Friday 13th March 2015
Our most recent member in Latin America, Visión Banco in Paraguay, has the widest geographic coverage of any bank in the country and was the first to offer a product that targets women. We spoke with Silvia Bracho, Business & Marketing Manager at Visión Banco, about the bank’s decision to join the Alliance, the successes and challenges of their Women’s Market program, and her vision for expanding financial services for women in all segments in Paraguay.
GBA: How would you describe the current state of financial services for women in Paraguay?
SB: Although there are no legal barriers to access financial services in the market, we see that business formality is a barrier for women. The majority of banks in the market are not microfinance specialists, nor do they target entrepreneurs, so they are unable to overcome many of these obstacles, which disproportionately affect women.
GBA: How has Visión Banco been able to overcome some of these barriers?
SB: We have developed an approach that allows us to base the lending decision on business cash flows without the need for formal documentation. We have also been working on developing alternative delivery channels to reduce the time it takes to transact with the bank. Clients can come to a branch and do not need to wait in line to speak to a cashier or receptionist, but can use a variety of self-service technologies. Our call centers are open 24 hours a day, as we know women tend to be constrained for time. We also have over 400 non-banking correspondents across the country that clients can access to do their banking transactions and reduce their travel time.
GBA: What kinds of products does Visión Banco currently offer for women, and what have been some of the most important lessons learned?
SB: We were the first bank in the country to offer a product that specifically targeted women in the “micro” sector. With Cuenta Mujer, we offered deposit products, checking accounts and a credit card that had specific benefits for women. Although this product was successful, we realized that we needed to expand our efforts beyond micro and target women in different segments. Cuenta Mujer was also developed to mostly target urban areas, and we realized that it was important to reach women in rural areas. Finally, our previous offering only included a financial solution, and we learned that it was essential to offer tailored non-financial solutions to help support women in a more holistic way.
GBA: Can you tell us a little bit more about your new Women’s Market program and your strategic vision for it?
SB: In partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB’s) Multilateral Investment Fund’s Women Entrepreneurship Banking (WeB) program, we are in the process of redesigning our Women’s Market value proposition. Our vision for this program is to create a platform that covers more aspects of the life-cycle needs of our women customers. We intend to expand our credit products to cover different life-cycle needs and to offer financial education and training, as well as mentoring networks where women can share their business experiences and network with each other. The program is intended to support women consumers through different stages of their lives and businesses with tailored products and services.
GBA: Speaking of segments, how are you looking to specifically segment your program?
SB: We are targeting three segments: executive women, women micro entrepreneurs and women business owners (SMEs). We have developed solutions that specifically target each of these segments. Credit terms, for instance, include accessible interest rates and grace periods.
GBA: Can you elaborate more on these product modifications?
SB: Firstly, the price is about 20% lower than that of our standard credit product. Loan terms are also longer and are adapted to the repayment capacity of our customers. We also provide grace periods of 60 to 120 days before the first loan repayment. This is specifically for women on maternity leave or who have just had children. The third aspect is faster loan turnaround times, as we know that women highly value this.
All of these attributes were based on what our customers told us they wanted but were not getting from banks in Paraguay. We also analyzed our existing credit portfolio by gender and integrated those findings into our design.
Do you anticipate any effects in the market from having lower interest rates for women?
SB: We don’t anticipate any negative perception. This benefit is part of a mix of value-adds that women will receive as part of this program. Our communications plan is not based on a lower price, but on a cluster of benefits that our women customers will receive as part of this program, all tailored to their specific segment needs.
When is your program launch? What marketing efforts will accompany it?
SB: We are planning to launch in May. We are very proud of the marketing campaign we have developed as it honors women in Paraguay and their role in our national history. It is a very beautiful and emotional campaign, and we hope Paraguayan women will see Visión as the first bank that thinks of them and partners with them in all aspects of their lives: personal, professional and in business matters.
GBA: What will you do to gain buy-in from the staff around this strategy?
SB: We know that if internally we are not convinced about the strength of the program, we will not be able to properly execute it for our clients. We have developed strong internal marketing efforts to ensure all staff members know about the program. For instance, we have developed internal teaser campaigns to get staff members excited about the program. We have also developed internal training programs for staff members as well as a communications plan to inform them about the different products. Our internal portal, for instance, features information about the different attributes of the program.
GBA: Visión’s ratio of women in senior management is quite high (47%). How has the bank been able to achieve this?
SB: Visión has very strong internal promotion policies in that most senior positions are typically filled from within. Many of our women managers started working in the bank at an early age as bank tellers or receptionists, and Visión has worked with them to develop their career paths and to ensure that they develop cross-departmental expertise. This cross-functional exposure has deepened their experience and facilitated their promotion to more senior levels across the bank.
GBA: How did you first hear about the GBA? What are your hopes for your new membership in the Alliance?
SB: We heard about the GBA through the IDB. They mentioned to us all of the support that GBA could provide when we started designing our WeB technical assistance. We are very passionate about this topic, and even before getting access to a lot of the best practice information that the GBA offers, the bank had a vision to create products and services for women. With this membership, we hope to be able to strengthen our program through the sharing of best practice knowledge and case studies from other banks.
Our initial program started as more of a “home-made” product, and we then saw how other banks in different countries and regions were also turning toward this market. Visión has always been a visionary bank that is constantly looking to innovate and improve, and we think that membership with the GBA will support us in doing exactly that.
—As told to the Global Banking Alliance for Women
AT A GLANCE
Value of total assets: US$1.04 billion
Value of outstanding loan portfolio: US$768 million
# of full service branches: 98
# of banking correspondents: 460
# of ATMs: 120
# of clients: 405,160
% of female clients: 42%
# of employees: 2,095
% female employees: 48%
*(as of December 2014)