“Women’s financial inclusion” is defined as women having access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs as individuals, economic agents and entrepreneurs.
This report, a companion to our original Return on Equality publication, shines a spotlight on the opportunity to realize gains — in both gender equality and market returns — by increasing women’s financial inclusion around the world. Our aim is to inspire financial services providers to design and market products and services that fuel women’s full economic participation, and to encourage investors to steer their capital toward such companies.
The untapped power of women as financial actors has the potential to dramatically expand the market for financial products and services while improving the lives of women and their communities. Indeed, financial inclusion is relevant at every level of the income pyramid, and within developed and developing countries alike.
The market opportunity for developed and developing countries is significant, even when estimated using a highly conservative methodology. Our analysis demonstrates that closing the gender gap will unlock women’s access to financial products and services, while increasing annual revenue for financial services firms.
Retail Banking product access could unlock an additional $40 billion in annual global revenue
Life Insurance access could generate an additional $290 billion in annual global revenue
Financial Services firms could grow their share of already $100 billion to $120 billion in annual revenue
However, a large and persistent global gender gap in financial inclusion is currently standing in the way of realizing these opportunities. Though women have influence or control over assets worth more than $20 trillion globally — roughly 25 to 30 percent of the world’s wealth — they remain generally underserved by the financial services industry.1
Financial inclusion is a critical component of sustainable economic development. Approximately two billion people — disproportionately women — do not use formal financial services, and more than half of adults in the world’s poorest households are unbanked. Combating poverty and driving economic growth require increased availability of basic financial products and services for all people.
Women access and use financial products and services at lower rates for three primary reasons:
In the full report you’ll learn more about:
Building on the approach used in our first publication, Return on Equality, this report seeks to further support the instrumental role the private sector can play in the movement for gender equality, with a focus on the financial sector. Our aim is to inspire financial services providers to design and market products and services that fuel women’s full economic participation, and to encourage investors to steer their capital toward such companies.
BNY Mellon and the UN Foundation have partnered to pursue further research in this space, applying the Return on Equality investment thesis in the context of the financial services industry in this new report. This work seeks to build on the pioneering work of organizations that have long been advocating for women’s full economic participation and empowerment — among them UN Women, Women’s World Banking, the Global Banking Alliance for Women, the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank, the UN Capital Development Fund and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.
For the purposes of this report, we define “women’s financial inclusion” as women having access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs as individuals, economic agents and entrepreneurs. We focus on five key product categories which we use to frame our estimations of the global revenue potential of closing gender gaps in access to financial products and services.
1 In Charge of Nearly $20 Trillion, Are Women the New Global Players?," NPR, May 22, 2014, npr.org.
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