Banks acknowledge women’s changing role in business

August 24, 2022 | 09:33
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Financial institutions are looking to bridge the gender gap, with women all across the globe facing financial discrimination and suffering from less access to capital than their male counterparts.

With its new Female Entrepreneur Fund, HSBC Vietnam aims to cooperate with both women and men, many of whom have been HSBC’s valued customers for years, to foster and support female entrepreneurship in Vietnam.

Banks acknowledge women’s changing role in business
Banks acknowledge women’s changing role in business, illustration photo

The fund has already welcomed its very first Vietnamese business, Nguyen Hoang Investment Development Corporation, an international education service provider.

This initiative is expected to allow this company to strengthen its footprint across Vietnam, improving the educational opportunities available to Vietnamese students and preparing a skilled workforce to contribute to the country’s economic growth.

“In Vietnam, women are changing their roles significantly. Women-run enterprises operate across sectors and have annual revenue levels similar to those of male business owners,” said Stephanie Betant, head of Wholesale Banking at HSBC Vietnam. “Along with contributing to their own family’s life, women also support the nation’s growth. However, misconceptions about women entrepreneurs and their growth potential still exist. Our fund is expected to break those biases that hold women back, and we are very delighted to have Nguyen Hoang as a pioneering corporate partner joining us on this path.”

Earlier this year, the OPEC Fund for International Development granted a $35 million loan to BRG’s financial institution SeABank in facilitating access to finance for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and women-owned businesses (WSMEs), and to promote climate funding for a sustainable economic recovery in Vietnam.

The financing is part of the fund’s COVID-19 response and will help bridge the funding gap for SMEs as well as contribute to environmental sustainability.

Over the years, SeABank has offered several packages exclusively for female customers including a credit card with 2 per cent cashback and free interest up to 55 days, loans for members of the Vietnam Women’s Union, and a women-exclusive digital banking app.

In addition, with the support from the International Finance Corporation and other international lenders, SeABank has successfully implemented a lending programme for this segment with a low-interest rate or interest-free for early repayment. Women-owned enterprises also have access to industry-specific credit sources in various forms.

Notably, SeABank Visa Corporate is a new feature exclusively for women-owned businesses, offering a credit limit of up to $8,700 for corporate credit cards without collateral, along with an interest-free instalment policy and flexible payment options.

In the same vein, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a $25 million loan with the Vietnamese lender TPBank earlier this year to expand access to finance for WSMEs in Vietnam. The project is also co-financed by the German Development Finance Institution for $25 million.

The loan is accompanied by a $750,000 technical assistance grant to help TPBank better meet the needs of WSMEs. The grant will be used to build TPBank’s capacity to lend to WSMEs, hire staff, and promote its services to female borrowers. It will also enable TPBank to use digital systems to analyse the underserved market.

“COVID-19 has severely affected many businesses, and initiatives such as this loan and grant will support particularly underserved female borrowers by helping TPBank develop systems and procedures to improve their access to finance,” an ADB representative said.

Other financial institutions including VPBank, OCB, Vietcombank, Agribank, and Standard Chartered are also banding together to help WSMEs weather the current funding crunch.

According to Mastercard’s Female Entrepreneurs Index Report 2021, women in less wealthy economies such as Uganda, Ghana, Malawi, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Madagascar are making strong inroads in the business world – achieving rankings and progress that went beyond expectations.

Women in Nigeria, Uganda, Vietnam, and the Philippines are also engaging in entrepreneurial activities at a faster pace than men. However, the report also showed that Vietnam ranks 21st out of 65 economies in terms of its female entrepreneur index in 2021, down one notch from 2020. Particularly, women’s labour force participation rates in Vietnam account for 69.3 per cent, securing the country in fifth place.

In Vietnam, post-support labour income for women employees fell by 7.5 per cent compared to 6.5 per cent for males. Compared to peers in Latin America (such as Peru and Brazil), the loss in earning capacity was considerably less severe.

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