Wednesday 29th November 2023
A pivotal moment at the 2023 Annual Summit in Santo Domingo was the official launch of a national WE Finance Entrepreneurs Code in the Dominican Republic. This commitment—undertaken by financial sector regulators; two government ministries (the Ministry of Commerce and SMEs, and the Ministry of Women); the nation’s three main financial service associations; and key international stakeholders IDB Invest and the Financial Alliance for Women—aims to improve financing for women-owned micro and small-to-medium-sized businesses (WMSMEs).
The Code’s launch not only marked a significant step for the Dominican Republic but also positioned it as the trailblazer, being the first country to formally adopt the WE Finance Code (or “the Code”). Rosana Ruiz, President of the Dominican Banker’s Association, stated, “We are contributing to a global movement to reduce gender inequity. This experience could serve as a model for other regions across the globe.”
On the Summit stage to inaugurate the Code were key leaders from across the Dominican ecosystem, including the country’s President Luis Abinader, the Superintendent of Banks, key ministers, heads of national financial associations, and CEOs of the country’s three largest banks: Banco BHD, BanReserva and Banco Popular.
Banco BHD is a driving force behind this effort, as fellow Alliance member has been for the Investing in Women Code in the United Kingdom. During the Summit, Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise and Climate Engagement at NatWest, shared that the UK has seen a remarkable threefold increase in the number of new businesses founded by women, from 58,000 to 150,000, since the launch of their code in 2019.
Mirroring the structure of the UK’s Investing in Women Code, the WE Finance Code revolves around three core commitments: engaging leaders; mainstreaming the collection, analysis, and use of data on financing for WMSMEs; and catalyzing financial and non-financial mechanisms to meet their needs.
As Rachel Robboy, Chief Risk Officer at IDB Invest, emphasized, the results of these commitments depend on collaboration across sectors and organizations. “It’s not the responsibility of a single entity or bank,” she said. “It’s the responsibility of the entire ecosystem, both public and private. That’s the only way to develop our data and translate the commitment of signing the Code into tangible action.”
Alliance Members Addressing the WSME Financing Gap at the National Level
Alliance members are playing pivotal role in transforming commitments into action by sharing their expertise in two key areas: building holistic propositions for WSMEs, and sex-disaggregating data.
During the “WE Finance Code Goes Global” panel, Banco BHD and NatWest delved into how others in the financial ecosystem can replicate their non-financial services (NFS) for WMSMEs, emphasizing that one institution alone can’t fill the gap in the market. Baker noted how the success of NatWest’s business accelerators helped inform the development of a digital NFS hub for female entrepreneurs being launched by the British government. Puig discussed how BHD’s program for women in STEM could be replicated at the national level and spur GDP growth by equipping women working in high-growth sectors, like healthcare, to start their own businesses.
Members’ contributions to national gender data efforts was a theme of the WFID Community of Champions meeting, which brought FSPs together with regulatory and ecosystem stakeholders in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Peru and Colombia—countries where the Alliance has worked to improve the availability and use of supply-side, sex-disaggregated data.
The public-private sector dialogue is what made this group so unique. The value of that dialogue was exemplified by Faria Shahid, Head of Affluent Segments at HBL, who shared her experience collaborating with the State Bank of Pakistan to improve its gender data collection from the market. Shahid noted that data on women’s propensity to save (3X that of men’s) had led HBL to create its highly successfully women’s deposit account. She wants to make such insights more accessible, underscoring that “all banks should have access to market segmentation information to build their women’s CVP.”
She, and HBL, are supporting the State Bank of Pakistan towards that end. Working with the Pakistani Bankers Association, and with inputs from the Financial Alliance for Women, HBL helped to create templates for the State Bank to collect sex-disaggregated data from the eight leading financial service providers in the country. This is then aggregated and reported so that FSPs can identify opportunities in the women’s market.
More Alliance Members to Play a Leading Role
This is only one of many examples from the Summit demonstrating how the willingness of Alliance members to share their expertise is not just commendable, but essential for building ecosystems where women entrepreneurs can thrive.
Following the launch of the Code at the Summit, Wendy Teleki, who is spearheading the Code at We-Fi, issued a call to FSPs in the audience. With the Code slated to launch in 24 countries in the next two years, she said, “The opportunity for leadership is in all of you.”
Given the unwavering commitment demonstrated by Alliance members, it seems likely that Banco BHD and NatWest will be the first of many to anchor a Code, playing a leading role in addressing the multi-trillion-dollar financing gap for WMSMEs. Indeed, ABN AMRO is spearheading the Code in the Netherlands, which launches Dec. 12.
For more information on how to launch the Code in your country, please contact: email@example.com
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