New Member Spotlight: Banco Ficohsa

Thursday 15th December 2016

Sandra Giannini Ficohsa GBAWith a portfolio and asset market share of 20 percent, Banco Ficohsa is the largest bank in Honduras and the 10th largest in Central America. Serving more than 1.1 million customers regionally, the bank recently expanded into three Central American countries. The Alliance spoke with Sandra Giannini, Vice-President of Corporate, Business, and SME Banking, about Ficohsa’s work in Honduras, their objectives for their new Women’s Market program, and their expectations in becoming a GBA member.

GBA: Ficohsa is one of the leading banks by market share in Honduras, providing financial services to many segments and also operating in other Central American countries. Why did you decide to develop a program that specifically targets women?

Sandra: Banco Ficohsa’s interest in the women’s segment began in 2007 due to the important role that women play in the labor market as well as in the economy. It is important to note that 52 percent of the population in Honduras is women, and they represent 40 percent of the labor market. The Women’s Market has been largely ignored by the traditional banking sector, and it represents an attractive market for banks. Statistics show that women are entrepreneurial, they repay loans because they don’t like to be in debt, they are more responsible, and they always invest with their children and families in mind.

GBA: Can you tell us a little bit more about the program? What were your main lessons learned?

Sandra: When we launched our program in 2007, we were succesful in attracting women entrepreneurs, and today we have almost 10,000 women business owners as clients. However, we did not have the right value proposition to give them what they needed. Our biggest lesson with this great experience was that we needed to get closer to them and understand their needs and behaviors.

GBA: What objectives have you set for this new stage of your Women’s Market program?

Sandra: We see the program as a strong differentiator for the bank. We also see it as a key strategic area to expand our positioning in the SME and Retail segments. Our main objectives are:

  • To provide personalized financial and non-financial products for the women’s segment and attract new clients who identify with the bank
  • To generate opportunities for them, as their financial access has been limited
  • To expand this model at the regional level and adapt it to each new market
  • To encourage professional development and banking on women
  • To embed a service-oriented culture in our staff throughout the organization so women experience it at all contact points with Banco Ficohsa

GBA: How satisfied are women in Honduras with banking services in general? What are the main barriers they face when accessing financial services?

Sandra: Women think that banks do not understand them. They feel disrespected by and particularly distrust banks that try to sell aggressively to them while there is no product or service offer for them.

Some of the barriers that women face include:

  • Economic and labor inequality
  • Lack of confidence in their professional capability
  • Double responsibility of work and family, which is considered a limitation on professional performance and availability of time

GBA: Ficohsa provides a range of financial products, including insurance. Are there plans to adapt some of these products to women’s particular needs?

Sandra: The Ficohsa Financial Group owns the leading insurance company in the Honduran market, which allows us to have a comprehensive product and service proposition for women. As a result, we are developing a value proposition that includes savings plans, pensions, insurance for well-being and family health, and financing facilities, among other things that will allow us to meet the needs of women.


GBA: What kind of non-financial services do you currently provide to SMEs? What has been or will be adapted to expand these services to women SME owners?

Sandra: We currently provide a variety of non-financial services for our SME clients, including capacity building workshops and technical advisory services. We recently started a women-focused seminar with key suppliers and customers in partnership with FUNDAHRSE, one of the key social responsibility NGOs in the country, which offered this program with funds from the Dutch government. The training included 25 women business owners and featured both virtual courses and classroom workshops that focused on 4 modules: marketing, legal, management and social responsibility. We also included a talk on financial education that focused on our pension funds. It was so succesful that participants requested an additional module on the topic, which we then provided. The participants were extremely complimentary and grateful toward the bank. We hope to be able to leverage this experience and expand these types of services going forward in a sustainable manner.

We have a wide range of financial products, from credit facilities to liability products such as savings accounts, certificates of deposit, international services, an electronic platform, regional banking, insurance and pension funds.

GBA: Ficohsa was named one of the Great Places to Work in Central America in 2016. What are the policies that led to this prestigious recognition? Do you have internal policies or staffing programs that help support female employees?

Sandra: We are very proud to have received the Great Place to Work Award for the last eight years in a row. Fifty-nine percent of our staff are women, both at the bank and across our other financial services companies. This is consistent with senior management levels, where 46 percent are female.

Given the importance we have placed on women, we have a number of programs that help support women employees. Some of them include health fairs that allow our staff the opportunity to consult with specialists on specific health issues for women; maternal lactation rooms; personal finance talks that provide employees tools and knowledge to achieve financial health for themselves and their families; a well-being program that promotes stress-free environments and includes exercise, nutrition and education programs; and a corporate volunteer program that allows staff to volunteer with their families. Lastly, it is also important to mention that we have an alliance with Vital Voices that allows women with a certain professional profile to mentor women entrepreneurs.

GBA: How did you first hear about the GBA? Why did you decide to join?

Sandra: We first heard about the GBA through the All-Stars Academy in The Hague earlier this year. We were invited to participate through one of our strategic partners, FMO. Participating in the All-Stars Academy was extremely helpful in developing our strategic vision for the program. We had initially thought that the program would only focus on SMEs, but then realized the importance of expanding it across the bank, and in particular in the Retail area, as this team manages all branches in the bank.

We thought joining the Alliance would be incredibly important to strengthen the new program we will be launching in 2017. We also signed an agreement with the IFC on November 7th, 2016, for advisory services in the implementation of the women’s banking program.

GBA: What are your expectations as new members of the Alliance?

Sandra: Our expectation as a GBA member is that we will gain insights into the latest trends in banking on women globally. We also want to learn about best practice experiences in other countries and from other banks. We are also very interested in participating in the Mentoring Program and hope to get insights from other banks in our region.