Fi­nan­cial prod­ucts de­signed for women can un­lock $700bn

The National - News - - BUSINESS - ALICE HAINE

Fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pa­nies can cap­ture more than $700 bil­lion (Dh2.5 tril­lion) in ad­di­tional an­nual rev­enue by serv­ing women bet­ter – an es­ti­mate greater than the an­nual pro­ceeds of the world’s largest fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, ac­cord­ing to global man­age­ment con­sul­tancy Oliver Wyman.

To tap the un­recog­nised rev­enue, com­pa­nies must un­der­stand women’s needs and create wealth prod­ucts and ser­vices tai­lored to those re­quire­ments, rather than treat the gen­der as a sin­gle cus­tomer seg­ment, ac­cord­ing to the con­sul­tancy’s Women in Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices 2020 sur­vey. Cur­rent prod­ucts are not con­sis­tently de­signed for women and those that ap­pear gen­der-neu­tral are slanted to­wards male cus­tomers, the re­port found.

“Women are ar­guably the sin­gle largest un­der­served group of cus­tomers in fi­nan­cial ser­vices. De­spite play­ing in­creas­ingly in­flu­en­tial roles as buy­ers of fi­nan­cial ser­vices, their needs are not con­sis­tently be­ing met,” said Jes­sica Clemp­ner, prin­ci­pal and lead au­thor of the re­port.

“Firms are leav­ing money on the ta­ble by not lis­ten­ing to and un­der­stand­ing their women cus­tomers.”

The pro­por­tion of women on ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tees has in­creased to 20 per cent in 2019 from 16 per cent glob­ally in 2016, the study said, with the per­cent­age of women on boards reach­ing 23 per cent, a rise of 4 per cent since 2016.

Gen­der bal­ance in the work­place is a global prob­lem with nar­row­ing the gen­der pay gap, com­bat­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and rolling out flex­i­ble work­ing poli­cies key is­sues.

In the UK, for ex­am­ple, April 2017 reg­u­la­tions re­quire com­pa­nies with more than 250 em­ploy­ees to re­port their gen­der pay gap fig­ures.

Two years of re­port­ing has seen the gap shrink slightly to 9.6 per cent from 9.7 per cent, but al­most eight in 10 com­pa­nies still pay their male em­ploy­ees more, ac­cord­ing to UK gov­ern­ment fig­ures pub­lished in April.

How­ever, there is still work to do with 19 per cent of ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tees at fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pa­nies across the globe still made up en­tirely of men along with 15 per cent of boards. Chief ex­ec­u­tive and chair rep­re­sen­ta­tion fig­ures also re­main far too low, at 6 per cent and 9 per cent, re­spec­tively, said Oliver Wyman.

It means as well as cre­at­ing suit­able prod­ucts and ser­vices for women, com­pa­nies must also take a broad ap­proach to­wards gen­der di­ver­sity to en­sure “mean­ing­ful progress” in the work­place, the re­port found. Su­per­vi­sors and share­hold­ers should in­creas­ingly ap­ply pres­sure on com­pa­nies to drive bet­ter re­turns through di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion, it said.

In the UAE, for ex­am­ple, the gov­ern­ment made gen­der bal­ance a na­tional pri­or­ity. Last year, the Cab­i­net en­dorsed a bill en­sur­ing equal pay for men and women.

Cur­rently in 46th place in the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme’s Gen­der In­equal­ity In­dex, the UAE aims to be one of the world’s top 25 coun­tries for gen­der equal­ity through its Vi­sion 2021.

“Here in the Mid­dle East, we are see­ing progress, but there is a lot more that can be done to en­sure steps are be­ing taken by com­pa­nies to im­prove re­gional di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion,” said Jeff Youssef, part­ner, pub­lic sector at Oliver Wyman.

“Pri­vate and gov­ern­ment sec­tors must come to­gether to de­liver the next wave of change by ap­ply­ing frame­works that drive a much broader ap­proach to gen­der bal­ance. We know that when gen­der bal­ance is at the core of a firm’s busi­ness strat­egy there is a far greater chance of de­liv­er­ing bet­ter busi­ness out­comes.”

Aus­tralia leads the way glob­ally with 38 per cent of ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tees made up of women, fol­lowed by Swe­den at 33 per cent and Fin­land at 32 per cent.

The UAE fea­tured high on the list com­pared to other Gulf coun­tries with a per­cent­age of 11 per cent.

The US has only 26 per cent fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion on ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tees, while the UK and Hong Kong have 20 per cent.

Women are ar­guably the sin­gle largest un­der­served group of cus­tomers in fi­nan­cial ser­vices

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