Women’s roundtable: Breaking the banking bias

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  • Male participation fundamental to ensuring true gender parity, according to panellists
  • Banking experiences still need to reflect the reality of women’s lives; huge commercial opportunity remains for banks to engage female consumers on a deeper level

Women are responsible for up to two-thirds of consumer expenditure in North America, while up 50% women admit to ‘delegating’ financial decisions to a partner (only 10% of whom actually consciously elected to delegate). Such data-points revealed one of the paradoxes at the heart of gender inclusion within the banking sector, as discussed at an exclusive roundtable hosted by contextual banking leader, Flybits, to mark the culmination of International Women’s month.

According to panellist, Sasha Krstic, President of Mastercard Canada, the role of women on consumer expenditure was evident, not only by their influence on household purchases, but by the presence of so many female leaders within the payment sector.

“It’s notable that women are heading virtually all the payment businesses across North America, for instance – whether that be for cards or payment services within banks. Perhaps this is not a coincidence; women may be closer to the reality of household finances than their male counterparts. In leadership terms, it’s an advantage,” she said.

Commenting on the recruitment of females to the banking sector, Anastasiya Kizima, Head of Rise London, Fintech Platform, Barclays, described the combination of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and finance as traditionally less accessible for female professionals.

“Banking (and investment banking, where I began my career) were traditionally male-orientated; as were STEM and finance-related career paths, in general.  The arrival of fintech has proved a positive disruption in this sense; and it’s essential to involve more women in the development of products and services that are relevant to them. In my current role, around 80% of the innovation team are women, which is indicative of this shift,” she said.

Karen Maxwell, Head of Experience Design, TD, explained a deep understanding of the customer experience (for all genders) starts with research.

“TD is absolutely committed to this. We use everything from surveys and interviews, to customer diaries and focus groups.  Women and women’s experiences form an essential aspect of this; it’s essential to understand their perspective if we are to really design experiences that are relevant to theme,” she said.

Karen went on to outline the importance of all genders in ensuring gender parity, not the merely under-represented groups themselves.

“The active participation of men, for instance, is crucial in all aspects of bias elimination; whether in the workplace with respect to product development.  Female mentoring, for instance, sends a powerful message about leadership, particularly if not restricted to female employees, but involves their male counterparts as well.”

Dra Vanise Zimmer, President Elas Bank added that the industry itself needed to still adapt to take advantage of the huge market opportunity that female consumer represent.

“Women’s life and consumption experiences are distinct. In Brazil, for instance, a women will spend up to $30,000 during the course of her lifespan on sanitary products; and that’s only if the women has a single child.  Those expenses increase according to the number of children. We believe that the idea of wealth management isn’t just a concern for the rich, it’s crucially important irrespective of your income level.  Women’s financial needs and priorities are often distinct, and we are working female customers, communities and associations to ensure that these needs are met, every day,” she said.

Jannine Krish, Flybits’ VP of Marketing, who chaired the debate added:

“The role of women across the finance sector is rightly coming to light; whether it’s their impact on consumption decisions, or their contribution to the banking sector.  Our business of contextual banking is all about putting the customer first, and seeing the World from his – or her – perspective.  It’s crucial that all aspects of the banking process reflect the wider society in which it operates; and if this means a greater voice to women consumers and women professionals, so be it!”

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