Bank Marketing to Women: International Hits & Misfires

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Over the past several weeks, I've noticed more financial institutions outside the U.S. targeting women with products and services.

On the surface, it sounds great -- the world needs more female-friendly banking and investment services.

But upon further examination, it becomes clear how financial institutions need to tread lightly; it's very easy to miss the mark when offering loans and related services to women.

Take the “Loans for Ladies” offered by New Zealand's Credit Union Baywide.

According to their marketing materials, these personal loans have an interest rate of 13.95% and are granted in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $50,000. The intent may be good -- let's give them the benefit of the doubt -- but their execution is offensive.

The marketing paints women as shopaholics who are financially illiterate. The website is littered with images of women that resemble housewives from the 1950s and pop-up artwork with statements such as "So, I went out to get milk and bread, came home with new boots and a bag” and “Money can't buy happiness, but I'd rather cry in an Audi than on the bus."

While I do appreciate campy marketing campaigns, this one insults women, who often are the primary decision makers in their family when it comes to choosing (or dumping) a financial institution. Some women might laugh and find the outreach “cute,” but the majority of the women I spoke with were offended. One woman responded, “Is this for real or a joke?" Unfortunately, it is real.


In India, on the other hand, one bank really soars when it comes to empower women. Bharatiya Mahila Bank, headquartered in New Delhi, launched seven branches exclusively for women on November 19, 2013. The idea behind this women-only bank is to empower millions of women across the country that do not have access to basic financial services such as bank accounts and loans.

In India, where discrimination against women is widespread at home, at school and at work, this is a bold and inspiring step in the right direction.

One goal for Bharatiya Mahila: to help women develop financial skills and have access to much-needed funding to support their personal and professional endeavors. The bank does allow men to deposit money, but it provides loans exclusively for women.

The board of directors of the bank is all female as well -- quite a difference from the male-dominated boards of U.S. banks.

Time will tell if this new bank takes off. But its respectful approach to the real issues that face female consumers is certainly refreshing.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a wealth psychology expert, founder of KBK Wealth Connection, and author of several books including How to Give Financial Advice to Women and How to Give Financial Advice to Couples. She serves on the CNBC Digital Financial Advisor Council and is a sought-after industry keynote speaker on the topics of women and wealth and advising couples. For more information, visit kbkwealthconnection.com.

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