FinEquity Webinar

From Insights to Function: Designing for Women's Financial Inclusion

A Digital Frontiers Institute and FinEquity webinar in partnership with the World Bank Group's Accelerate Equality Initiative
DFI and FinEquity event cover

Digital Financial Services (DFS) are a means to economically empower women. Good DFS design goes well beyond interfaces or marketing approaches — it is vital in ensuring that a financial service resonates with women. To achieve this, we need to understand women’s lives and realities, and how those impact their usage of products and services. 

Hosted in partnership with FinEquity, this webinar explored our recent research on the importance of gender-intelligent design in improving women's use of DFS. The webinar drew on two case studies: WomenSave of Uganda which works on digitizing savings groups, and Lucy, a mobile banking app that has been designed specifically for entrepreneurial women, including Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore.

Question & Answer with Panelists 

What has been WomenSave's experience with introducing a personal savings app within a savings group? Have women found they're able to save even more, contributing both to their group and personal savings? Were there hardships in saving in both places? 

[Marie, WomenSave] We plan to collect data on this during our evaluation at the end of the year. Anecdotally, clients report continuing to meet with their groups for social/emotional support but moving their savings to mobile money.

What is the business case for WomenSave if the services are being run on a commercial basis, and what are your service fees? 

I want to understand better your business model and how you envision working beyond your initial pilot in Uganda (and maybe you have/which countries?). Any plans for scale-up? How are your services funded? 

[Marie, WomenSave] WomenSave does not charge fees. But clients do pay to use mobile money. So we plan to make the case to the banking partners that this can be a profitable market segment. Especially at scale with lots of regular deposits, withdrawals, and fixed savings. Currently, WomenSave is funded by donations and grants.

What has been done so far to have some sort of regulation for FDW? Is there a path to achieving some sort of regulation in jurisdictions that have high FDW? 

[Debbie, Lucy] Our ID verification process only requires an email address; a Singapore mobile number; and a Singapore ID. All FDWs (and indeed all foreigners who live here) have some form of work or residency pass and so we haven’t required any special regulations. As we move into other countries that have large numbers of FDWs, we’ll be able to do the same thing there.

Financial services were designed by men. Surprising also that when we start our women's banking we again put men as top managers. How do we change and have systems fitting women’s needs? 

[Debbie, Lucy] Put in more women as managers 

[Marie, WomenSave] Also more female agents to work directly with clients and create a pipeline.

Do you by any chance leverage on any trusted distribution channels to scale and access large groups of women? What are the KPI you are using to measure success?

[Debbie, Lucy] We’re working with a number of partners to reach FDWs, including helper agencies and NGOs in Singapore.

[Marie, WomenSave] We connect our clients with MoKash, a subsidiary of MTN Mobile Money. KPIs include financial goals met, money saved, and emergency funds financed.

When are you looking to expand into Africa? (Hint Hint, Zambia is rife for Lucy!) 

[Debbie, Lucy] It could be as soon as next year! Please do connect with me on LinkedIn and I’ll be happy to have a chat to find out more about Zambia.

Great presentation. Has the WomenSave project in any way increased loan access to women? 

[Marie, WomenSave] Not exactly. Although clients do have access to loans through MoKash.

Do you think that a robust mobile money/banking ecosystem is a prerequisite for these services to take root and scale?  Or is there evidence that these types of products are driving growth in mobile money uptake and usage? Are savings products enough of a first-level need that they can change mobile money uptake/usage behavior? 

[Debbie, Lucy] Our experience has been that by focusing on delivering products that actually solve problems for people, we are driving growth and usage – we’re providing a viable and attractive alternative to “under the bed” as a savings location. Savings is only one of our offerings, though – our combined solution is something that isn’t currently available or accessible elsewhere in a cost-effective way, and it is the total value proposition that is really driving uptake.

[Marie, WomenSave] WomenSave relies on existing mobile money technology. Our experience to date is that commitment savings plans are a great onboarding tool, increasing usage.

How is WomenSave working towards viability, especially in these times when subsidies to run programs like yours are not 100% guaranteed?

[Marie, WomenSave] Our goal is to establish formal partnerships with banks, who stand to gain a lot by reaching this market segment at scale. Once we prove that, we hope they will pay our local staff for client acquisition and training and/or hire us to train female banking agents to do the same.

To what extent do you engage in the co-creation of products?

[Debbie, Lucy] All of our products have been co-created with our customers – we started out by firstly really understanding what their pain points and aspirations were, and those drove our features.

[Marie, WomenSave] Giving our clients a voice to define their financial priorities is at the core of what WomenSave does. Our Savings Officers work with clients to design customized savings plans that meet their individual needs. 

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This event is part of the World Bank Group’s yearlong Gender Equality and Development +10: Accelerate Equality initiative, which explores the important progress made and lessons learned over the last 10 years in closing gender gaps and promoting girl's and women's empowerment and drives for transformative change in the future.  

It provides an opportunity to showcase successes, learn, and develop ideas and further momentum for the future of gender equality and women’s leadership, while taking stock of remaining challenges and strengthening partnerships in the quest to #AccelerateEquality.

About this event

External Webinar
Katie Highet headshot

Catherine Highet


Catherine Highet is the Digitally-Enabled Financial Inclusion Thematic Lead at FinEquity. Prior to this role, she worked with the GSMA Connected Women program and FHI 360, focusing on digital inclusion activities, including DFS, digital identity and gender equality. Catherine has also consulted for several digital development partners in the public and private sector including IREX, Mozilla and Souktel.

Marie Mintalucci headshot

Marie Mintalucci


Marie Mintalucci is a financial inclusion expert with nearly 15 years of international development experience. She holds a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a Master of International Affairs in Economic and Political Development from Columbia University. Marie has worked for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Trickle Up, Women's World Banking and The Hunger Project. In January 2020, she launched WomenSave to expand financial access to women in western Uganda with goal-based savings plans and mobile money.

Debbie Watkins headshot

Debbie Watkins


Debbie Watkins has 20+ years of experience in technology for finance, mobile-enabled products and services, and business and strategy consulting. working in over 35 countries. She has led customer-centric market research and product development engagements; supported clients in technology platform needs assessment and implementation; managed multi-million-dollar projects in Asia and Africa; and built multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural teams in a number of countries. She has lived in Asia since 2000, including Cambodia and Bangladesh, and is currently based in Singapore where she is the CEO and co-founder of Lucy.