Financing Her Future: Financial Services for Women’s Needs

When was the last time you used your bank account? An educated guess would be a few minutes ago. 

A bank account, like any financial product, entails a financial investment, management of financial risk, and even non-cash payments[1] offering society flexibility over how to view and control their finances. However, there was a time when women were unable to hold a bank account in their own names.

Much has changed over the past 60 years when it comes to the economic landscape for women, such as the right to work, the actions taken to address the gender pay gap, and improved educational attainment.

Progress has also been made in personal and household finances. Now women engage more with financial literacy and are introduced to concepts such as investments, savings, and payments at a much earlier age. However, there is still progress to be made. 

This is where inclusive finance comes in – it enhances access to financial services for both individuals and small-to-medium enterprises[2]. With International Women’s Day approaching, we review some financial products that are benefitting women in their day-to-day lives by not only assisting with purchases but also with the achievement of broader economic goals

Bringing down barriers

According to Gabriel Ruhan, CEO of South African fintech start-up Paycode[3], women’s access to financial products can falter due to three main factors: a valid form of identification, connectivity, and cost. These factors are particularly pertinent in developing countries with less established financial infrastructures.

Paycode has created a regulatory-compliant functional ID using fingerprints, which can lead to the issuance of a biometric smart card in under five minutes in remote villages, even without an internet connection. In Mozambique, women can receive payments for their goods sold, pay for essentials, and apply for loans – giving control to women card owners, and preventing abusive spouses from controlling their money.

Another notable example in Australia is Commbank’s domestic and family violence assistance program, Next Chapter[4]. The service connects victims with specially trained bank staff to help access and manage finances and refer financial hardship cases. The Next Chapter initiative is also working with partners to develop resources to improve the understanding of financial abuse and the financial independence of victims.

In a similar vein, Westpac’s Ruby Connection[5] network offers ample resources on financial education and independence and is a strong support network for women across Australia.

Innovative insurance

As a profession strongly qualified in the intricacies of financial products and “Using Data for Good”, actuaries are well-placed to contribute to the improvement of inclusive financial products for women.

Through the use of data science, investigation of demographic data and the ability to identify unique customer risk profiles based on quantitative techniques, actuaries can conduct research to understand financial challenges that women face at a deeper level, based on their income, employment, household, and life expectancy.

This understanding, along with the ethical use of AI to further drive insights and forecast product performance[6], can prompt innovative product designs, pricing algorithms and distribution channels that may lead to higher retention rates.

An example that demonstrates such qualities is AAMI’s Public Liability Insurance for market stalls.[7] Lynette Rayner, editor and publisher of Australian Markets and Fairs magazine, says more than 20,000 people a year run market stalls[8], a very popular profit-generating venture for businesses and first-time entrepreneurs. For women, this means they are insured through this product if someone is injured or someone else’s property is damaged due to the market stall or the products sold. This outside-the-box offering is the result of actuaries collaborating with product teams to create products with flexible features that are targeted to women.  

Stella Insurance’s CEO, Sam White[9], has gone a step further, reimagining the insurance system through empowering women and partnering with women-led charities for further community support. Stella Insurance extends beyond the usual third-party liability and car replacement and provides coverage for parents in the event that essential baby items are damaged or stolen during a car incident.

Action for Actuaries

Actuaries have a voice in the regulatory compliance of financial products and can support criteria around gender equity, consumer protection, and price discrimination. Actuaries are well-positioned to influence decisions on products that immediately affect livelihoods.

In superannuation, there has been an increasing interest in the reasons surrounding the gap between the average male and female retirement balances[13]. Women may take more time off and put their careers on pause to take care of older family members, raise children, or heal from health issues which can all lead to significantly lower super accumulation.

A solution to this could be the payment of additional superannuation contributions for female staff, something that has been developed by Rice Warner actuaries from 2013 to 2021[14] and ruled by the Human Rights Commission. This enabled women’s careers to become more shielded from life changes and companies like Rice Warner could improve their diversity and talent retention.

Looking to other retirement solutions, using gender-specific mortality tables will lead to smaller annuities for women due to their lower mortality rates overall. With such issues in mind, it is only fair that women may question the usability of certain financial products for them and may be at risk of financial exclusion[15] as a result. An alternative would be to provide lifetime annuities on a unisex basis in order to prevent shortfalls in income later on.

There is a lot that can be done – particularly by the actuarial world – in this evolving space. Continuous monitoring and evaluation of modelling techniques is something that actuarial professionals do daily. Focusing specifically on collecting data on women’s product usage and feedback and recommending improvements accordingly, will pave the way for products to remain relevant and respond to women’s needs more effectively.

To find out more about how actuaries can use data for good, join 2024 Actuaries Institute President David Whittle and guests Jessica Chen, CFO Pacific Banking & Auto Finance, Cash and Transactional Banking, Westpac, Bozenna Hinton, 2024 President-Elect, International Actuarial Association and Vanessa Rowe, General Manager, Insurance and Retail Advice Partnerships, CBA on Monday, 4 March for a special Insights Session where we’ll explore how economic empowerment for women leads to thriving communities. Register now. 


















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