If a bank makes targeted efforts to better serve women customers, does this necessarily mean men are shortchanged? Global experts at the recent Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA) All-Stars Academy in the Dominican Republic agreed with a resounding “no”.
Women are great savers, prudent borrowers and loyal customers. They represent lower risk and outpace the overall market in terms of customer growth and credit as well as deposit growth, according to the GBA’s recent Economics of Banking on Women report. However, women still face an $86 billion financing gap in Latin America and the Caribbean, and some banks are reluctant to craft a Women’s Market strategy out of fear that it will negatively impact their male clients.
Capturing the opportunity to serve the Women’s Market is not about placing the needs of female customers above those of male customers, nor is it about offering preferential treatment to women. It is about offering tailored products and services that meet their specific needs. Effective Women’s Market programs have clear approaches on how to treat women clients and have compelling value propositions – a mix of products, services, resources and alliances that create a holistic offering that ensures women cannot get better service at any other bank. And this elevated service level benefits all – not just women.
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For example, in the Dominican Republic, Banco BHD León’s products and processes are exactly the same for men and women. With its Mujer Mujer programming, BHD León has used its understanding of the nuances of women’s needs and preferences to design end-to-end services tailored for women. Through extensive market research, BHD León determined that women need bundled financial and non-financial offerings that focus on four areas: individual well-being, family well-being, saving time, and economic independence for her family and for her business. BHD León leverages its existing products and human-centered design to meet these needs.
The secret for success: active male participation
Men are a critical component in shifting perceptions about banks targeting the Women’s Market. GBA banks that presented best practices at the All-Stars Academy are ensuring staff buy-in by training all front-line employees on better engaging with women clients, understanding their needs, and offering products and services to meet women’s goals. The male employees on internal teams give great legitimacy to the approach of serving the Women’s Market.
There is a link between being an employer of choice and becoming a bank of choice for women clients. Therefore, it’s important for internal diversity efforts for women and men to be firmly in place at every level of management within banks, and banks are rigorously looking into how they recruit, train, promote and pay their women and to “walk the talk” internally.
One way they are doing this analysis is by applying the Women’s Empowerment Principles Gender Gap Analysis Tool, a tool created in partnership with the UN Global Compact, UN Women, the Multilateral Investment Fund and IDB Invest (formerly known as Inter-American Investment Corporation). This type of analysis is key in an industry where women represent only 16% of executive committees and 20% of board positions (Oliver Wyman).
Having a gender diverse organization promotes better capacity to understand and design products and services to meet women’s needs, generates better risk management strategies in companies, and builds a positive image of the FI’s brand and reputation. Successful banking is about serving both clients and employees better, regardless of gender.
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