Women And Financial Services: Work In Progress

Marleen Verhaag

Women represent 50% of the world population, and make or influence 80% of buying decisions. So we may conclude that women drive the world economy, in fact. Yet most companies do a remarkably poor job of serving them.

Back in 2009, Boston Consulting Group surveyed more than 12,000 women from a variety of geographies, income levels, and walks of life about their education, finances, homes, jobs, activities, interests, relationships, hopes, and fears, as well as their shopping behaviors and spending patterns. This research showed areas of opportunity for many businesses, but claimed that the greatest potential lay in six industries: food, fitness, beauty, apparel, health care, and financial services.

Financial services?

As I work in financial services and head up SAP’s Business Women’s Network, I often think about women in financial services, both as customers and as employees. When I work with our customers on the effects of the increasingly digital world and what opportunities new technology can bring them, I like to think about and discuss how female customers are different from male customers, and what that means for customer expectations and interaction.

Barclays research shows that women allow themselves more time to make financial decisions and want to understand the impact of their decisions. For banks, this means that investment products, especially, should be more transparent, and that communication and explanation of such products should be improved. Global Banking Alliance for Women concludes that women have different expectations from banks than men do, as they expect a longer-term and less “transactional” relationship. And relationships entail trust-building, which is not so simple in the era where bank branches are being replaced by websites, apps, and logon screens.

There are companies that get it. For the last 20 years, Australia-based Westpac has been specifically targeting this market, and created a special unit focusing on female customers’ needs. Its sub-brand Ruby includes an online community that is focused on financial education and networking, and supports female entrepreneurs who seek capital and are building businesses. Although it does not primarily focus on selling, the portal does attract new customers to the brand and impacts the company’s top line.

Similarly, one of my pension providers, NN Group (also an SAP customer), created a website in 2014 that helps 30- to 55-year-old women assess the impact of life events on their pensions. The site educates and stimulates women to think and act, offering tips on how to save smarter for retirement, negotiate a pension when applying for a new job, and take care of your financial future when you are self-employed. It is just a pity that I, as an existing customer, never knew about this site until I found a reference to it in an annual report, and I googled to find it.

What is my experience and expectation as a financial services customer?

When I reflect on my personal experiences as a customer, I fully recognize feeling underserved. Online and mobile banking is quite good in the Netherlands, but my insurance company’s service level is incredibly low. Admittedly, my broker did not sign me up with the most edgy company 10 years ago. But a decade later, my insurer still offers no online insight whatsoever for two insurance products that I bought in the early 2000’s, and requesting a statement takes 10 (!) days …  The service is so poor that I doubt that the company knows anything about me other than where to send monthly statements.

So, what would I like? It would be nice to have better insight into my family’s long-term financial situation. Some short-term rewards would be nice, too, related to my (mostly) careful behavior. My insurer should be pretty happy to have me as a customer. And lastly, it always good to feel empowered and in control, which for me is linked to the first point.

Short-term versus long-term

Short-term benefits seem to be the low-hanging fruit, which can vary from discounts and offers based on careful driving behavior, healthy lifestyle, and so on. SAP is wonderfully equipped to market to specific customer segments and combine customer-specific data to relatively small and valued tokens of appreciation, and thus boost customer retention and trust. We have enabled the Vitality program at our South African customer Discovery to show how that can work.

From a tech company’s perspective, it should be easy to work with customer data, but laws and regulations often prohibit the use and combination of data, even if it seems for the customer’s benefit. Still, providing customers with a portal and some basic analytics and simulations for single products like life insurance and pensions is a pretty good differentiator.

But to feel really empowered and in control regarding our personal finances, we should move beyond expecting our financial institutions to bring us insights and incentives based on new technologies.


I recently spent some time investigating this “control angle.”

Last fall, we hosted an innovation session at the SAP Paris Executive Briefing Center with an SAP customer, one of the largest pensions and asset management companies in the world. During the break, I talked to the CEO, who claimed that it is better that the average citizen does not get to control their pension investments. They calculated that if the average person were allowed to invest their pension premiums on their own, they would need to work 7 years longer in order to accumulate the same capital that a professional asset manager can achieve.

