SINGAPORE (Reuters) -HSBC Holdings said on Thursday it was launching a $1 billion lending fund to invest in female-owned businesses over the next 12 months.
"The level of funding received over time by female-led businesses is significantly lower than male counterparts, while the recent impacts of the pandemic have seen these same businesses disproportionately affected," Sam Cooper-Gray, global head of market strategy at HSBC Business Banking, said in a statement.
"Female-owned businesses are also less likely to have global networks, meaning international expansion can prove particularly challenging," she said.
The fund appears to cover more markets than any other such initiative.
In January 2021, NatWest Group allocated 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) to support female-led businesses in Britain recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to 1 billion pounds the bank made available in 2020.
HSBC said access to funding remained one of the biggest hurdles for female business leaders worldwide. Female-owned businesses had received just 3% of start-up funding in 2019, HSBC said.
HSBC's Female Entrepreneur Fund will be open to both new and existing customers across 11 markets, with nearly half of them in Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. Other markets include the United States, Britain and Uruguay.
($1 = 0.8202 pounds)
(Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Bradley Perrett)