Wednesday 19th October 2016
Yesterday marked the start of the 15th annual Summit of the Global Banking Alliance for Women, hosted by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, in Washington, DC. Day 1 of the GBA’s annual flagship event saw record attendance, with nearly 200 individuals from 60+ institutions around the world convening to learn about the latest developments in banking women.
The Summit kicked off with the GBA Master Class, during which thought leaders and expert practitioners from GBA member banks shared their Women’s Market knowledge with a sold-out room. Joanne Thomas Yaccato of the Thomas Yaccato Group presented the findings from GBA’s latest tactical research, “The Paradox of Gender-Neutral Banking.” She made the distinction between equity and equality, explaining that with equality, everyone has access to the same product, and with equity, everyone gets what they need to succeed. She called this equitable approach “gender-intelligent” banking and made the case that it is preferable to the much more prevalent “gender-neutral” banking.
Three GBA member banks – BLC Bank in Lebanon, Westpac in Australia and Banco BHD León in the Dominican Republic – then shared pieces of their Women’s Market program experience. Tania Moussallem from BLC Bank explained how 65 banks serve 4 million customers in Lebanon, and their value proposition for women is BLC Bank’s market differentiator. Julie Rynski from Westpac walked through the bank’s 17-year Women’s Market journey and discussed how their first-mover advantage was significant in Australia. Banco BHD León’s program is only two years old, and Daniel Gutiérrez explained how the bank saw an opportunity, built and presented a strong business case to the board, and is now rolling out the customer value proposition – first the financial solutions and then the non-financial services.
The GBA Policy Forum in the afternoon drew an even larger crowd, filling the IFC auditorium with discussion on levers that can positively impact access to finance for women around the world. The first panel included a variety of policy perspectives – from the field to the World Bank. The case of Colombia was presented as an example of a collateral registry used to help women access credit. Augusto Lopez-Claros, Director of the Global Indicators Group at the World Bank, discussed the “Women, Business and the Law” report as well as how this year saw 280 reforms in more than 100 markets to improve countries’ ratings in “Doing Business.”
The keynote address was from Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, whose immigrant grandmother said that her hope for Maria was that she would be so fortunate with her opportunity in America that she “would work in an office as a secretary.” And she does – as a Secretary in the Cabinet of President Barack Obama. Maria discussed how the SBA has supported small businesses in many different ways, including how the U.S. federal government has finally reached its goal of 5 percent of spending going to women-owned businesses.
The second panel in the Policy Forum focused on challenges and opportunities around data. Andrea Cordeiro walked through challenges in data collection at Itaú Unibanco, which include multiple merged data systems, and product, rather than customer-focused management. Rosita Najmi of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation highlighted data on the vastness of the population of financially excluded women, which according to the World Bank is upward of 1.1 billion worldwide, and Rebecca Ruf from the GBA explained how GBA data shows that women are underrepresented in banks’ portfolios, at 35 percent of total customers and only 25 percent of the total credit portfolio. Susan Lund introduced McKinsey & Company’s research showing how mobile phones could help close the finance gap and could boost emerging markets’ GDP by 6 percent, or $3.7 trillion, by 2025.
Overall, it was a day filled with insights from GBA members, policymakers and thought leaders in the field – all with the goal of sharing information to better enable banks to boost their business and power growth with the Women’s Market.