InterviewWomen Empowered

Enlightening The World Through Female Empowerment

With visions of transcending into segments of the banking system remaining largely untapped, City Alo was developed to ensure accessibility of banking facilities to all. City Bank is passionate about integrating novel initiatives, leading to changes our society must take to accelerate into a better future. The Director of City Bank, Tabassum Kaiser, gives an insight into the division of City Bank that is changing lives through helping establish financial independence in women.
by Ramisha Anan Rahman

The Director of City Bank, Tabassum Kaiser


The female population of Bangladesh comprises 50% of the total population, and yet, the banking sector for women was barely as smooth and efficient as required. With a view to change just that, City Alo was launched in March 2019. In Bengali, the term “Alo” refers to “light” or “enlightenment”, an appropriate name for the banking division poised to empower the female population across the country through financial stability. Rooting for change, City Alo was established with keeping 7 key pillars in mind; financial empowerment, education, protection, information and networking, service delivery, communication, and community. 


While gender discrimination has reduced substantially over the past few decades, Tabassum Kaiser reinforces the need for female empowerment in many sectors of today’s society. Financial dependence on spouses or their families is a problem in many women’s lives, and City Alo employs numerous facilities such as savings accounts and DPS schemes starting from as low as 500BDT to help women become more financially independent. 

As pioneers in the field, City Alo launched the country’s first coffee-conversation-banking branch in Gulshan, Dhaka, providing an enjoyable banking experience whereby customers can indulge in a warm cup of coffee from Gloria Jean’s Coffees while their needs and requests are being processed. 

Additionally, City Alo has partnered with one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the country, North South University, to launch the City Alo Certification Course, comprising 11 weeks of classes aimed at addressing the potential challenges and basics of business to females entrepreneurs, new and existing. Furthermore, this course equips entrepreneurs with skills to propel their professional life through successful businesses and extensive networking. 


Tabassum Kaiser sheds light on the importance of financial independence in women, noting that it helps women feel more secure with their jobs and professional life. City Alo goes beyond the quintessential banking facilities, introducing products and services which enable female entrepreneurs to kick start their business through the help of easily procured financial loans at lower rates. Events, seminars, and live discussions are also carried out frequently to provide support to businesses run by women and highlight the opportunities that are available to them. 

Financial independence is crucial because it acts as a friend to support you when faced with new challenges and changes in life that are bound to spring up through our journeys. 


City Bank strives to achieve sustainability, which is evident in its list of awards and accolades. Rated as one of the top 10 sustainable banks in Bangladesh by Bangladesh Bank in the Sustainability Rating 2020, they are still commended for their performance in sustainable finance, green financing, CSR, etc. 

As a supporter of the green plantation initiative, which planted 200,000 saplings at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar, at Mirasai & Feni economic zones, and Sonadia Eco-Tourism Park, they are big believers of green financing. Furthermore, City Bank continues to build a stable and healthy environment for all by collaborating with “Project Trishna,” an initiative to provide access to safe drinking water, which would help many water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid from spreading. 

Adding to the list of awards, City Bank was also the champion of CSR Banks of Bangladesh, in both 2020 and 2021. 


Since City Alo is still in its early years, it is expanding services and products beyond the urbanized population and catering to women living in rural areas. Through the Agent Banking Division and small segments-including SME Unit Offices, banking facilities are now becoming accessible to women from all walks of life, throughout the country. 


Tabassum Kaiser has been involved as a Board of Director with City Bank since early 2002, and her active contribution as a Vice Chairman for 2 years has ushered in numerous changes in the Bank, including the introduction of City Bank Agora American Express Card, City Bank Dhaka University American Express Card and the launch of City Alo, to name a few. She states that among the 12 Directors, a quarter of them are female Directors, and their opinions and decisions have always been given the utmost respect and priority, further elucidating the common belief at City Bank that everyone deserves the same opportunities regardless of gender or class. 

She adds that one of the biggest struggles women in such positions face in a male-dominated sector is the work-home balance. Women often have to juggle many responsibilities in their families as well as their professional lives, and one is often compromised over the other in such circumstances. Tabassum Kaiser notes that support from both these spheres is required for women to smoothly manage the two. Otherwise, maintaining the attention that a woman’s professional and personal lives demands can become overwhelming. 


As a woman in a leadership role, Tabassum Kaiser hopes to see other women reach new heights. She expresses her wish to see a multifaceted working environment that is discrimination-free and breaks stereotypes and barriers that women face in a sector previously saturated by the male population. 

She advises females to find their passion, hones their craft, and go beyond the status quo to achieve success in their respective fields. Also, she adds that learning to speak up and eliminate the hesitance to express her opinions has helped Tabassum Kaiser move up the ladder and gain success. Fear always accompanies a change or taking an initiative, but she advises women to never let that fear stop them in their tracks and instead work to build an environment where women feel less afraid to leave their comfort zone and take hold of the opportunities that they are equally deserving of. 

Tabassum Kaiser encourages women to stay on top of their game by keeping up with the latest trends and technologies highlighted in various trade publications and leading business sources. “Embrace and study industry-specific analytics, but make sure you know your customer personally. Be open to changes, try new ideas, and never underestimate the power of technology and novel concepts,” she shares, pointing out the need to always evolve. 

To cater to the needs of all employees, a leader needs to pave the way by being empathetic and not reacting negatively to the struggles that many employees come across. This transforms a leader into a role model, serving as a motivation for all employees to go leaps and bounds beyond their perceived limitations. 


Women at leadership positions can play a significant role in reaping maximum benefits for their company, as it inspires other women working at all levels of the sector. Tabassum Kaiser believes that women make incredibly understanding mentors, and speaks about the importance of mentorship in career growth and job satisfaction. Women in higher positions also encourage other women in the company to strive for the best and not settle. Additionally, having more women on board sends a message to the international market that the company does not differentiate between gender or culture. 


Women at top positions have already faced many obstacles that have come in their path, and have successfully overcome those. Therefore, Tabassum Kaiser believes that other women in the sector can benefit from extensive support from their female mentors. A female leader should encourage others to put their name in for new opportunities, apply for promotions and ask for training and mentorships to further enhance their skills. When a female leader holds their subordinates’ hand through her struggles and reminds her of her own potential, it acts as a mental booster for them to muster the courage. 

Tabassum Kaiser advises women to speak about their experiences, loud and clear, and share their wins and losses, and the mistakes they have made along the way to reach such heights. “Women need to know your story, so they can clear the fairy tale from their minds. When they see that the road you traveled is very much like the one they’re on, they’ll start believing they have the power to reach their goals,” she states regarding the need for women in higher positions to be candid. 

A misconception that has become ingrained into our society is that women do not support other women in the field. Tabassum Kaiser adds that this is simply not true, and a strong community of powerful women who are already at the top can be the perfect allies and advocates for other women trying to reach higher positions. 


“Traditional” methods of businesses are rapidly changing and there is no lack of evidence suggesting that women are at the forefront of bringing in these changes. Tabassum Kaiser underlines the need to be adaptable to an ever-changing world, with advances in digital services bringing massive shifts to industries and organizations. 

With bigger plans for City Alo underway, Tabassum Kaiser expresses her wish to see female empowerment accelerate in our country, and amplify the growth of females in leading positions, especially in corporate organizations.

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