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OCBC debuts plan for SME women entrepreneurs
Move aims to scale businesses with tailored financing, enhance networking, mentorship
The Asset 8 Mar 2024

Singaporean bank OCBC has launched a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) programme in Singapore, to be rolled out in April 2024, to support women entrepreneurs in realizing their business aspirations  the first such programme, according to the bank, by a Singapore bank.

Through the bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Programme, SMEs owned by women entrepreneurs can access financing to accelerate their business plans. In particular, start-ups founded by women can secure financing of up to S$100,000 (US$74,431) within the first two years of incorporation. The processing fees for such loans will be waived.

The financing will be provided under the bank’s SME sustainable finance framework that has been expanded to include a new category for social loans. This new category is aligned to the social loan principles issued by the Loan Market Association.

The social loans given under the programme are targeted at improving the socioeconomic advancement of women in the economy and the growth and resilience of women-owned businesses.

Educational workshops, and opportunities to network and be mentored by successful like-minded female entrepreneurs will also be availed to them.

Despite the good progress achieved in addressing gender diversity and inclusivity in business and the workplace over the years, many women entrepreneurs, the bank says, continue to face challenges in establishing and growing their businesses. Therefore, creating this comprehensive proposition to support female entrepreneurs in Singapore is important.

Based on the bank’s data:

  • SMEs founded by women accounted for 23% of newly incorporated businesses in 2018 and grew to 30% in 2023 over the past five years. In 2023, women-owned SMEs made up half of the new businesses in the education and retail sectors, and over a third of new businesses in the healthcare, business services, and food and beverage sectors.
  • Women founders are increasing their presence in industries traditionally dominated by men, occupying about a quarter of new businesses in manufacturing, resources, building and construction, and transport and logistics in 2023.
  • In general, women-owned SMEs registered slightly lower growth in sales turnover within the first three years of operations. However, women-owned businesses which tapped financing to support their growth were able to bridge the gap.

The bank’s programme builds on a similar initiative managed by OCBC Indonesia. Since the launch in 2020, OCBC Indonesia has supported about 1,400 women entrepreneurs running micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) under its Women Warriors Programme with over S$300 million in loans disbursed. MSMEs run by female entrepreneurs constitute about 60% of all MSMEs in Indonesia and play a central role in Indonesia’s economy.

The OCBC Women Entrepreneurs Programme will be launched in Malaysia and Hong Kong at a later stage.

“We aim to empower women entrepreneurs to build the right connections and to gain the resources and support needed to grow their companies to their full potential,” notes Linus Goh, the bank’s head of global commercial banking. “Even in a developed market like Singapore, where women founders have a track record of building successful businesses and have grown at a faster rate than their male counterparts over the past five years, women-owned SMEs account for only about 30% of all businesses here.”

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