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In Balance the Banknotes campaign, N26 uses AR to put famous women on cash

  • Challenger bank N26 launched its Balance the Banknotes augmented reality effect to call out the gender bias in banking and financial services.
  • Only 12 percent of women are represented on banknotes around the world.
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In Balance the Banknotes campaign, N26 uses AR to put famous women on cash

In celebration of International Women’s Day, German challenger bank N26 unveiled its Balance the Banknotes augmented reality effect for mobile devices on Facebook and Instagram that showcases inspirational women on dollars and euros. 

The effect is meant to spotlight the gender imbalance in the banking and financial services industry. Women make up more than 50 percent of the workforce in the financial services sector yet under 22 percent are accounted for in leadership roles. 

This imbalance extends to the visual representation of women on banknotes around the world which currently stands at a meager 12 percent. Last month US Senators pushed to prioritize the redesign of the $20 bill with a portrait of leading abolitionist Harriet Tubman after the Trump administration halted the effort earlier.  

“Though women make up half of the population, only 12 percent of bills featuring a person are women, globally, and that includes Queen Elizabeth, who appears on every piece of currency in the Commonwealth,” said Stephanie Balint, N26’s interim general manager in the U.S. 

“N26 is known for disrupting the world of finance and banking with technology, and this is our way of calling attention to this inequality, calling for balance while showcasing the achievements of outstanding women in history at the same time.”

The launch was created in response to this year’s International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge campaign theme that calls out gender bias and inequality while simultaneously celebrating the achievements of women. 

“As a tech company, naturally we chose to use technology to raise awareness of the lack of gender parity on cash notes. We wanted everybody to be able to participate in raising awareness of this important issue from the comfort of their own home,” said Balint. 

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N26 teamed up with Facebook and London based developer Ommy Akhe of Autonommy to create the AR effect. To use the effect, users can scan a $1, $5 and $10 dollar bills with their mobile devices using the Facebook or Instagram camera and N26’s AR effect will superimpose the likeness of one of five significant women onto each of the notes, and multiple notes can also be shown in the same frame. 

“One of the challenges was deciding who to feature on the bank notes. While platform restrictions limited the number of women we could showcase within a single effect, there are innumerable women whose achievements are worth celebrating, well beyond the few we chose for this effect,”said Balint.

Balance the Banknotes features women of record in the U.S such as Rosa Parks, Grace Hopper and Sojourner Truth on the dollar bill. Internationally,  it also depicts Emilia Pardo Bazan and Emmy Noether on the euro. 

Balance the Banknotes has parallels to Varo’s “A bank for all of us” campaign that aims to promote financial inclusion by reimagining the modern and diverse American consumer as the front and center face on a $20 bill. In the future the campaign will also launch a Varo Dollar AR filter that allows users to put their own faces on a $20 bill. 

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