35% of women in the Middle East have no access to bank accounts: GBA

Nevine Kamel
6 Min Read

 Jorda- For the first time in the Middle East, the 2018 Global Banking Alliance 2018 (GBA), ‘The Future of Financial Services for Women’, kicked off on Tuesday in Jordan.

Delegations from 31 countries and 69 organisations attended the two-day event to discuss opportunities to expand women’s contributions to the banking sector, especially in the Middle East.

Mastercard, Bank al Etihad, AXA, and other institutions presented their experience in enhancing women’s economic contribution. Carey Bohjanen, GBA Managing Director of Sustainable Finance Advisory, said that 35% of women in the Middle East have no access to a bank account, and that there’s a 9% gender gap in terms of mobile phone access.

“A lot of people see these numbers as a challenge, but I see it as an opportunity. We can work together to promote the inclusion of women in the banking system, and there is a lot of room to achieve the target,” said Ann Cairns, Vice Chairman of Mastercard.

“Although 25% of women are in managerial positions, only 5% have access to credit,” said Nadia Al Saeed, CEO of Bank al Etihad, “and this is a real barrier to empowering women.”

“The gap between men and women in the Middle East is the largest in the world, although the women’s market in the Middle East represents a strong business opportunity. We need to empower women in order to empower the world. We need to eliminate all barriers to access to credit for women,” said Cairns.

In this context, the Vice Chairman of Mastercard said that her company is currently working on a framework that will establish all the tools to conduct a programme specifically tailored for women. “We know how important it is to focus on the female economy.”

When it comes to women’s empowerment, Cairns highlighted that Mastercard encourages women’s empowerment: “40% of Mastercard staff are women, and 30% are in management positions.”

Cairns also added that fintech is very important to connect women to the market.

Women are globally underrepresented in financial sector participation

The second edition of ‘The Economics of Banking on Women’ published by the GBA, reveals that the persistent gender gaps remain in terms of participation in the financial sector, with women representing only 36% of total customers. However, this year, the average share of loans to women is 3% higher, and women’s deposits are 7% percent greater than in last year’s survey. According to the report, these results continue to show the strong business case for a long-term women’s market strategy.

“But we still need to go further,” said Ulrike De Coene, Chief of Staff to the CEO of AXA.

The report highlights that women are still underrepresented at banks globally. Women’s representation is lower in both numbers and volume. The share of women total customers is 36%, 23% of total loans and 31% of total deposits. “Women are still substantially underrepresented when it comes to share of total customers, credit portfolio, and deposits across segments and geographies, creating a strong growth area for financial service providers,” said Ann Cairns.

Women are also underrepresented in business banking, accounting for a significantly smaller portion of the business credit portfolio, as well as decreasing shares as business sizes increase from 26% representation in microenterprises to just 7% for corporate enterprises. Although women represent almost half of banks’ total staff, on average, there is still a significant lack of women’s representation in middle to senior management, and especially at the board level and other leadership positions.

In addition to lower representation in terms of customers, credit and deposits, the data shows that, on average, women are also getting smaller loans and keeping lower deposit volumes in their accounts. This reveals the opportunity to increase loans to women and position savings accounts as avenues to grow and maintain women’s wealth.

Al-Saeed said that banks can tap into this business opportunity by offering a value proposition to women of all segments, recognising that women require a tailored-approach that includes both financial and non-financial services, fostering a gender diverse and inclusive institution, and providing a full suite of financial products that meets their needs.

“This tailored approach is good for business. Banks with more mature women’s market programmes have stronger performance with women customers and stronger internal gender diversity, which boast a more gender diverse workforce,” she stressed.

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