THINK Week in Review: The “Women in Banking” Edition

A new report from McKinsey looks at the women in the financial services industry in North America, in the expectation that the findings will be pertinent even beyond the expanses of North America, that the insights and implications will “have global relevance.” Where are the women in Financial Services? “Quite aside from the ambition gap, there is an absence of support and sponsorship for those young women in finance who may be ambitious. They are less likely than their male counterparts to have managers who act as their advocates and highlight opportunities for advancement. Another interviewee Céline Dufétel, CFO at T. Rowe Price, says: “I think it can be hard for colleagues to relate to you and they’re sometimes uncomfortable giving you feedback or mentorship. They’re not as comfortable going to dinner or having a drink with you and you miss out on those valuable personal interactions.” Millions of Americans enduring financial nightmares in secret. “Staggering numbers of Americans are leading double lives when it comes to money,” the report said. “To their friends and neighbors their lives look normal, even prosperous. But privately, behind closed doors, Americans are badly in need of help with money and the emotions that surround it.” Indeed, almost no mainstream institutions offer the kinds of services and help that people most need to straighten out their financial lives. Third-party budgeting apps are only one small part of the solution to growing financial distress among large numbers of U.S. consumers. But savvy financial marketers will look at the situation and see opportunities to ask, “Where can we step in and help?” Solving Banking’s Security-Convenience Conundrum. “Call it a Sophie’s Choice for the modern banking industry. Should banks and financial institutions (FIs) focus more on giving consumers the convenience and simplicity they expect — and even demand — or instead focus more on implementing stringent security measures, potentially at the expense of user experience? It’s a question that banks increasingly must work to answer in today’s day and age. Fraud is on the rise, as 17 million people in the U.S. alone were victims of cybercrime last year, an increase of 12 percent over the previous year.” Research: The Digitization of  Banks disproportionately hurts women entrepreneurs. “To begin to address this issue, banks may need to revisit their recent rapid change in decision models to strive for equal opportunities when financing entrepreneurship. Women entrepreneurs, for their part, also must be selective when choosing a bank, carefully considering the bank’s decision model and building relationships with bankers in an attempt to overcome stereotyping and gender-biased access to financing. What is clear is that we need to know more about what business opportunities are lost — as well as how and why this loss occurs — when banks adopt transaction-based lending models.” The case to embrace flexible working is strengthening. “Companies’ fortunes are based on their ability to attract and retain the best and brightest employees. Offering more flexibility will help. In the shorter term, it would go a long way towards addressing gender imbalances. In the longer term, it should ensure employers keep up with social change. Surely this is something all companies should aim for, whether they operate in the cutting-edge tech sector or not.”