Women’s World Banking announced today the 2023 Fintech Innovation Challenge, a global competition to highlight and advance solutions to close the gender gap through digital financial services. Now in its fourth year and the only women-centered fintechs competition, the Challenge will provide a platform for later stage fintechs working to address the persistent challenges in serving the low-income women’s market.
According to the latest Global Findex Report, the number of women adopting digital financial services has risen dramatically since 2017, with the gender gap dropping from 9% to 6% in key emerging markets. But despite these advances, 742 million women are still excluded from the formal financial sector, and women are 31% more likely than men to have an inactive bank account.
Digital financial services can serve as an on-ramp for low-income women to adopt and use a large suite of formal financial products and services, expanding women’s choices and their financial and economic resilience and empowerment. Low-income women represent a large, untapped market opportunity for digital financial services providers, particularly fintechs leveraging technology to close the gender gap in financial services.
“To achieve the promise of inclusive growth for the global economy, women need equal access to financial products, services, skills and technology,” said Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking. “Fintechs are uniquely positioned to help close the digital financial services gap because they have the ability to provide products and services differently and can efficiently meet the needs of low-income women in ways that traditional financial services providers can’t or won’t.”
Applications for the Challenge will be open from August 3 to September 15. Entry categories include, but are not limited to:
- Sending and receiving money
- Credit for women-led micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)
- Safety net products (insurance, savings and pensions)
- Beyond money (financial and digital capabilities, and other business support services)
The top four finalists of the Challenge will participate in an in-person pitch competition next February in Dubai, and be fast-tracked for participation in the Women’s Economic Empowerment Accelerator, powered by the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University. They will also receive pitch advice and a UX design consultation. The Grand Prize winner will receive access to key 2023 fintech events like Point Zero, Elevandi Connects, and the Singapore Fintech Festival, as well as a speaker invitation at a Women’s World Banking Making Finance Work for Women event.
All female-founded fintechs that make it to the top 12 of the competition will be selected for the first-ever Female Founders Circle, an exclusive network of like-minded female-founded fintechs, and will be promoted through a robust integrated communications, marketing and media campaign.
“Participating in the Women’s World Banking Fintech Innovation Challenge drove us to learn more deeply how we can better serve our women customers,” said Rachel Freeman, Chief Growth Officer at Tyme, a 2020 Fintech Innovation Challenge Winner. “It gave us global recognition at a crucial time in our expansion into the Asian market and during our recent capital raise, and we got valuable feedback from the judges that helped us refine our proposition.”
The top twelve finalists and Female Founders Circle participants will be announced on October 26, with the top four finalists announced on January 9, 2023. The Grand Prize winner of the Fintech Innovation Challenge will be announced in Dubai, on February 16, 2023 following the pitch competition.
The Fintech Innovation Challenge is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Leading Sponsor) and Ernst & Young LLP (EY US and Advancing Sponsor). Women’s World Banking’s core funders are Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and Visa Foundation.
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