News Column

When applying for a loan, make sure you speak to a banker of the same sex

July 28, 2014

Patrick Collinson, theguardian.com



Are you looking for a loan to buy a car or set up a business? Don't ask someone of the opposite sex, according to a 10-year study which found that male bank staff offer women worse interest rates and repayment terms and vice versa.

The research, by Cass Business School, part of City University London, found that borrowers are charged higher interest rates and receive smaller loans from bank staff of the opposite sex. On average, borrowers paid 0.35% to 0.4% more for a loan, and the repayment period was around 4% shorter, when the decision was taken by someone of the opposite sex.

However, the research was not based on decisions made by a British bank. Cass Business School analysed 5,000 loans granted by a large bank in Albania, where social and cultural attitudes are arguably quite different to the UK.

Thorsten Beck, the professor behind the study, said gender bias could have harmful consequences for consumers and banks alike. "We found gender bias creeps into the decisions of loan officers when they deal with small loan requests from customers on whom they have little information"

He added that while it was an Albanian bank, it was the local operation of a larger international lender.

The worst gender bias among bank staff was from recent recruits rather than those with longer experience in granting loans. "Inexperienced bank staff matched to opposite-sex borrowers charge, on average, 0.6% higher interest rates," said Beck. But after a few years of working in the bank, decisions became more equalised.

Professor Beck said that knowing when gender discrimination was most likely to occur would help banks guard against it.

"We found that loan officers have less discretion to indulge in their gender preferences when banks face greater competition from outside lenders, leading managers to more closely monitor loan decisions, or in large branches, where it is easier to replace staff."


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Source: Guardian Web


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