The rise in women’s wealth is transforming MENA region economies, according to a report by FirstAbu Dhabi Bank (FAB), and WealthBriefing, a global business intelligence service for the wealth management community.
The report, titled ‘Winning Women in MENA: How Wealth Managers Can Help Further Female Empowerment’, focuses on the growing number of women now claiming their place at the forefront of economic prosperity. For financial services, it also highlights the distinct expectations women have as wealth management clients.
Along with education, ‘Winning Women in MENA’ identifies opportunities created by technology and start-up culture as key factors increasing women’s economic role. The report’s authors found that digital channels have given women greater access to information and exposure to other cultural norms, while also changing the way they can participate in employment and interact with the economic and financial systems. This is aligned with a surge in female entrepreneurship in the MENA region, to the point that it is thought that in Saudi Arabia, and in the Middle East generally, a third of new businesses are set up by women.
Women are also increasingly influencing family office and family business strategy in the region, often being seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’ for running a family business, and in a growing number of cases are even given preference over male counterparts. On the business side, women bring a new point of view to managing a family’s wealth, with a different understanding of new opportunities, while also possessing ‘soft’ skills to negotiate complex relationships between family members.
In developing the report, High and Ultra-High-Net-Worth contributors confirmed that women tend to share particular needs and preferences that the wealth management industry cannot ignore. Many of these expectations are the same as for wealthy women the world over. However, simply transposing women-centric strategies from other markets is likely to miss key considerations, with differences in culture, and the interplay between the entrepreneurial landscape and established wealth, making the MENA region unique.
To meet the needs of MENA women, wealth managers must develop a deep understanding of evolving business and family dynamics. In particular, they need to understand the roles that women play in family businesses, in philanthropy, and as standalone entrepreneurs, and be able to relate to their views and take them into account.
In addition, wealth managers are in a key position to help build the ecosystem that supports female entrepreneurship and female-led companies. This goes beyond funding and banking services, to working with investment firms and regional associations and networks to drive the participation, training, initiatives, support, and inclusion of women at all levels of the economy.
‘Winning Women in MENA’ is WealthBriefing’s third report examining the distinct wealth management needs of women, with the MENA research commissioned by FAB after previous reports covering Europe and Asia. Findings are based on interviews with stakeholders in government, business, and finance sectors, adding context to existing data showing the rise of women’s leadership in Middle East economies, including from the World Bank, UNESCO, International Labor Organization, and OECD, as well as consultants including Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey, and Deloitte among other sources.
Areas demonstrating regional progress include tertiary education where women’s enrolment in the MENA region reached 43% in 2019 – ahead of a global average of 36% and outperforming the male average of 40% worldwide. The UAE also performs highly in women’s labour force participation, measured at 52.1%, which is higher than both the world average and the European Union.
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