“You get to hear what works for other organizations, other commercial banks like ourselves, and get to meet up with Fintechs. A lot of good ideas: It’s mind-blowing. The perspective that Women’s World Banking itself brings in, it’s a complete solution.”

For low-income women who are running their own business and often raising a family at the same time, all kinds of obstacles get in the way of opening a savings account and using it to build stability and growth. Those women may not always have the most up-to-date information on how a particular savings account can benefit them, and may not have the extra time, literacy level, or mobility to open an account. Creating savings products and bundling them to make them more convenient can overcome these obstacles, but banks need to design and market their product bundles the right way to get women on board.

Women’s World Banking created She Counts in 2018 to bring together an international network of financial service providers to strategize on best practices in asset-building for low-income women. At She Counts 2019, hosted by Women’s World Banking after its Making Finance Work for Women summit in Singapore, the cohort met for a one-day interactive workshop on October 24, entitled Driving Savings – Effective Practices in Product Bundling.

She Counts members include Kaleidofin, a FinTech based in India; CARD Bank, a microfinance-oriented rural bank in the Philippines; NMB, a Tanzanian commercial bank; MaTontine, a Senegalese FinTech; Banco W, a Colombian banking and credit institution; Access Bank, a Nigerian multinational Tier 1 commercial bank; Sterling Bank, a Nigerian national Tier 2 commercial bank; and ASA, a Bangladesh-based NGO and microfinance institution.

“It’s really important to find those members that are exhibiting the best practices in whichever vertical it is that we’re working,“ said Ade Ashaye, Executive Vice President at Women’s World Banking. “We take that information, take those learnings, and share them through the network.”

The six members who attended the 2019 meeting expressed their commitment to finding new ways of engaging customers with product bundling, and their eagerness to learn how others’ ideas are working or not working. During the first part of the day, the members discussed specific features of their savings bundles and described their customer value proposition.

The focus was on how to achieve four key goals of bundled savings products that work for women, as identified by Women’s World Banking: acquisition, which improves when financial institutions bundle products to meet women’s needs, market them with literacy barriers in mind, and demonstrate the value for women along their life cycle; activation, which increases when they communicate a clear value proposition based on research and customer need analysis, simplify on-boarding, and develop a focused engagement plan; active usage, which grows when they strengthen customers’ financial literacy and create convenient access points to overcome mobility and time constraints; and retention, which goes up when they link usage of products with women’s goals and needs, adjust offerings to fit clients’ changing circumstances, and create behavioral nudges and an easy renewal process.

Kaleidofin talked about their dedication to meeting customers’ goals instead of only their needs, and how they develop holistic offerings to help achieve those goals. ASA explained how the meaning of the institution’s name, “hope,” informs product design, and how their next step is developing a path to digitization while maintaining the high-touch engagement their customers value. CARD Bank described their focus on improving their bundled offering, a commitment savings product joined with insurance, and bringing efficiency to the process.

Members shared ideas for making their products more user-friendly. Banco W discussed products that allow customers to pay a loan and save at the same time. NMB emphasized the importance of introducing financial capability elements in their savings portfolio, which offers individual products based on customers’ needs. MaTontine’s big idea is to take what their customers rely on most, simple feature phones, and to build new digital products and services—based on traditional savings mechanisms— that work on those phones.

In the afternoon, the cohort took part in a design sprint exploring how to optimize product bundles to work effectively for women, and how to think through and overcome the challenges that come up. Members identified the key barriers they’ve faced, then mapped the financial life of a typical woman customer, identifying her challenges and ideating solutions around them. They discussed how to break down problems into multiple steps, approach the steps systematically during the brainstorming process, and apply design thinking and principles to find a solution.

As the She Counts workshop concluded, members pointed out that the major benefit was the chance to hear about and learn from the experiences of six diverse institutions. ASA noted that peer-to-peer learning is essential for ideation. Kaleidofin and NMB both highlighted the women-centered design approach to developing solutions, in different contexts but with similar challenges.

Puneet Gupta, Co-founder of Kaleidofin, said, “There are multiple people from across the world who are trying to solve the problems of designing solutions for women customers.” Gupta added, “This is a segment where even though the context might differ a little bit, the challenges that women face are very similar. The kinds of solutions that we feel have worked in one geography, we might be able to learn from them. For us this was really a wonderful opportunity to be able to distill what is relevant for us and try to take it home.”

Beatrice Mwanbije, Senior Manager MSE at NMB, said that as a member of She Counts, “You get to hear what works for other organizations, other commercial banks like ourselves, and get to meet up with Fintechs. A lot of good ideas: It’s mind-blowing. The perspective that Women’s World Banking itself brings in, it’s a complete solution.”

CARD Bank mentioned that the value was not just in product improvement, but in thinking about service improvement as they deliver their bundles to women customers. MaTontine and Banco W said they came out of the workshop not just with answers, but with better questions to ask themselves as they explore new opportunities to engage customers.

The overall takeaway of the day-long session was that bundled solutions designed specifically for women drive savings. Members came away with a reinforced understanding of how customers, especially women, need a suite of financial services, and how bundling products in an effective way improves the value proposition. The workshop was also an example of how building strong connections among institutions with a shared commitment results in better products for women. The day provided a unique opportunity to create a dialogue and an action plan with the potential to serve women better than ever, in 2020 and beyond.

She Counts is a group of financial service providers around the globe selected from the Women’s World Banking Network to showcase best practices in reaching and engaging women with savings products. These institutions come together to learn from each other in a collaborative environment and share their experience with the rest of the Women’s World Banking Global Network. She Counts is generously supported by the ExxonMobil Foundation.