It may be tempting for Americans to assume major societal advances in banking start here in the U.S. However, some of the most empowering solutions originate elsewhere. Case in point: Turk Ekonomi Bankasi (TEB), headquartered in Istanbul, has emerged as an example for banks here and abroad to follow in making a positive impact.
As the Innovation in Societal and Community Impact winner of BAI's 2016 Global Innovation Awards, TEB showed itself miles ahead with its Women Banking program, which provides solutions to some of the obstacles females face in the business sphere in Turkey.
TEB's program, established in 2015, provides financing, information and advice to women-led, small- and medium-sized businesses. It's a multi-faceted approach that extends beyond financial goals and needs, and has garnered recognition from other industry organizations. In July 2016, the Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA) selected TEB as one of four mentors of its GBA “All-Star” program.
"TEB understands it takes more than just financing to help women entrepreneurs succeed," says Simla Unal, TEB's SME banking marketing and business development director. "The strong non-financial services component of TEB's holistic customer value proposition has further strengthened their position as a 'consultant bank' for women entrepreneurs."
GBA did a case study of Women Banking in 2016, and found that the program succeeded on many levels, such as helping female entrepreneurs secure financing without collateral such as real estate.
With the 2016 BAI Global Innovation Awards, judges also sought to recognize a solution that leveraged powerful resources. In TEB's case, that came through a partnership with WEConnect International, a Washington D.C.-based global network that finds new markets exclusively for women suppliers.
"BAI recognizes many types of innovation—including advancements in community impact—because we believe that innovation takes many forms," says Debbie Bianucci, CEO of BAI and a BAI Global Innovation Awards judge. Bianucci will also serve as a judge for this year's competition, which will recognize the winners at BAI Beacon in Atlanta this October.
To that end, Bianucci notes: "TEB is an extraordinary example of an innovative bank that took a bold move to serve the unique needs of a strategically important segment with its Women Banking program. They demonstrated that understanding the unique needs of this segment, and applying creative approaches to serving women in their markets, would generate positive business results and serve the community well."
And while financial figures aren’t yet available, other TEB statistics point to the program’s impact. For starters, Women Banking includes a training platform that features motivational speeches by Turkey's successful businesswomen. Events are held every month in a different city and, to date, has reached over 2,000 women across 13 cities – and it’s still growing.
For other banks that hope to emulate TEB’s accomplishments, it pays to understand how serving women supports overall goals. In other words, make sure that doing good socially also supports a sustainable business model.
"Ensure the women’s market is aligned with the bank’s overall strategic direction,” says Unal. "Targeting that market was a good fit for TEB given its broader strategic goal to be the bank of choice for SMEs."
As for which bank businesswomen will choose, much depends on getting the needed tools to ensure success. In getting involved, TEB Women Banking has expanded the definition of success beyond financial, or even mutual, to societal.
Unal puts it like this: “Stories from our customers all around Turkey reveal how this support changed their mindsets, their way of doing business—and even their communication with their banks, families and employees.”
Finalists in the innovation in Societal and Community Impact category of BAI's 2016 Global Innovation Awards included WesBank in South Africa, BAC Credomatic in San Jose, Costa Rica and DenizBank, also located in Turkey.
Lou Carlozo is the managing editor at BAI.
BAI will be accepting submissions for the Awards program now through April 28, 2017. The Awards are open to banks worldwide. To learn more about the awards and submit nominations, please visit BAIGlobalInnovations.com.