CEO roundtables in 2021. This is a unique forum where leaders can discuss challenges and opportunities to champion the female economy—and with transformation happening faster than ever, we cannot afford to take our feet off the gas.