TechMunch: The role FinTech has to play in supporting female entrepreneurs

Women account for 27% of the world’s wealth – a statistic shared by Inez Murray, CEO of the Global Banking Alliance for Women, at a panel session during the RFi Global Business Banking Summit just last week. However, she also told us that female entrepreneurs are the most dissatisfied with financial services. Why? From the first-hand experience of Suzanne Brock, founder of Nutriment, it comes down to three key things: education, personalisation and agility. If FinTechs can crack this, they stand to tap into the growing swathe of women going it alone and support the next wave of budding businesses.

According to the panel, female entrepreneurs have encountered difficulties accessing finance because they simply aren’t aware of the range of options available to them. This is something that Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise Business Banking at RBS, has been working hard to change. After rolling out the Lending to Females initiative, which focuses on educating female entrepreneurs on the options available to them and what they actually mean, lending to women increased 18% in 2018 and is rising 10% YoY. So, the takeaway for FinTechs? Products and services mean nothing without context. You need to present the options, explain what they mean and illustrate how they will help the business.

Deborah Suttle, Head of UK&I Commercial Issuing at Mastercard explained how the company created a partnership, and resulting product set, with the Global Banking Alliance for Women called Women by Design. Importantly it is based solely around the insights of female entrepreneurs. Suzanne reiterated the importance of initiatives like this, making clear that the reason she had stayed with her financial services provider was because she felt as though they truly understood her – testament to the focus they had placed on understanding her unique journey and offering the right services.

What also became clear from the discussion is that female business owners may well have other demands. With businesses run by women with children under the age of 19 contributing £7.2 billion to the economy in 2018, female entrepreneurs are often juggling a business and running a home, as was the case for Suzanne. Life experiences and situations fundamentally change the way in which a business is organised and run, and financial services providers have to support this balance.  Providers must be agile – they have to be easy to access, use and interact with so that the business owner doesn’t need to spend hours getting their head round complex systems or filling in endless forms.

And this is where FinTechs have a clear advantage. As Oliver Prill, CEO of Tide, said in an earlier panel session at the Summit, digital-first players don’t have the challenges of being locked into legacy systems, so can inherently be more flexible. This means being able to access finances online and managing accounts via a smartphone, amongst other things. With SMEs the most likely to adopt a digital-only provider, as revealed by RFi research earlier in the day, this works in FinTechs’ favour. And, while FinTechs may be renowned for their digital-first abilities, there’s certainly no harm in reiterating this to ensure your audience absolutely understands the benefits.

Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie once said that “one never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done”, and this is true for women in financial services. Great strides have been made by powerful organisations, such as the Global Banking Alliance for Women. But as a woman who has worked with a number of exciting FinTech companies and seen the potential to support female entrepreneurs, I feel that now is the time for them to step it up and use their agility and digital-first advantage to do exactly that – because the future is certainly bright for our fierce female entrepreneurs.

Gemma Lingham