We had a phenomenal turnout for the 2019 Summit hosted by AXA mid-June in Paris. Every year our Summit is regarded as the seminal event showcasing the private sector’s involvement in the Women’s Market, but this year was the Summit of many firsts, all under the theme of “Building Resilience Through Inclusion.”
AXA is the first non-bank or development finance institution to host our Annual Summit, and it marks a step-change in the Alliance’s growth. Our diversification beyond banks was formally recognized in the launch of our new brand, with the word “banking” removed from our name and replaced with the broader word “financial,” while keeping other essential elements intact: the words “alliance,” “for” and “women.”
Behind this was an evolution of our mission that reflects the evolution many of our members have undertaken – beyond a focus on female entrepreneurs, where most members started, to targeting “all women.” This strategic decision to diversify to other segments has been made by many members because as we know, the more segments that are attended to, the more embedded the strategic focus on women is across the organization, and the greater is the business case.
Our mission statement is “Accelerating the financial power of all women by working with organizations to champion the female economy and unlock its full value.” Important words that capture our purpose and the essence behind our work.
The theme of the Summit — Building Resilience Through Inclusion — reflected our being hosted by one of the world’s largest insurance companies, whose products by definition help ameliorate risk and build consumers’ resilience to life’s shocks. With France holding the Presidency of the G7 this year, the Paris Summit offered a perfect opportunity to highlight that it is only through inclusion that we can build more sustainable communities, companies and societies.
We chose to view building resilience through the lens of a woman’s “life moments,” based on research with our members and others clearly identifying that women often face financial pressures during key life moments when they are most in need of support. A life-moments strategy is one of the most effective ways financial services providers are increasing their relevance to women in this age of digitalization. And for women, it means having access to more robust value propositions. During the Summit, we published an InBrief on Key Life Moments to help financial services providers think through their own life-moments strategies.
We looked at moments such as health and well-being, making and breaking up, motherhood, and retirement, and talked through great service innovations from FinTechs, FemTechs and good, not-so-old-fashioned incumbents. We looked at women’s entrepreneurial journeys — from intention to start-up to sustain and scale — and unpacked their barriers at each stage to explore practical solutions to building female-friendly entrepreneurial ecosystems. Some of these our members are already offering, and some of them require greater effort and greater collaboration across competitors, the private sector writ large, the public sector and civil society. As Alison Rose, Deputy CEO, NatWest Holdings and CEO, Commercial & Private Banking, said, “There is no one silver bullet. This is about collaboration and partnerships and is a non-competitive endeavor. This is a benefit for all.”
We looked at different segments — from female farmers in Tajikistan and Kenya to GreenTech founders who have a much more advantaged starting position and yet are still greatly underserved by the financial services sector. We looked at women of wealth and explored why so few wealth management companies have taken notice that there is a market of high-net-worth women; that it, too, is vastly underserved; and that it presents an enormous opportunity — not just for the smart companies that make the choice to serve it well, but also to get much-needed Venture and Angel capital to female founders. We hosted an excellent session with The Billion Dollar Fund for Women that connected Venture Capital funds’ general partners with institutional investors and commercial banks to leverage the power of women as investors and innovators.
We hosted the second roundtable in the Women’s Financial Inclusion Data Partnership Roundtable series focusing on the challenges and opportunities of getting better sex-disaggregated data as financial services providers. We explored the greatest risk we all face — climate change — to explore the intersectionalities between gender and climate finance and understand how we can get more involved. And we looked at pathways for getting more women into the C-Suite and creating inclusive organizations where everyone, regardless of who they are or where they are from, can thrive.
With all good things having to come to an end, the Financial Alliance for Women is also experiencing a change in leadership, with Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chairman of Mastercard, stepping in as Chair of the Alliance’s Board of Directors, and Tania Moussallem concluding her rich journey as our Chair of two full terms. My sincere gratitude to these remarkable women for their generous mentorship and their leadership of the Alliance.
Sincere thanks goes out to the host team at AXA for their incredible hospitality and tireless efforts to make sure the 2019 Summit was a success. Special thanks also to FMO and IDRC for their financial support for the Summit; to McKinsey & Company and Mercer, who continue to provide incredible thought leadership; and to Design Bridge for their awesome support on our rebrand.
A heartfelt thank you to all our members, both for helping to make the 2019 Summit so productive and memorable, and for their unwavering commitment to sharing their know-how and best practices to further the cause of full financial inclusion for women. And a big shout out to all the winners of the 2019 Women’s Market Champion Awards. Many congratulations! Finally, we are proud to announce that our 2020 Summit will be hosted by Mastercard. Please click here if you are interested in finding out more about becoming a member.