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Financial services: Access Bank offers succour to women

By on July 31, 2014

Globally, women disproportionately face financial access barriers that prevent them from participating in the economy and from improving their lives.
Women make up 40 per cent of the world’s workforce. Many of the sectors that are critical for economic growth in some of the poorest countries rely heavily on women. Small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) with female ownership represent 30 per cent to 37 percent of all SMEs (8 million to 10 million women-owned firms) in Nigeria and other emerging markets.
These businesses, according to a recent World Bank report, have unmet financial needs of between $260 billion and $320 billion a year across the globe.

This therefore is women’s biggest barrier to growth and development.
Access to credit can open up economic opportunities for women, and bank accounts can be a gateway to the use of additional financial services.
However, women entrepreneurs and employers face significantly greater challenges than men in gaining access to financial services.
The Global Findex, a comprehensive database measuring how people save, borrow, and manage risk in 148 countries, revealed that women are less likely than men to have formal bank accounts.
In Nigeria and many other developing economies, women are 20 percent less likely than men to have an account at a formal financial institution and 17 percent less likely to have borrowed formally in the past year.
Even if they can gain access to a loan, women often lack access to other financial services, such as savings, digital payment methods, and insurance.
Restrictions on opening a bank account, such as requirements for a male family member’s permission, restrict women’s access to accounts.

Lack of financial education can also limit women from gaining access to and benefitting from financial services.
Nonetheless, as part of efforts to offer women exclusive access to banking services as well as a wide range of lifestyle-oriented value added benefits and privileges, Access Bank Plc recently  unveiled the ‘W’ initiative.
The initiatives promoting gender equality and fosters greater economic development.
According to Access Bank, reducing gender-based barriers in the business environment; creating business opportunities for institutions and in the private sector to improve working conditions for female employees, market segmentation, and inclusion of women in community relationships; supporting business skills and financial capability trainings for women; and building the business case for equal economic opportunities for men and women, would help stimulate inclusive growth in the Nigerian economy.

The ‘W’ initiative
According to the bank, part of the privileges for women and their families under the initiative includes access to a comprehensive range of loan product and credit facilities; access to ‘W’ community with helpful advice on family and finance matters, home and family articles and details of special offers; access to a wide range of great discount, special offers and freebies on health, beauty and fitness.
Others include early savers club for children, access to maternal health support, family protection as well as access to seminars on family planning and parenting.
The Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe said the initiative would also support SMEs owned by women.
SMEs contribute to improved living standards, bring about substantial local capital formation and achieve high level of productivity and capability.
They have also been identified as a vehicle for employment generation and providing opportunities for entrepreneurial sourcing, training, development and empowerment.
Developing nations such as Nigeria characterised as low income earners by the World Bank, value SMEs for several reasons.
“If you look at SMEs today, they are controlled about 30 per cent by women and yet nobody pays attention to them. From my own experience when we started it in 2006, they had the lowest default rate.
“The second and most important thing is that by supporting women and the businesses that they do, it would lead to economic growth in this country. It is not a new initiative, it is something we started in 2006, but we are re-launching it properly and embedding it in our institution,” Wigwe explained.
Wigwe said the initiative became necessary because a country grows by supporting SMEs, insisting that if Nigeria must grow greatly, women must be supported.
Noting that research in the past two years showed that women have far lower default ratio than men on loans repayment, he lamented that on the contrary; they have lower patronage by financial institutions than men.
He added that women empowerment is entrenched in Access Bank to guarantee their liberation and equality.
According to Wigwe, every staff member of Access Bank now understands and pays greater attention to women and their needs. With the initiative, he said women now have an online community with ‘W’ where they can reach out and connect.
“So it is all about the women who want to be inspired, connected and empowered. ‘W’ speaks to the strength that every woman around the world carries. It is about women, the Nigerian women and women around the world,” he added.

Benefits of the initiative
According to the bank, the ‘W’ is the first banking solution that allows an entire family to bank and benefit together, while also operating their individual accounts.
“We have a variety of accounts to help you manage your unique financial needs. There are accounts designed for young family members to promote and develop their financial management skills,” it stated.
The initiative according to the bank is all about women that desire to be inspired, connected and empowered. It further explained that it is its commitment to banking women.
Its maternal health support segment was specially designed to help women overcome financial barriers while supporting them in their quest for health and motherhood.
This scheme supports local and international treatments for fertility, natal support, other specialist procedures include -Hysterectomy (Uterus Removal), myomectomy (Fibroid Removal), dental, bariatric and orthopaedic
“Our new approach to banking women provides banking solutions to meet the lifestyle needs of the identified sub-segments: young professionals, woman and family and women in business.
“Purely, they are banking products bundled to meet their financial and lifestyle needs e.g. family banking for the woman and family. The ‘W’ community provides business contacts and platform for sharing in community forum, access to seminars and networking events, helpful tips to help women enjoy their lifestyle.
“It is a social community designed for women to be  inspired, connected and empowered,” the bank added.
In addition, the scheme provides opportunity for rewarding and developing female entrepreneurs and achievers. There is also a mentoring programme where some women help others grow in a structured manner. Successful women who would mentor and guide younger women have already been identified by the bank.
“We are contributing to economic development and women empowerment by promoting qualified start-up ideas – building an incubator of great ideas.
“We are supporting start-ups not just with flexible access to loans, but with capacity building and business monitoring as well free banking services.
“The first 100 women to embrace these bundles would enjoy free banking services till December 31, 2014, free CoT, card request charges, free draft issuances charges, amongst others,” the bank explained.



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