“Women Are An Excellent Investment”: Finance Leaders Call For Increased Support For In Women In Business

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Leaders from multilateral development banks, financial institutions and the private sector called on peers to dispel myths about women being too “high risk” for financing – and to offer more financial services for women in business to close the gender finance gap.

“We know that women are a good bet. We know the payback. We know they run excellent businesses – and yet they are not getting financed,” said Dr Jennifer Blanke, African Development Bank Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.

An important step is for multilateral development banks to offer credit guarantees to commercial banks to invest in women entrepreneurs, Blanke said.

“We know that if we provide those guarantees, then the banks are going to be lending to a lot more women, and they are going to discover that women are an excellent bet – and are an excellent investment.”

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Blanke and other leaders were speaking at the “Using Innovative Financing Mechanisms to Accelerate Finance for Women in Business” plenary panel session at the Global Gender Summit on Tuesday.

The international gathering of gender champions from government, finance institutions, multilateral development banks, civil society and private industry, runs from 25 – 27 November in Kigali, Rwanda.

Panellists acknowledged that strides have been taken to bring gender equity to financing. However, according to World Economic Forum data, at current rates of progress, it will take at least 200 years to close the global pay gap between men and women.

Asian Development Bank’s Gender Lead, Sakiko Tanaka, noted this 2019 Global Gender Summit has seen increased awareness of the need for women’s financial inclusion to achieve gender equality.

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“There’s more money coming in for gender equality. However, there are still major gaps globally and as well as in each region,” said Tanaka, who also serves as chairperson of the multilateral development bank working group on gender.

Women face unique constraints such as poorer access to collateral and land, running smaller business compared to male entrepreneurs and blurred lines between women’s personal and professional finance spend.

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Wendy Teleki, Head of the We-Fi (Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative) Secretariat and the panel moderator, led the six panellists in exploring how financial institutions and multilateral development banks are innovating to expand women’s access to finance. Aside from risk-sharing interventions like credit guarantees to lenders, panellists said increasing women’s financial literacy was also key to closing the gender gap.

“It’s not about corporate social responsibility or charity,” said panellist Barbara Rambousek, Director for Gender and Economic Inclusion at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. “It is about developing that business case and developing a proper set of financial and non-financial services.”

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In Africa, 70% of women are excluded financially and there is a $42 billion financing gap between men and women. Yet panellist Solomon Lartey, Managing Director and CEO of Activa International Insurance Ghana sees an opportunity, particularly in West Africa, home to what he says is the world’s highest rate of women entrepreneurs.

“To get women where they want to be, we had to walk with them. The first thing is training them [about financial services], then granting them access to legal assistance and to financial education – we have to do all those things,” Lartey said.

The panel also discussed innovations related to financial technology, alternative credit information, and online tools for financial services as a way to grow businesses.

In some developing regions of the world, women face challenges getting basic documents like a birth certificate, required by commercial bank applications.

Tesi Rusagara, the head of Kigali Innovation City, said the more services for documentation and financing tools are brought online, the more value will be created for women.

John Wilson, CEO of Equity Bank, added that it is important to not only use data and technology in financial services but to also have a physical presence where clients are, to make a human connection.

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“Women Are An Excellent Investment”: Finance Leaders Call For Increased Support For In Women In Business - Brand Spur“Women Are An Excellent Investment”: Finance Leaders Call For Increased Support For In Women In Business - Brand Spur

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“Women Are An Excellent Investment”: Finance Leaders Call For Increased Support For In Women In Business - Brand Spur“Women Are An Excellent Investment”: Finance Leaders Call For Increased Support For In Women In Business - Brand Spur

Latest News

Singapore Employees Lack Retirement Support From Companies While Financial Wellbeing Becomes a Top Priority: Aon Survey

SINGAPORE - Media OutReach - 14 April 2021 - Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, has released the findings of the 2021 Trends in Retirement & Financial Wellbeing survey for Singapore.


Working adults in Singapore ranked retirement planning as their top priority but an alarming 80% underestimate how much they really need to retire. While retirement support from employers is also lacking, further challenges remain around transparency in group retirement plans' investment offerings and employees foregoing long-term perspectives to seek short-term gains.

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Ashley Palmer, Regional Managing Partner, Retirement & Investments, Asia for Aon, said, ""Employers can have a significant impact on how much their employees save by instilling smart habits and healthy money behaviours. The right long-term savings vehicles, effective communications and financial tools will help Singapore's workforce be more financially resilient in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic."


The survey identifies three main themes in financial wellbeing and retirement support for Singapore employees.


Financial wellbeing support is the new employee expectation. As a result, close to 40% of employers rank an employee financial wellbeing strategy as their highest priority, followed by emotional and mental wellbeing support. The survey shows that 70% of Singapore employers will formulate or execute financial wellbeing programmes throughout 2021, in line with employee expectations. Companies also view offering a financial wellbeing programme critical in increasing employee engagement and remaining competitive in the talent market.


There is an increasing trend of employer-led supplementary savings plans. Currently, 22% of companies surveyed offer Central Provident Fund (CPF) top-up contributions to citizens and Permanent Residents. But, close to 40% of the working population in Singapore are foreigners who do not have access to CPF and are likely to have foregone their retirement benefits in their home countries. To bridge this gap, and to provide equitable retirement benefits to all employee groups, close to 50% of the organisations surveyed offer supplementary retirement benefits to their foreign staff. Financial services firms are leading in this practice, followed by the technology and the healthcare sectors.


Promisingly, a third of organisations in Singapore are prioritising a thorough review of their supplementary retirement arrangements in 2021.


Alicia Brittain, Senior Consultant & Actuary, Retirement & Investments, Singapore for Aon, said, "Forward-looking companies first need to understand the financial worries of their employees and identify the gaps in their benefits offering. The most effective approaches are aimed at changing individual behaviours towards money and savings and providing accessible programmes and vehicles to deliver sustainable change. For example, when organisations provide retirement benefits as cash-in-lieu, it is most likely immediately spent and so does not form part of an emergency fund or long-term savings for the employees' retirement years. Supplementary retirement plans solve this issue and are more flexible and cost effective - and can also offer contributions above the monthly CPF wage cap to increase employee savings."


Employees in Singapore lack a well-defined default investment strategy. Less than 30% of the surveyed companies in Singapore currently offer their employees an investment choice in their retirement plans, and only 15% of retirement plans have a default investment fund. This leads to employees selecting their own optimal investment funds. They may lack experience in understanding investments, which can lead to misallocating their money and result in inadequate retirement savings or excessive risk taking.


Brittain added, "The key to protecting employees and adding value to savings in any defined contribution retirement plan is a well-defined default investment strategy. This includes frequent performance monitoring, actively managing investment risks and dynamically reducing investment risk as employees move towards retirement."


Notes to Editors

The Aon 2021 Trends in Retirement & Financial Wellbeing for Singapore survey was designed to help organisations understand the unique retirement and financial needs of their Singapore workforce. This tri-annual survey was completed by organisations with employee populations ranging from five to over 4,000 and are based in Singapore. Responding Rewards and Benefits Leaders, HR and Finance Professionals provided feedback and insight on their organisations' financial wellbeing and retirement programmes, interests and concerns. Click here for the full report.

About Aon

Aon plc (NYSE: AON) is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. Our 50,000 colleagues in 120 countries empower results for clients by using proprietary data and analytics to deliver insights that reduce volatility and improve performance.

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“Women Are An Excellent Investment”: Finance Leaders Call For Increased Support For In Women In Business - Brand Spur
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