Well, that’s very reassuring, and I do believe that asset managers are the investment experts, but how does that help me feel connected and in control of my own finances and financial future, especially with a creeping pensions age?

Former head of Citigroup wealth management business and entrepreneur Sallie Krawcheck blogs about women, finance, and investments. She says, “When we are talking about women’s equality, we think money should be part of the conversation because we feel quite strongly that women will not be equal with men until we’re financially equal. While women continue to lag behind men in pay and promotions, investing deserves more attention in the gender equality discussion.”

Sallie talks about what you can and cannot control in terms of career and finances. Pay raises, for example, are only partially under your own control. There is always a manager who decides whether you are eligible and how big the raise will be. However, the decision to put aside some money and invest is entirely your own. Although our pensions (in many countries) are subject to local regulations and governing bodies, we have the power to control at least some part of our capital build-up and financial independence.

Sallie confirms that women invest less than men, which leads to a very significant gender gap alongside the better-known workplace pay gap and promotions gap: the “gender investment gap.” Women, in the long run, miss out on much more than just the pay raise and the compounding effect of savings. By not investing, they miss the returns on investments, which since 1928, have yielded 9,5% return. If you also consider that women take more career breaks and live longer, the result is that they build up only 2/3 of pension income compared to men…well, you get the picture. This is enough to awaken the financial feminist in most of us.

Taking our responsibility

Returning to what financial institutions can and should do, there is basically a marketing and a customer service approach to this. On the one hand, banks, insurers and pension/asset management companies can do much more to understand and serve their female customers. They can offer long-term insights and analytics along with short-term benefits and incentives, and potentially offer additional products. On the other hand, I would argue that financial institutions have a big responsibility to better support and educate all their customers about the financial impact of behavior, life and career decisions, and to create a more equal society.

I understand that I am talking about this from the perspective of a woman who has had education, career opportunities, and the luxury of having choices. And as an SAP employee, I realize that SAP is quite ahead of many organizations in terms of striving for gender equality, equal career opportunities, and pay equity. So I count my blessings and feel a responsibility to spread the word.

Read more

Here’s just one example of how SAP can help: Insurance and The Internet of Things Powered by SAP Hybris


Marleen Verhaag

About Marleen Verhaag

Marleen Verhaag is a business development expert and management consultant with over 20 years of experience in developing IT strategies and selling and advising on software and technology solutions for international financial services companies. Marleen has a significant track record in strategic, transformational deals, working at the board level and in business partner relationships. Marleen is also the global head of SAP’s Business Women’s Network, an employee-driven network at SAP with over 10,000 members and 60 chapters around the world. The network offers women at SAP the opportunity to share professional insights and best practices, and help one another develop skills, advance their careers to drive SAP’s success.

IoT Can Keep You Healthy — Even When You Sleep [VIDEO]

Christine Donato

Today the Internet of Things is revamping technology. IoT image from American Geniuses.jpg

Smart devices speak to each other and work together to provide the end user with a better product experience.

Coinciding with this change in technology is a change in people. We’ve transitioned from a world of people who love processed foods and french fries to people who eat kale chips and Greek yogurt…and actually like it.

People are taking ownership of their well-being, and preventative care is at the forefront of focus for both physicians and patients. Fitness trackers alert wearers of the exact number of calories burned from walking a certain number of steps. Mobile apps calculate our perfect nutritional balance. And even while we sleep, people are realizing that it’s important to monitor vitals.

According to research conducted at Harvard University, proper sleep patterns bolster healthy side effects such as improved immune function, a faster metabolism, preserved memory, and reduced stress and depression.

Conversely, the Harvard study determined that lack of sleep can negatively affect judgement, mood, and the ability retain information, as well as increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even premature death.

Through the Internet of Things, researchers can now explore sleep patterns without the usual sleep labs and movement-restricting electrode wires. And with connected devices, individuals can now easily monitor and positively influence their own health.

EarlySense, a startup credited with the creation of continuous patient monitoring solutions focused on early detection of patient deterioration, mid-sleep falls, and pressure ulcers, began with a mission to prevent premature and preventable deaths.

Without constant monitoring, patients with unexpected clinical deterioration may be accidentally neglected, and their conditions can easily escalate into emergency situations.

