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Letter from Inez: November 2013

Wednesday 13th November 2013

GBA Newsletter

In the 12 months since becoming the CEO at the Alliance I have learned many things that have led to my personal and professional development. Two things that stand out are the power of mentoring and the power of peer learning in achieving results. The Alliance facilitates both, and two outstanding examples of sharing knowledge, including otherwise proprietary information, occurred this month.

First, GBA founding member Westpac, hosted a Study Tour for four commercial banks as well as staff from IFC and EBRD, who themselves are actively supporting banks to target women.

Westpac’s Women’s Markets strategy has a powerfully simple logic: to focus on the customer and not on products as most banks do, and to build a system and culture that supports that. Three days were spent unpacking exactly how they are doing it. The quality of the knowledge transfer was deepened because bankers speak a common language. The generosity and intelligence with which Westpac shared reflected the organization’s belief that to lead is to share.

Moving from Sydney to Miami, the second example of peer learning occurred at the FELABAN Assembly, where the GBA team, along with leaders from members RBS, BLC, Itau and Westpac, met with 15 banks from Latin America and the Caribbean to explore the potential for working together. Our banks shared their results from serving the Women’s Market to the mainly CFOs and CEOs attending and were successful in recruiting several new members. A special thanks to the MIF and IDB teams for supporting us in this outreach.

Our growing membership is important first because the global financial access and capability gap for women is enormous and it will take hundreds of banks to fill it. Second, because as a network of practitioners, the GBA is uniquely positioned to share our know-how and support other banks to begin or grow their Women’s Market Programs. As more banks join, more knowledge is created and shared, and the virtuous circle continues.

In these past 12 months we have grown the number of GBA member banks by 35%. Our newest member is HBL (Habib Bank Limited), Pakistan’s largest commercial bank. Pakistan has a particular place in my heart having worked there over several years supporting Kashf Foundation and Kashf Microfinance Bank offer savings and credit to micro and small business owners and their families. HBL’s Women’s Market initiative will be led by Sima Kamil, herself an extraordinary leader, and interviewed for this newsletter. While the percent of women in Pakistan with a bank account is very low by any standard, it is worth contemplating the following: to open a bank account in Pakistan requires a national i.d. card, and despite tremendous improvements in the past couple of years, a significant number of women in the country still do not have one. Without an i.d. card, one cannot vote, drive a car, get a passport, access social services or get a divorce.

I think of these things when I think of the impact that banks can have. And I also imagine the demonstration effect when a bank becomes the employer of choice and the bank of choice for women.

Inez Murray, Chief Executive Officer
Global Banking Alliance for Women