The Financial Alliance for Women recently welcomed Banco G&T Continental – Guatemala as a new member. Established in 1962 as a pioneer in housing financing and savings, Banco G&T Continental is the financial arm of the Granai & Townson General Insurance Company. In 2001, they formed a strategic alliance with Banco Continental to become the G&T Continental Financial Group. The bank, alongside its subsidiaries, currently serves more than 1.3 million customers in 209 branches across 3 countries. In this interview, Maria Lucrecia Monge Arango, Director of Women’s Banking, spoke with us about financial inclusion of women in Guatemala, the bank’s strategy for supporting women in the country and their decision to join the Alliance.
Financial Alliance for Women: Can you share Banco G&T Continental’s market position in Guatemala and beyond, and overall strategic vision for the organization?
Maria Monge: With more than 60 years in the market, Grupo Financiero G&T Continental has a leadership position as the 3rd in the country. We’re recognized as one of the banks that closes gaps with the creation of innovative products and services, as well as responsiveness to the needs of our clients. As a bank, we are committed to support our clients at all stages of their lives, and this is the essence of our three pillars: to be a human group, to be agile and to be reliable.
Alliance: With over 17 banks in the country, how does Banco G&T Continental differentiate itself in the market? Is the female economy a part of this differentiation strategy?
MM: Our bank is recognized for the excellence of our products and services, which simplify the daily management of our clients’ finances. The solvency of a large banking organization like ours coupled with a world-class technology platform supports every stage of their lives. Currently our group has operations in Guatemala and El Salvador, Guatemala being where our commercial activity is most concentrated.
Our current focus is on small- to medium-sized businesses, and they are a key part of our current strategy. Helping SMEs and individual businesses grow supports our portfolio diversification.
We are committed to doing business with a vision of long-term sustainability and responsibility. As such, as G&T Continental Group, we give special attention to our Corporate Social Responsibility program, and we are well-recognized by our clients for doing so. The pillars of our CSR program include: health, childhood, culture, art and community.
Alliance: Why did the bank decide to develop a strategy for the female economy, and what stage are you at?
MM: In February 2019, Banco G&T Continental and IDB Invest signed a subordinated loan agreement for a term of 7 years, which strengthens the bank’s capital. The loan allows us to grow in the SME segment and supports portfolio diversification. SMEs represent a considerable group in the Guatemalan economy: 90 percent of total active companies registered in the country are SMEs. The bank intends to carry out and scale up the G&T Mujer program, which has been in place in our subsidiary in El Salvador since 2012 and has allowed it to position itself as a leading bank in financing SMEs led by women.
Alliance: How are you segmenting the female economy? What is your financial services and non-financial services value proposition to each segment – currently or planned?
MM: Our main focus is women-led SMEs, specifically those where the CEO is a woman.
We want to be the catalyst for the growth of women’s SMEs on a national level. With tailored, comprehensive solutions, we wish to make businesswomen feel understood and supported to grow on both a professional and personal level – and to grow their businesses.
Currently, we are in the market research stage, but our plan is to offer women a full value proposition that includes credit, business credit cards, insurance, savings accounts and monetary accounts. It will also include a non-financial component, with tools that can help scale up their businesses.
As a bank, we want the program to be profitable, and that by itself adds value to the business. We see the program as being a cross-company one, in which all of the business lines get involved. We want this to be an internal driver of innovation and eventually become a reference in the region.
Alliance: We all know how crucial it is to capture sex-disaggregated data to establish a baseline and monitor performance. How did you go about collecting sex-disaggregated data internally, and what kinds of challenges did you face?
MM: Currently the institution is not registering this data in the system. The bank has information across more than 10 platforms, which has been a challenge. Much of what we have done to help us determine this information is collect it manually, asking each account manager directly about the CEOs of the business accounts they manage.
We are now working with the IT and finance departments to add some fields in the system that record gender and other information on the CEO. This will help us establish a baseline and keep track of the evolution of the program.
Alliance: Can you tell us about your overall internal diversity and inclusion strategy? Do you have initiatives to get more women into leadership positions?
MM: We do have internal initiatives to get more women into leadership positions. In addition, the subordinated loan signed with IDB Invest includes advisory services that are and will contribute to efforts to support equality practices across the bank, with a focus on the management of the bank’s talent.
In January 2020, we signed on to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles. And since 2018 we’ve been expanding our diversity and inclusion activities, including: designating an HR focal point for these efforts; introducing a lactation room in the corporate building and in the Agile Center; modernizing the women’s toilets to include special equipment for the disposal of sanitary items; piloting a telecommuting program; training the front-line staff on the importance of gender diversity and inclusion; and special training for executives, with a follow-up program on progress made.
In addition, the bank has a Labor Inclusion Program that works to incorporate people with different abilities into the various work teams of the organization. The initiative was born 17 years ago, and to date 35 people are a part of it. The bank distinguishes itself by being the first financial institution in Central America to place non-hearing personnel in main services positions in the agency network.
Alliance: How did you first hear about the Financial Alliance for Women, and why did you decide to join the Alliance?
MM: Our agreement with the IDB includes an advisory component, and one of the requirements was to become a member of the Alliance. But beyond this requirement, we see great value in what the Alliance can offer to our institution. Because not only does it give the bank relevant information and data regarding the Women Banking Business, but it also allows us to interact with other banks that have implemented successful programs, and learn from their experiences through webinars, conferences, study tours and the mentorship program.