Banks & Financial InclusionPayments

Could A Larger Female Workforce Improve Our Banks & Financial Inclusion?

Banks & Financial Inclusion Helen Child

As a member of Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF) I was pleased to read an article in the Telegraph last week which reported Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) calling out for more women to enter and progress in the financial sector and particularly at the top of the world’s financial institutions

Speaking in Washington D.C. on May 14th Christine said that financial stability could be achieved if the dearth of women in finance was successfully addressed. Specifically, Christine cited the lack of good corporate governance in finance and emphasised how this could be ameliorated by the introduction of more women at the top of the industry, noting that “several studies have shown that female leadership is more inclusive”.

If these changes were made, it could dampen appetite for excessive risk taking. “Probably a little more risk averse, but there might not be something that wrong in being occasionally risk averse,” she added.

Christine has been calling for these changes for several years and re-visited a question that she posed in 2010 Р“What would have happened if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters?” Suggesting that if collapsed bank Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, the current economic crisis could look quite different.

Lack of Financial Inclusion

Christine points out that financial exclusion is far too prominent for women around the world, revealing that 42% of women lack access to basic financial services, compared with 35% of men. “Financial inclusion is particularly important for women, empowering them economically, and allowing them to invest in education.”

Christine also raises concerns about the underrepresentation of women in finance, with less than 20% of bank board positions filled by women, and females holding just 3% of bank CEO roles. ‚ÄúClearly, we need to do better,‚Äù she said. Increasing financial inclusion might improve the “culture” of the financial sector, she added, to better “align financial incentives with social objectives”.

A Better Balance

In an IMF publication back in June 2013, Christine reiterated that women bring a better balance of risk and reward in business and finance:

“I have joked that a ‘male’ culture of reckless financial risk taking was at the heart of the global crisis‚ĶStudies back this up. Men trade more often‚Äîsome say 45% more often‚Äîand risk taking can be mapped to trading room profits and losses. Mixing the genders can help. Companies with more women on their boards have higher sales, higher returns on equity, and higher profitability.”

This sentiment is one which is echoed by many prominent women in the financial sector. Marisa Drew, Co-Head of Global Markets at Credit Suisse, was the Speaker at last year’s Women in Banking and Finance Annual Lunch. Marisa issued a challenge with which she ended her speech; she asked each of the 340 people present to help two women along in their career and together they could help change the shape and face of the industry. Marisa argued that if only a quarter of the 680 made it to the top of the financial industry, they would achieve these changes.

The Male Culture in Finance

Christine‚Äôs comments support the findings of the Commission on Banking Standards who, two years ago, conducted a report into the standards and culture in banking. The commission’s final report said that “the culture on the trading floor is overwhelmingly male.”

She added that the efforts to fix corporate culture should happen alongside regulation of the sector, claiming that finance has had “culture of compensation based on short-term gains rather than sustainable profits”, saying that this “induces greater risk-taking and short-termism”.

For more insight on WIBF, the events it organises  and how it helps showcase female talent please visit their Programmes/Events page. 

Thanks for reading…

Helen Child is the founder and former CEO of the UK’s first E Money License Issuer to be awarded Prepaid Issuing status by both MasterCard & Visa.

Helen is the leading consultant at Striding Edge and heads an experienced team of prepaid card and payments experts. Through her Striding Edge consultancy, Helen provides strategic and practical support to banks and organisations that are seeking to develop or increase their footprint in the European market.

She is a published author and industry speaker. A founding member of the Prepaid International Forum; the global, not for profit prepaid card industry forum.¬† She’s proudly served as a Council Member of Lancaster University.

To find out more about Helen, please visit