WOW! Is all I can say about this new blog interview with Dr. Vanise Zimmer, engineer and psychologist by trade who recently launched a WOMEN-ONLY bank called, ElasBank in Brazil.
When I first heard about this new digital bank, I knew I had to speak and connect with her. I had so many questions about women and their banking needs. In her interview, she talks about why she decided to start ElasBank and how her research gave insight into why so many women around the world do not have financial accessability… meaning NO access to financial services.
I am amazed how this extraordinary woman applied her knowledge and findings to create something unique for women, and at the same time, she empowers women to become more financially knowledgeable.
I hope you find this interview as fascinating as I did.
Remember to Enjoy, Embrace and Empower!
You have a very fascinating background, you are a psychologist by trade but also President and Founder of ElasBank. What made you want to get involved with fintech and banking?
During my studies in Germany, I had contact with a lot of women from different economic realities. Many of them were having problems to finance themselves because of little experience in dealing with money, and difficulties in receiving their scholarships because of not having their own bank account. They also had difficulties in learning how to convert money from other currencies. That was an enigma that impressed me for years.
At a certain point, I asked myself why so many women in the world have no access to a bank account and how could we change that situation. I did not want to accept the fact that in a gender focused university many women left the program because of having no financial literacy.
When I came back to Brazil, I entered the Engineering PhD Program determined to model how men make decisions in finance and how portfolio management is meant to solve financial problems. I intended to use the results to motivate more women to get involved with finance. I was uncomfortable with the idea that the access to the financial system and the economic decisions was a privilege for men.
During many years of psychological attention to male and female traders I realized that the differences between them were financial education and the motivation to lead with STEM. If we give women the same education we could fill the Gender Gap in finance and elevate women to a better economic condition. After some years in contact with the financial industry I met the partners I needed to propose a new banking approach focused on closing the Financial Gender Gap.
“We want to pass the message for women that finance is not half as difficult as making a cake: everybody is welcome to try this new experience.”Vanise Zimmer, Founder and President – ElasBank
Tell me a bit more about ElasBank and what ultimately drove you to start a women-only bank?
We designed an ecosystem with the intention to empower women in finance, and promote a new, confident and financially independent generation. We expect to offer a bank account, a robo-advisor investment platform, a marketplace for selling women entrepreneur’s products, a peer to peer lending platform, an educational and learning Space, and a supportive network for all women.
The process of opening an account is easy and fast, and by integrating via Open Banking any other, existing, bank accounts and credit cards, we create a 360 view of our clients’ finances. We want to have a bank that could be accessible, low-cost, and easy to use. We aggregated a financial planning and a financial education module, creating more confidence and self-esteem for our women when it comes to dealing with finance.
We included a patented AI-investment tool that turns the investment journey and the investment decisions personalized and automates the trade execution. We want to pass the message for women that finance is not half as difficult as making a cake: everybody is welcome to try this new experience.
According to your research on Gender and Technology, do you believe that women have specific needs when it comes to finance? What kind of special solutions or products will ElasBank be able to offer women?
Yes, the needs that women have are not the same as the needs that men have.
Women have less social security, they suffer from violence, they are not socially motivated for STEM-jobs, they have babies and take care of small children, they are responsible for more than 70% of housework, they get paid less money than men at the same job level, they are the majority at the informal economy, more women lack financial literacy and save less for retirement – this list can be even much more extensive.
As a consequence, their health security products are more expensive, they have lower credit ratings, less time to save for the future, lower amount of money to save for the future, less guarantees to pay back money, and finally, less money to invest.
We must make it easier for women to plan their futures, especially over longer timeframes, pave the way for a dependent woman into independence, for a mother to walk away from an abusive partner, for a young woman to get a college degree and set up her own business. And not just one. There are more than 100 million women living in Brazil. Can you even imagine the extraordinary impact that could have on the country’s economy?
But it all starts with a woman understanding her own life situation: It is much easier for women if they invest according to the objectives they have in life. So, you choose, for example, ‘I want to have a house’, ‘I want to have a car’, ‘I want to pay for my daughter’s university’, ‘I want to have money for my retirement’. Once you’ve chosen the combination of your goals, our platform will help you pick the most adequate investments and rebalances automatically when markets change.
“There are more than 100 million women living in Brazil. Can you even imagine the extraordinary impact that could have on the country’s economy?”Vanise Zimmer, Founder and President – ElasBank
Name one way in which you think women can do more to support female entrepreneurs and business owners? For example: mentorship, information sharing, emotional support, etc.
Women should take more advantage of formal and informal social networking for business. Most of us are interested in this, but very often, defined by social expectations, do not think they could go after it directly. I think it is important to create more opportunities where women can interact to support each other and help one another.
Any guidance for women who are looking to start a business?
Being an entrepreneur is very different from being an employee. Have in mind: everything not done, will be your responsibility to do. Never think that others will do it for you. And success mainly depends on how much you, as the business owner stays involved. But fighting as a lonely wolf is not a realistic possibility – you need reliable partners and people to change ideas. So, connect to women networks, go to Meet Up Groups, and do not be afraid to learn from bad experiences.
Do you think women need to be more independent and have financial freedom/security?
Yes. We are not told to talk about finance, save for the future, learn STEM, invest or save for the future or emergencies. We need to be the owner of our financial lives.
What kind of obstacles if any, have you experienced in your career?
I come from a worker and artist family; my mother was an opera singer, and my father was a mechanic. I learned from them that life can be fun and difficult at the same time, that there is no limit when you have passion for what you do and that a female artist is as important as a male mechanic. I also learned not to be afraid when I am confronted by men and that mathematics and science are important as well as beautiful and that every human being should have a good quality of life.
Tell me one thing which brings a smile to your face? And one thing which makes you sad?
When my 10-year old daughter tells me that she loves math and will open her own bank. I become sad when I hear phrases like “this is not for a woman to do”.
How important is Mental Wellness for women who don’t know how to turn off their phones or give themselves a break from working?
Mental Wellness is important to everybody in the same way. More than 300M of people are suffering from depression and stress in the world because they forget their most important human needs: to be happy and to do what they want to.
Name something unique about your country / city (Brazil)
Brazil is a country of continental dimensions. With a population of 220M people, most parts of Brazil have a low population density. This makes access to financial services difficult. On the other hand, people adore cell phones and are now able to use them to access new and innovative services like ElasBank. Technology is an important as well as critical driver for prosperity in Brazil.