Leadership, Diversity and Innovation: Making a Difference for Women and Banking
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Leadership, Diversity and Innovation: Making a Difference for Women and Banking

More than a dozen senior executives and high-achieving leaders from financial institutions across the globe are close to completing the one-of-a-kind Leadership and Diversity for Innovation Program, aimed at acquiring the necessary tools to help financial institutions better serve low-income women clients.

Guada May Brion, 32, was born in Marinduque, an island province in southern Philippines. She was 11 years old when her father died. Her mother worked for their daily needs by raising hogs, providing laundry services for neighbors and working on a farm.

"Life during those times was difficult. We didn't have any savings; we didn't have any property except for our small nipa hut (small house on stilts) and my mother couldn't afford to send me to college. But with the help of CARD Bank we were able to survive. My mother borrowed additional capital and saved a little every week. I finished my studies thanks to the financial assistance of the CARD Scholarship Program and today I am the marketing manager for CARD bank," said Guada.

This exceptional story is only one of many from the women and men who, determined to build on their institutions' leadership capability, attended the Leadership and Diversity for Innovation Program. This year-long course, the first part of a three-year partnership with Credit Suisse, is run by Women's World Banking, a global non-profit group. It aims to address and find ways, through in-person workshops, virtual sessions and remote coaching, to positively cater to the banking needs of women globally.

"My mother’s work and efforts have inspired me to help more poor women"

Guada May Brion

One-of-a-Kind Leadership Training

More than a billion women around the world have little or no access to financial services. This program is designed to strengthen and empower the leaders of financial institutions who are committed to serving low-income women clients with innovative products such as insurance, savings or credit.

"The program offers senior financial executives and high-potential female employees from 13 banks and microfinance institutions (MFIs) around the globe – from Kenya to Jordan and the Dominican Republic – a unique opportunity to gain the tools necessary to make a difference," said Sarah Buitoni, Specialist, Leadership and Diversity. "This program is unlike any other offered in the financial inclusion space because of its dual focus on individual skills-building and institutional level change to drive innovation for serving the women's market," she added.

Guada May Brion with her mother

Guada May Brion with her mother

Guada was not the only participant with an exceptional story. Clare Tumwesigye, from western Uganda, was the fourth of six children in a middle-income family. Her parents came from families where girls had not been given equal opportunities to their brothers to study and look for jobs. But they were determined to offer more to their three daughters. Resolute to continue her parent's drive for change, Clare has embraced the opportunities and today she is the head of Marketing at Finance Trust Bank in Kampala and has also joined the program.

This autumn Credit Suisse and Women's World Banking hosted two parallel workshops at Credit Suisse's Centre of Excellence in Mumbai, with 24 senior leaders and high-potential staff from financial institutions around the world attending. The week in Mumbai for the high-potential women combined leadership training and skill building. It included negotiation, strategic relationship building and visioning. Senior executives honed their skills to better serve the women's market by driving institutional change using coaching, talent management, and change leadership.

Senior leadership from Credit Suisse also exchanged real life experiences with the participants of the program. "We are committed to developing the leadership skills of women and contribuing to creating women leaders in financial services beyond our bank," said Mihir J Doshi, CEO, Credit Suisse India.

Making a Difference

Through the year-long program, the women leaders identified and deciphered real-time challenges their institution faced, be it in the technical space or execution of the innovative products and services. The five-day workshop in India also focused on individual development. These in-person program sessions were complemented by webinars with faculty from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and remote executive coaching services from Creative Metier.

Clare was enthusiastic about the program and is sure it provided her with the skills to make a difference for women in Uganda. "I will certainly be a better leader and aim at being an inspiration to my fellow women. I will also encourage other women to embrace every opportunity and keep trying because we can all make it," she said.

Guada echoed her feelings. "The knowledge and experience I have gained," added Guada, "means I'm now more strategic in making decisions and more open to innovation. These are important factors in pursuing business initiatives which will benefit women. I had already had the passion to help, but putting it into reality needs knowledge and skills as a leader."