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Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alan Yarrow, toured the streets of the City Sep 30th visiting a number of firms who applied for the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award and seeing first-hand what they do to give back to society.
Opening the procession at the Guildhall Yard he said to the representatives of various charities present: “Volunteering is an incredibly important part of all our background. Andrew Haldane [Chief Economist, Bank of England] did a survey into volunteering and it turned out that volunteers create each year economic value of at least £50 billion and potentially higher. When I started to work in the City, I was proud, really proud, to work in the City. And then you think about these poor kids who sit in a pub in Essex or Sussex or somewhere and they say: “What do you do?” I work in a City. And they are like: “Ugh!” That’s got to stop. If you look back at the work the City has done, it is phenomenal. And that’s the point: if we talk about it more, I think more people will do it. It is good for the City, it is good for charities, it is a win-win for everyone”.
He then visited offices of Euroclear PLC, NatWest, Alium Partners, Societe Generale, City A.M, Barclays, Lloyds Register, Jardine Lloyd Thompson PLC, UBS Ltd to see first hand what they do to give back to society.
Regional Director at NatWest (RBS) Jason Coles explained that about two years ago the City of London offered various companies to team up with the City and encourage employees to give back to the society. Nine months ago the board of directors of RBS has decided to divide England into regions and go out to find charitable organisations to choose ones to support over the next 12 months. They set up a Skills and Opportunities fund (http://skillsandopportunitiesfund.rbs.com) for charities, social enterprises, community groups, state-funded schools and colleges across the UK and Ireland. The fund supports disadvantaged communities by helping people learn new skills, get into the world of work or set up their own business. This year £2.5m is available through the fund. Representatives of the charities and businesses that NatWest helped through the fund were also present to showcase their work to the Lord Mayor.
Among them: Ignition brewery that employs people with learning disabilities, Fashion Awareness Direct (FAD) — fashion charity that helps people form disadvantaged backgrounds to learn skills needed to work in the fashion industry, City of London police that works with NatWest to understand fraud and teaches endangered communities how to deal with it.
“The estimated amount fraud and internet crime costs every year is £52 bn and only 10% of it is reported” said Laura Harris, Community Protection Adviser of NatWest.
Not only people were present, but a dog too. Hearing dog. NatWest is also helping to fund the training of a hearing dog Nelson. They raised £10 000, which is 25% of the cost to train a hearing dog who will then work with people with hearing problems.
Jason Coles explained: “We at RBS are encouraging employees to use three volunteer days per year to go into the community and pick up with local organisations. Most people now are really conscious about the skills they have and what can they give back to the society, particularly through the charities that resonate with them. We have volunteer days that count as work time. We want to see our stuff out in the communities”.
As part of their giving back to the community program NatWest is focusing on: giving skills to the young people and anyone in deprived areas who needs help to get into the workstream, sponsoring buildings across the UK where people can go and work free of charge. Another key thing is a school program, when NatWest employees go into schools and teach kids about managing finances from the age of 11 and upwards, so they understand what it is to have an account, savings account, what pensions mean, which ensures that when they get their first employment their knowledge about personal finance is quite structured and they understand what they need to do. Another key focus is helping entrepreneurs.
“When we started looking into that particular arena we were amazed by the amount of creative people and now we are helping to get their ideas off the ground. We help them to prepare for the pitches, help with the business plan, look into sustainability and if it can work. Sometimes their website is weak or they do not know about marketing, so we try to put them in contact with various parts of our business and lots of people are really really ready to help. We met an entrepreneur the other day, he was 72. He starts a pharmaceutical business”.
Jason Coles himself thought about ways to help school in his area, where only 30% of children have English as their first language. So nine months ago he took a governor role. That is the way for the banking and finance professionals to go into schools and look into their finances, look into the wastage and eradicate that. Mr Coles also supports local cricket clubs and rugby clubs.
“My family, my children, people who work in my local branch in Richmond Hill are taking time out during weekends and are scrubbing the decks down, repainting the halls, decorating the kitchens, help to repair the building. It is great! My colleague is supporting a food bank program. It is also about ensuring that we leave a legacy. We are a big organisation, we have thousands of people with various skills, how do we get these people to go out and share these skills? It is not just about money anymore”.
Photo: Sergei Valmon