Will Women Lead the Wealth Stakes? BANKS ARE UNLOCKING THE VALUE OF FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS AS THEY CATCH UP IN THE RACE FOR RICHES

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), November 19, 2006 | Go to article overview

Will Women Lead the Wealth Stakes? BANKS ARE UNLOCKING THE VALUE OF FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS AS THEY CATCH UP IN THE RACE FOR RICHES


Byline: JO THORNHILL

Lisa Tobias is one of a growing number of women who are prepared to go it alone and set up their own business. Seven years ago, Lisa was a lowly branch trainee at pizza company Domino's. But today she owns franchises for three of the company's branches in Scotland and has ambitions to expand her business.

'I started at Domino's when I was 18,' says Lisa, 25, from Glasgow. 'Within a year I was shop manager and I soon won the company's manager of the year award. 'I then began to get the idea that I wanted to do this for myself. I realised I was good at what I was doing and I was keen to be my own boss.'

With a little financial help from her family and start-up finance from Bank of Scotland, Lisa paid [pounds sterling]70,000 for her own Domino's franchise in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.

Today, helped by her husband, Graeme, 26, she runs two additional outlets, in Ayr and Clydebank, Lanarkshire.

'I've thoroughly enjoyed starting my own business,' says Lisa. 'It is high pressure at times because the buck stops with you and along the way you make some awful mistakes. But you learn from them and when things go well it is incredibly rewarding.' Since taking the plunge, Lisa has received invaluable advice from Bank of Scotland.

'It can be difficult as a young woman to start a business,' she says. 'But my business manager has been excellent and I have valued the advice and help I have received.' Like most High Street banks, Bank of Scotland recognises the importance of women entrepreneurs. Three years ago, it set up a Women in Business Unit to cater specifically for the growing number of female customers.

Today, the unit employs three fulltime female staff who provide financial and banking advice. It encourages businesswomen to meet and exchange ideas and experiences. The unit also offers a mentoring service and produces a biannual magazine, Big Fish.

The bank is a member of the Global Banking Alliance set up six years ago with the aim of encouraging more women to set up businesses and to improve their access to financial services. Earlier this month, GBA held its fifth annual summit in Glasgow.

Clare Logie has been director of the Women in Business Unit since its formation. 'Banks are increasingly looking at the commercial impact women have as consumers and businesswomen in driving the economy,' she says.

'This was the initial reasoning behind setting up the unit. We are not about positive discrimination or putting women in an exclusive box. Put simply, our aim is to encourage, support and give advice to women in business so that they can help themselves progress.' In addition to traditional banking services, most High Street banks now provide a range of facilities tailored to women.

Lloyds TSB offers financial support for its female business customers to go on personal development courses.

It also organises regular networking events and encourages women from ethnic backgrounds to enter business, sponsoring the Black Women in Business Awards and the Asian Women of Achievement Awards.

Meanwhile, HSBC supports Aurora, the women's business network, and is a partner of support organisation WiRE - Women in Rural Enterprise. Barclays runs 500 free seminars each year for women, or men, who want to start their own business while NatWest sponsors the Everywoman awards for women in business.

NatWest also provides online business advice and o r g a n i s e s nationwide conferences for female entrepreneurs. Its parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland, is working with development agency Scottish Enterprise on ways to encourage more women into business.

Alison Newton, 43, from Glasgow, is a partner at law firm McGrigors in the city. …

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