Trade Tuesday For Women In Business: Banking On Women

Access to finance is particularly daunting. Women are significantly less likely to…access to financial services than men. The IFC estimates that the worldwide gap in financing for formal, women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) totals close to $300 billion.

  • Arancha Gonzalez

Women entrepreneurs often start businesses using less capital than men due to limitations in income and reserves as well as lack of knowledge about the availability of institutional funding. They are less likely to use bank loans to fund the commencement of operations and more likely to borrow from family, friends & ‘fools’ or use the more expensive option of non-traditional/non-institutional lenders. This inability to access funding manifests in the relatively smaller sizes of the businesses that women run.

According to The World Bank’s Gender at Work report (2014); “On virtually every global measure, women are more economically excluded than men.”

Interestingly, the women’s market offers banks a profitable opportunity.

  • A major UK bank has found that businesses with female proprietors have lower churn (15% vs. 21% for businesses with a male owner).
  • Women-owned businesses served by BHD León in Spain have a lower rate of non-performing loans than ones owned by men across all segments.
  • At Westpac in Australia, women customers hold a greater number of products and accounted for top line revenue of $1.5 billion in 2013.
  • Finally, data from BLC Bank shows the average profit margin for SME loans to women is 15% higher than that of loans to men.

~ The Financial Brand

I recently took part in a focus group facilitated by Stanbic Bank Kenya.  Before launching yet another women’s banking offering, the bank decided to take time to better understand their target market.  I must admit, I was pretty impressed – it wasn’t one of those focus groups where you spend the whole morning sharing insights that know will just end up as part of a check-box exercise.  For a start the CEO, Mr Charles Mudiwa, was in attendance, together with his leadership team.  In addition to having the right people in the room, they really listened.  For an entire morning, the ladies in attendance shared their experiences with the different banks that they banked with – not all in attendance were Stanbic clients, as a matter of fact the Stanbic clients were in the minority.

The D.A.D.A project, spearheaded by Nancy Salamba, Head of Marketing & Communications, supported by Consumer Options ( ), had a team traversing the entire country, on a mission to gather insights that would determine their offering. 

In an exciting launch, held on Monday 24th July at the Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi, Stanbic Kenya shared their findings and lauched D.A.D.A – Dare To Aspire, Dare To Achieve.  I have summarised their list, outlining what women want from their bank;

  1. Keep the offerings SIMPLE.  Ensure that all conversations with her are REAL and AUTHENTIC. Answer all the questions she has patiently, regardless of how many times she asks.
  2. Build a RELATIONSHIP based on TRUST.  Keep any promises that you make – she won’t forget what you said you would do, and she will not be impressed if you don’t do it.
  3. LISTEN. LISTEN. LISTEN. Pay keen attention & listen with a view to understand. And then provide solutions to her that address the stated need
  4. Treat her with RESPECT & make her feel welcome.
  5. Do small things that matter (RECOGNISE HER) i.e. birthday message, congratulate her on an achievement, visit her office
  6. Remember that she is a woman, take a different approach to the way that you bank her

To succeed in tapping the market for women’s banking services a bank may need to transform how it conducts business. 

The drive must come from the top. At Rawbank in Africa, the Ladies First team involved senior leaders before embarking on its program and then engaged internal champions.

Internal buy-in is imperative.  It is not enough for leadership to drive the initiative, the entire bank must get on board. Success in deploying a women’s banking offering requires training branch level staff how to provide it, sharing women customer statistics and setting up focus groups with external experts to ensure consistent delivery.

Ingrain the necessary metrics.  What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done. Banks must ensure that they introduce formal systems of reinforcement, including performance based KPI’s and incentives to motivate staff

Look after the female internal customers. Diversity &inclusion internally is key to ensuring the success of any initiative to diversify the external customer base.  A bank cannot begin to seriously address the female market segment without first addressing the internal gender imbalance

Women are not men. Sounds simple, but it is very true.  Banks need to adopt new ways to provide services to women, to think outside the box. In Ethiopia, The Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Project is providing women – and the banks that could serve them – with an alternative to collateral: a 45 minute psychometric test that provides a reliable indication of whether an entrepreneur will repay a loan. If you are good enough, you get the loan – no collateral required. So far, the repayment rate is 99.4%.

Access to finance is a key impediment for women in business, especially those with their eye on global trade.  If banks, Stanbic or any other, can get this right, they will ‘unleash a continent of ambitious women entrepreneurs and maybe even transform the African continent in the process.’

I look forward to sampling the D.A.D.A offering – I will be a keen observer, and I plan to hold Stanbic Bank Kenya to their word.  Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part, but I am optimistic, which is a good thing because I am in the process of firing my existing bank for REPEATEDLY failing to meet my needs – but that is a story for another day!

Mucha Mlingo

President, OWIT Nairobi

Founder, PTS Africa

At OWIT Nairobi, we have a vision to empower women to transform communities through global trade. We are committed to creating opportunities for women to connect to global markets. As a Business Support Organisation, we work closely with our members to ensure access to the necessary tools to build businesses that can go global. For more information about OWIT Nairobi – visit our website,


The Financial Brand – Four Myths About Women In Banking

The World Bank – Expanding Women’s Access to Financial Services

The World Bank – Unleashing the potential of women entrepreneurs in Africa

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