Global Banking Alliance for Women 9th Annual Summit: Banks Improve Lending Programs and Offer Training to Generate Women's Business Growth

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Financial institutions dedicated to women's wealth creation in developing and developed countries convened in Singapore to to exchange best practices for building sizeable and successful women's businesses within the current global economic environment.

The impact of the global economic downturn has hit women's businesses particularly hard, with dire consequences to the families and communities they support

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Against the backdrop of a global economic downturn, innovative financial institutions are propelling women's business growth with a two-pronged program of targeted loans and substantive business training. This was a top line finding at the 9th Annual Summit of the Global Banking Alliance for Women which convened financial institutions serving women's businesses in Singapore.

"The impact of the global economic downturn has hit women's businesses particularly hard, with dire consequences to the families and communities they support," said Larke Riemer, Chair of the Global Banking Alliance for Women, the leading organization for financial institutions driving women's wealth creation worldwide. The organization elevates the quality of its members' programs and services through online and in person exchange of information, research and resources.

"The silver lining is that many financial institutions are retooling their processes and boosting technical assistance so that women's businesses can survive and grow against the odds," she said.

The Global Banking Alliance for Women is a global nonprofit whose mission is to accelerate the growth of women in business and women's wealth creation, while generating superior business outcomes for member financial institutions. The organization's 9th Annual Summit, hosted by Standard Chartered in Singapore, convened financial institutions from Asia, Africa, North America, Europe, and Australia to exchange best practices for building sizeable and successful women's businesses within the current global economic environment.

Framing the three-day event was the perspective that tighter credit markets and a drop in the demand for goods have triggered a cascade of economic problems affecting women's businesses. Those in developed countries are sending less money back to their home countries; and those in developing countries have less income with which to feed and educate their children.

Many presenters pointed out that large financial institutions, microfinance institutions (MFIs), agencies and governments must work together to improve loan accessibility to women's businesses all along the spectrum, from microfinance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Among the key findings at the Summit were:

  • Women create jobs and economic growth where they are supported by government policy, training and supportive lending policies
  • Banks should provide training and education to help women's businesses achieve the loan size they need to fuel significant economic growth
  • Microfinance institutions can keep women's businesses funded despite adverse conditions by improving upon the scale, service, and financial sustainability of their loans
  • Financial institutions should espouse the principles of diversity and inclusion internally through women's success initiatives

Business training and education is considered a new area of focus for financial institutions serving women's businesses globally. "Banks must take a more active role in ensuring that women both qualify for loans and access the strategies and tools they need to grow sustainable businesses," said Teri Cavanagh, head of strategy at the Global Banking Alliance for Women.

These kinds of comprehensive education programs train women in business plan preparation and templates, cash flow analysis, bookkeeping, human resources, and other topics helping women's businesses to qualify for larger loans.

Speaking about the work that the International Finance Corporation has been doing for the past three years, Zouera Youssoufou, Head of IFC's Gender Program explained, "The financial institutions that we have worked with and who are connected to the Global Banking Alliance for Women have realized significant benefits from their Women's Programs in terms of better-prepared female clients, new accounts opened, profitable loans, and improved brand reputations in their countries."

One example of this work is Global Banking Alliance for Women member DFCU Bank, Uganda, which was presented with the organization's Annual Innovation Award at the 2009 Summit.

Theopista Ntale Sekitto, Head of Wholesale Banking DFCU Bank, Uganda, showed how nimble and effective responses to the global financial downturn from the government and financial services sectors are benefiting women's businesses. The Ugandan government has been lobbying financial institutions to reduce interest rates and make credit more affordable, introduced an Agricultural Credit Fund, considered tax incentives to stimulate productivity in areas such as agriculture and construction, and introduced the Credit Reference Bureau to help boost the reputational collateral for businesses.

DFCU has increased training in financial management and mentoring programs. It has enabled better lending practices based upon cash flows, reviewed their credit appraisal processes and introduced tailor-made solutions. The result for women's businesses are better business management, new business opportunities due to government incentives, and access to finance for agriculture and agro-processing at very low interest rates.

About the Global Banking Alliance for Women

Founded in 2000 on the belief that cooperation will lead to programs that benefit financial institutions and the women's businesses they serve, the Global Banking Alliance for Women provides vital access to capital, markets, education and training for small and medium sized women-owned businesses.

Its uniquely collaborative network enables members to accelerate the growth of women in business and create prosperity for their families and communities. The organization also connects people, information and resources - including government agencies, NFPs, NGOs, university, research groups and the media. This benefits members and showcases the successes and needs for women-owned businesses on a global scale.

The Global Banking Alliance for Women engages an Advisory Board of experts and leaders in the realm of women entrepreneurship, to provide additional perspective to our members. Additionally, it has had the advice and support of the International Finance Corporation's Gender Entrepreneurship Markets Unit (a World Bank Group member company) since 2005.

To learn more visit http://www.gbaforwomen.org.

Contact Lynthia Romney, 914-238-2145.

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