Investing in Women: An Interview with Friné Salguero, Director of Fundacion Banorte

Interview By: Dana Preston, Written By: Erin Ginder-Shaw
Friné SalgueroBanorte is the only bank in Mexico with specific financial products and services for women. Its brand, ‘Banorte Mujer’ includes special services and fees for mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts, car insurance, maternity payment plans for pregnant women, and even a stolen purse insurance. Banorte has capitalized on an important reality in Mexico which ranks very low in labor and economic opportunities for women resulting in a substantial economic gender gap. The bank’s foundation, Fundacion Banorte, has recently undergone significant changes in order to reverse this gender gap. In 2014, the foundation hired a new director to align itself with the bank’s attention to serving women. Friné Salguero, who spent the previous 13 years working in civil society behind, was chosen to oversee the foundation’s new mission and to begin affecting change. “Mexico cannot achieve its maximum economic potential if half of its population is disadvantaged,” Salguero says. “Fundacion Banorte seeks to level the playing field for women and work toward equal opportunities for both genders.”
These changes began about a year ago, when Fundacion Banorte began a process to strengthen the foundation as well as the bank’s corporate social responsibility by addressing gender inequality in Mexico. Salguero and the foundation team spent three months planning its new strategy by conducting an exhaustive mapping of Mexican organizations supporting a wide range of women’s rights issues. The next five months financed the foundation’s first round of projects focused on women. Currently, Fundacion Banorte is financing 54 organizations’ projects, with 400,000 direct beneficiaries—250,000 of which are women. “There is a message for corporate philanthropy” in all this, Saluguero says. “It must change. It must have a role that is truly dedicated to social change. It will benefit everyone.” She adds, “We want to affect public policy.”
Salguero is not just professionally, but also personally dedicated to the issue of gender. “I’m a woman and I’m a mother,” she states. “You quickly realize what a challenge that is. It’s a triple load. Today the division of gender roles is more confusing than ever. We’re all exhausted. Family structures have changed. There’s a lot of vulnerability in being economically dependent.” This understanding is at the root of Fundacion Banorte’s work.
From a strictly economic standpoint, “there’s a double impact when you invest in women,” Salguero states. “Fundacion Banorte’s budget is 1% of the bank’s income so we want our investment to go as far as possible. We must generate impact in communities and this happens by investing in women.” Fundacion Banorte’s approach is not only critical to the progression of the issue of gender equity in Latin America, it’s also just plain smart. As Salguero says, “It’s a circle, when women have access to money, they can make decisions with this money and that has a powerful impact on their families and communities.”
In 2015, Fundacion Banorte will launch an open call for proposals, and will also consider the possibility of offering multi-year grants to particularly strong organizations. It’s the beginning of a topical and meaningful shift toward corporate philanthropy, and a chance for Fundacion Banorte to ally itself with Mexican women. “We are trying to foster collective impact,” Salguero says, “the idea is to bring grantees together on a monthly basis so they can work together, share strategies.” This sharing of strategies and ideas will ultimately create a network of organizations with similar goals, all geared toward improving the financial lives of women in Mexico.