Motivated by many instances of patients who died from preventable post-elective surgery complications, EarlySense founders created a product that constantly monitors patients when hospital nurses can’t, alerting the main nurse station when a patient leaves his or her bed and could potentially fall, or when a patient’s vital signs drop or rise unexpectedly.

Now EarlySense technology has expanded outside of the hospital realm. The EarlySense wellness sensor, a device connected via the Internet of Things, mobile solutions, and supported by SAP HANA Cloud Platform, monitors all vital signs while a person sleeps. The device is completely wireless and lies subtly underneath one’s mattress. The sensor collects all mechanical vibrations that the patient’s body emits while sleeping, continuously monitoring heart and respiratory rates.

Watch this short video to learn more about how the EarlySense wellness sensor works:

The result is faster diagnoses with better treatments and outcomes. Sleep issues can be identified and addressed; individuals can use the data collected to make adjustments in diet or exercise habits; and those on heavy pain medications can monitor the way their bodies react to the medication. In addition, physicians can use the data collected from the sensor to identify patient health problems before they escalate into an emergency situation.

Connected care is opening the door for a new way to practice health. Through connected care apps that link people with their doctors, fitness trackers that measure daily activity, and sensors like the EarlySense wellness sensor, today’s technology enables people and physicians to work together to prevent sickness and accidents before they occur. Technology is forever changing the way we live, and in turn we are living longer, healthier lives.

To learn how SAP HANA Cloud Platform can affect your business, visit It&Me.

For more stories, join me on Twitter.


Christine Donato

About Christine Donato

Christine Donato is a Senior Integrated Marketing Specialist at SAP. She is an accomplished project manager and leader of multiple marketing and sales enablement campaigns and events, that supported a multi million euro business.

Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Brews Sustainable Growth On Cloud ERP

David Trites

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting a podcast with Paula Muesse, COO and CFO of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, a small, organic, fair-trade tea company based in California, and Ursula Ringham from SAP. We talked about some of the business challenges Zhena’s faces and how the company’s ERP solution helped spur growth and digital transformation.

Small but complex business

~ERP helped Zhena’s sustain growthZhena’s has grown from one person (Zhena Muzyka) selling hand-packed tea from a cart, into a thriving small business that puts quality, sustainability, and fair trade first. And although the company is small its business is complex.

For starters, tea isn’t grown in the United States, so Zhena’s has to maintain and import inventory from multiple warehouses around the world. Some of their tea blends have up to 14 ingredients, and each one has a different lead time. That makes demand-planning difficult. In addition, the FDA and US Customs require designated ingredients be traced and treated a certain way to comply with regulations.

Being organic and fair trade also makes things more complicated. Zhena’s has to pass an annual organic compliance audit for all products and processing facilities. And all products need to be traceable back to the farms where the tea was grown and picked to ensure the workers (mostly women) are paid fair wages.

Sustainable growth

Prior to implementing its new ERP system, Zhena’s was using a mix of tools like QuickBooks, Excel, and paper to manage the business. But to sustain growth and ensure future success, the company had to make some changes. Zhena’s needed an integrated software solution that could handle all facets of the business. It needed a tool that could help with cost control and profitability analysis and facilitate complex reporting and regulatory requirements.

The SAP Business ByDesign solution was the perfect choice. The cloud-based ERP solution reduced both business and IT costs, simplified processes from demand planning to accounting, and enabled mobile access and real-time reporting.

Check out the podcast to hear more about how Zhena’s successfully transformed its business by moving to SAP Business ByDesign.

 This article originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Building a successful company is hard work. SAP’s affordable solutions for small and midsize companies are designed to make it easier. Simple to install and use, SAP SME Solutions help you automate and integrate your business processes to give real-time, actionable insights. So you can make decisions on the spot. Find out how Run Simple can work for you. Visit sap.com/sme.


David Trites

About David Trites

David Trites is a Director of SAP Global Marketing. He is responsible for producing interesting and compelling customer stories that will humanize the SAP brand, support sales and marketing teams across SAP, and increase the awareness of SAP in key markets.

Human Skills for the Digital Future

Dan Wellers and Kai Goerlich

Technology Evolves.
So Must We.

