Friday 13th February 2015
Last week I found welcome reprieve from the sub-zero New York weather by attending a Study Tour hosted by GBA founding member Westpac, in Sydney. I was joined by six GBA member banks — Diamond Bank (Nigeria), Chase Kenya, BancoEstado de Chile, Banco Pichincha (Ecuador), HBL (Pakistan) and Westpac Pacific — and staff from three GBA partner organizations: the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Inter-American Development bank (IDB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). All had come to learn from the bank that has most successfully captured the Women’s Market.
There are many compelling elements to Westpac’s success, but I was particularly struck by their focus on building the financial well-being of the customer, rather than selling products, as most banks do. Women customers gave an array of examples of how this strategy plays out in practice, and in turn, relationship managers and branch managers spoke about how Westpac’s Women’s Markets supports their success with customers. This dynamic makes Westpac a market-shaper in Australia, and its generous sharing of know-how ensures benefits for women across the world.
Evidence of Westpac’s influence was demonstrated this week, with GBA member Banco BHD León launching its Women’s Market program, Mujer Mujer, aiming to become the bank of choice for women in the Dominican Republic. Many Dominican women are the primary financial providers in their households. Supporting their life goals of educating their children and themselves, having adequate health insurance, and accessing affordable housing finance to build or acquire a house demonstrates BHD León’s strong commitment to supporting the reality of women’s lives. We wish BHD León every success in becoming a market shaper in the Dominican Republic.
As we approach International Women’s Day, we can reflect on how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. Data is as important as ever to tracking progress, and on March 9th the No Ceilings Campaign will come out with their report on the state of gender equity globally. The report analyzes where the gaps are and recommends focus areas for the next round of MDGs. Financial inclusion is part of this analysis, and efforts like those demonstrated in Chile by the banking regulator to research the level and type of products women are accessing from banks is important in understanding how much work is yet to be done.
We’ve rounded up some examples of what GBA banks are doing this year to mark IWD, but it is the daily work of our banks’ leaders, staff and of course customers that should be acknowledged as we advance towards gender equity, along a path laid by Westpac and increasingly traveled by our network members.
Inez Murray, Chief Executive Officer
Global Banking Alliance for Women