BLC Bank of Lebanon began looking at the Women’s Market opportunity in 2010 and quickly recognized its potential as a growth market, but also as a competitive differentiator. Soon thereafter, BLC Bank became a member of the Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA) and launched its We Initiative Women’s Market program. Today, BLC Bank has thoroughly embedded We Initiative into its corporate culture, and the program has achieved substantial business returns. The Bank’s Women’s Market strategy has given it an advantage over competitors, and its best practices have become a model for banks around the world.
The Women’s Market:
Developing a Competitive Edge BLC Bank operates in a highly competitive environment, with more than 70 banks serving a population of 4 million. As it sought to differentiate itself, the Bank began conducting research on the female economy in Lebanon to understand its potential. The opportunity was significant: Although women represent more than half of Lebanon’s population and half of its university graduates, they are 47%
less likely than men to have a bank account. Women represent 27% of the country’s workforce and own 33% of businesses, but receive only 3% of bank loans.
Observing these gaps, BLC Bank realized the value of women both as a market and a strategic differentiator. The Bank set out to find ways to reach this untapped market, beginning its journey by becoming a GBA member, and attending the 2010 GBA Annual Summit hosted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the 2011 Summit hosted by Westpac. Drawing on ideas it learned from fellow GBA members and with support from the IFC, BLC Bank launched the We Initiative program in 2012 just 7 months after the start of its feasibility study.
In only 2 years, We Initiative started generating significant business returns. It currently represents more than 18% of the Bank’s profits, with double-digit growth projected for the next 3 years. We Initiative has positioned BLC Bank as the Bank of Choice for women in Lebanon and as a global example for Women’s Market best practices.