Technology replacing human effort is as old as the first stone axe, and so is the disruption it creates.
Thanks to deep learning and other advances in AI, machine learning is catching up to the human mind faster than expected.
How do we maintain our value in a world in which AI can perform many high-value tasks?

Uniquely Human Abilities

AI is excellent at automating routine knowledge work and generating new insights from existing data — but humans know what they don’t know.

We’re driven to explore, try new and risky things, and make a difference.
We deduce the existence of information we don’t yet know about.
We imagine radical new business models, products, and opportunities.
We have creativity, imagination, humor, ethics, persistence, and critical thinking.

There’s Nothing Soft About “Soft Skills”

To stay ahead of AI in an increasingly automated world, we need to start cultivating our most human abilities on a societal level. There’s nothing soft about these skills, and we can’t afford to leave them to chance.

We must revamp how and what we teach to nurture the critical skills of passion, curiosity, imagination, creativity, critical thinking, and persistence. In the era of AI, no one will be able to thrive without these abilities, and most people will need help acquiring and improving them.

Anything artificial intelligence does has to fit into a human-centered value system that takes our unique abilities into account. While we help AI get more powerful, we need to get better at being human.

Download the executive brief Human Skills for the Digital Future.

Read the full article The Human Factor in an AI Future.


Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.

Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu


How Manufacturers Can Kick-Start The Internet Of Things In 2018

Tanja Rueckert

Part 1 of the “Manufacturing Value from IoT” series

IoT is one of the most dynamic and exciting markets I am involved with at SAP. The possibilities are endless, and that is perhaps where the challenges start. I’ll be sharing a series of blogs based on research into knowledge and use of IoT in manufacturing.

Most manufacturing leaders think that the IoT is the next big thing, alongside analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. They see these technologies dramatically impacting their businesses and business in general over the next five years. Researchers see big things ahead as well; they forecast that IoT products and investments will total hundreds of billions – or even trillions – of dollars in coming decades.

They’re all wrong.

The IoT is THE Big Thing right now – if you know where to look.

Nearly a third (31%) of production processes and equipment and non-production processes and equipment (30%) already incorporate smart device/embedded intelligence. Similar percentages of manufacturers have a company strategy implemented or in place to apply IoT technologies to their processes (34%) or to embed IoT technologies into products (32%).

opportunities to leverage IoTSource:Catch Up with IoT Leaders,” SAP, 2017.

The best process opportunities to leverage the IoT include document management (e.g. real-time updates of process information); shipping and warehousing (e.g. tracking incoming and outgoing goods); and assembly and packaging (e.g. production monitoring). More could be done, but figuring out where and how to implement the IoT is an obstacle for many leaders. Some 44 percent of companies have trouble identifying IoT opportunities and benefits for either internal processes or IoT-enabled products.

Why so much difficulty in figuring out where to use the IoT in processes?

  • No two industries use the IoT in the same way. An energy company might leverage asset-management data to reduce costs; an e-commerce manufacturer might focus on metrics for customer fulfillment; a fabricator’s use of IoT technologies may be driven by a need to meet exacting product variances.
  • Even in the same industry, individual firms will apply and profit from the IoT in unique ways. In some plants and processes, management is intent on getting the most out of fully depreciated equipment. Unfortunately, older equipment usually lacks state-of-the-art controls and sensors. The IoT may be in place somewhere within those facilities, but it’s unlikely to touch legacy processes until new machinery arrive. 

Where could your company leverage the IoT today? Think strategically, operationally, and financially to prioritize opportunities:

  • Can senior leadership and plant management use real-time process data to improve daily decision-making and operations planning? Do they have the skills and tools (e.g., business analytics) to leverage IoT data?
  • Which troublesome processes in the plant or front office erode profits? With real-time data pushed out by the IoT, which could be improved?
  • Of the processes that could be improved, which include equipment that can – in the near-term – accommodate embedded intelligence, and then communicate with plant and enterprise networks?

Answer those questions, and you’ve got an instant list of how and where to profit from the IoT – today.

Stay tuned for more information on how IoT is developing and to learn what it takes to be a manufacturing IoT innovator. In the meantime, download the report “Catch Up with IoT Leaders.”


Tanja Rueckert

About Tanja Rueckert

Tanja Rueckert is President of the Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain Business Unit at SAP.