In this interview, International Investment talks with Siew Meng Tan, regional head of HSBC Private Banking about the bank's survey that shows that more than a third of female entrepreneurs suffer gender bias when they try to raise capital.
Were you surprised by the numbers in the report?
When looking at the findings from our report, it was perhaps unsurprising to see that the top three challenges cited by female entrepreneurs in Hong Kong when raising capital were changing market conditions (72%), building networks (70%), and meeting growth projections (68%). This is unsurprising because there is a highly competitive market in Hong Kong, and female founders face many challenges when raising capital. During the fund raising process, female entrepreneurs need to consider and source capital from a wide range of sources, including banks, venture capitalists, specialist financing as well as individual high-net-worth investors. Despite this, there are some pleasantly surprising findings, including that female entrepreneurs in Hong Kong reported the highest percentage of gender-balanced panels, with 81% of panels comprised of both men and women. Female entrepreneurs in Hong Kong also raise 5% more capital than their male counterparts - when globally they raise 5% less on average.
We believe that by unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurs and helping them to thrive, this will have tangible economic benefits for the global economy"
Do you think venture capitalists are making a mistake by ignoring the multi-trillion dollar opportunity of investing in women?
We believe that by unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurs and helping them to thrive, this will have tangible economic benefits for the global economy. If we ignore half the population's potential to grow successful businesses, we are denying ourselves not only the possibility to make great returns, but also the possibilities for exciting new products and services. We understand that rigorous due diligence and examination of entrepreneurs' business plans is an essential part of the assessment process from any investor's perspective. As part of this research, we asked female entrepreneurs what they think might improve the process. Those in Hong Kong said they would like investors to be clear about their specific investment criteria and would like greater clarity around the entire investment process.
Is it concerning that Hong Kong is the top jurisdiction where women are most likely to be denied funding?
Of all the markets surveyed, women in Hong Kong experienced the highest likelihood to be denied funding (68% have been rejected for capital). But what we also found from the research is that it is only slightly less difficult for men (64% have been rejected for capital). Therefore, these figures confirm what we know to be true - Hong Kong is a highly competitive entrepreneurial market for both genders. That said, there are still many areas the investor community can focus on to ensure any rejection on funding is not down to bias.
Do you see momentum for female founders?
In Hong Kong, we have seen continued and steady improvement over the past 2-3 years, but more still more must be done. I believe we need more successful showcases where female entrepreneurs, not only pitch ideas, but build even more great businesses to further change gender bias. The results in this report, and the encouraging response we have had to it, certainly show that the drive for more support for female founders is gathering pace, and HSBC Private Banking is determined to play our part in this. Going forward, the emphasis needs to be on creating better connections, tackling unconscious bias and decreasing perceptions of risk.
Do banks need to be more proactive?
Society as a whole can be more proactive when it comes to championing female founders. At HSBC Private Banking, we aim to provide help, support and expertise to female entrepreneurs across the world. Through our strong commercial heritage, we have a legacy of creating and sustaining wealth for generations. We can help connect entrepreneurs to opportunities, at home and abroad, through respected networks and partnerships such as with AllBright. Our global presence allows for valuable connections that can support local, talented entrepreneurs.
What has HSBC PB been doing to level the playing field for women to fulfil their ambitions
HSBC Private Banking aims to help level the playing field for female founders through a series of partnerships. We support the AllBright Pitch Day series in the UK and the US by mentoring businesses, providing expertise and leveraging our extensive networks to provide female entrepreneurs with extra support. In November, HSBC Private Banking will partner with AllBright to host a week long AllBright ‘pop-up' in Hong Kong, including Pitch Days, pitch courses and investor workshops. In France, we partnered with incubator, Station F on the first edition of the global F for Femme conference in Paris in October, and in the UK, we are a founding partner of the WealthiHer Network, which was established to champion the diversity of women's wealth.