Reaching and Adding Value to Un/Underserved Women


Significant progress has been made in financial inclusion over the past decade, with 69 percent of adults having access to a bank or mobile money provider in 2017 compared to just 51 percent in 2011. However, the global gender gap of 9 percent in access is persistent, and particular sub-segments in which women are over-represented such as informal/semi-formal very small businesses remain vastly underserved. This session explored new approaches to adding value to un/underserved women.

Key Points

  • – The significant progress on financial inclusion as measured by Findex between 2014 and 2017 was largely driven by digital financial services, mainly digital payments – most of which have been government transfers.
  • – Women recipients often do not know that they have a bank account; they just think they have a piece of plastic from the government. They tend to cash it out immediately, but leave 5 percent because they’re afraid if they take out 100 percent, further payments will be stopped. Education is key.
  • – Within the base of the pyramid, 80 million women remain unserved and 600 million women are underserved. We know that women are more likely to be illiterate, that they’re more likely to not have IDs or collateral banks require, that they are less mobile and that the majority work in informal sectors with irregular sources of income. All these factors create barriers in accessing financial services for these women.
  • – AXA views base of the pyramid women as ‘emerging customers’ and found that ‘microinsurance’ is really creating a new market from scratch rather than competing with other insurance products.

    • To deliver microinsurance, AXA works with partners such as banks and microfinance institutions in particular, as they have the outreach to emerging customers.

    • AXA started with health insurance because health comes first for all women. An example is their hospital cash product. In emerging markets, people don’t have the money to just go to a hospital. The out-of-pocket expenses are too much. The claims ratio on their product in Egypt is 60 percent, which is healthy – it means clients really know how to use the product.
  • – To solve for financing women-led informal/semi-formal businesses, BRAC Bank complements its cash-flow-based lending methodology with credit scoring by business activity. The bank has also partnered with eCommerce platforms to integrate transaction data into underwriting decisions and is looking at social media data to see if and how it can help.
  • – African Management Initiative offers a blended learning approach availing of mobile phone apps to train and encourage entrepreneurs to adapt good, tried and true business practices, and combines that with networking via social media and in-person meetings.

    • AMI measures its impact by assessing if participants are increasing their profits, reducing their costs, maintaining staff levels, mitigating their risks and reducing losses.

    • A recent survey of training costs by a leading research agency found that the average per-person cost for 6 months of training ranges from $1,500 to $10,000 in some Central American countries. AMI’s cost is $500 – relatively affordable for an SME owner.
  • – Fundación Capital builds the financial capability of un/underserved women who receive government cash transfers through a mobile app that uses gaming elements. So far they have reached 6 million women in 40 countries.
  • – Partnering is key: AMI, Fundación Capital and AXA work with banks and microfinance institutions, and BRAC Bank works with eCommerce platforms.


ANNA GINCHERMAN, Partner, ConsumerCentriX

MARTA SANTAMARTA, Head of Strategic Segments and Business Development, AXA

YVES MOURY; Founder, President and CEO; Fundación Capital

PATRICIA MAINA, Partnerships Manager, African Management Initiative

MEHRUBA REZA; Senior Assistant Vice President, Senior Product Manager, Women Banking Segment TARA; BRAC Bank



The main design elements for emerging customers are simplicity, affordability, no exclusions and being able to have some access via mobile phones.
— Marta Santamarta

We did an RCT study with IPA that showed 2 years after being exposed to our financial capability building tool, women’s use of accounts was increased x2.
— Yves Moury


Women don’t have time to spend away from their business, so we offer a blended learning approach that combines simple tools via mobile app or web with social media and in-person trainings. Our cost per entrepreneur is $500, but that will decrease with scale – and we’ve seen a 40 percent increase in revenue on average.
— Patricia Maina

We’ve partnered with the largest eCommerce platform in Bangladesh because so many women entrepreneurs sell through them. We integrated our digital analytics team to come up with ways of assessing loan repayment capacity. This partnership has huge potential.
— Mehruba Reza