Banks probably feel like they get a bum rap from consumer groups and the media. Most of the time they deserve it. So when banks do charitable work in the community, is it a cynical marketing ploy or genuine help?
Here are three very different examples of how banks seek to help consumers:
1. Barclaycard is currently offering £1,000 educational grants to lone parents through its Horizons Education programme. Since 2005, the company has donated £7 million to the programme, with 450,000 parents and children helped.
2. Santander has funded a study into expanding the credit union network, and is providing a £100,000 investment into a new assessment system for credit unions.
3. Last year, MBNA launched its ‘Tackling Numbers’ project, aiming to teach basic mathematics skills to thousands of schoolchildren in England, using rugby to promote the understanding and learning of numeracy among seven to nine year olds.
Of course, the amounts donated will often buy the company positive publicity many times more valuable than the actual cash cost.
Banks doing good
But let’s not look at the motivation, but concentrate instead on the benefits. For anyone receiving money from the £7m Barclays fund, for example, this grant could be life-changing.
And there are all the donations we maybe don’t hear about. For example, banks also fund the vital work of free-to-consumer debt organisations, such as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service and Payplan.
Then there’s MyBnk, a social enterprise working to build young people’s knowledge, skills and confidence in managing their money. Look at the funders of the scheme and you’ll spot a whole host of financial providers, including Britannia, Deutsche Bank, Coutts, Charity Bank and JP Morgan Chase.
More than just a bank
For some banks, it’s part of a much wider ethos. The Co-operative Bank, for example, claims it is ‘Good with money’. It’s a clever slogan and reflects the Co-op’s overarching ethical stance. For example, during 2009 the Co-operative invested £11.3m in the community, equivalent to some 4% of its pre-tax profits.
And don’t forget Charity Bank, the only regulated bank in the UK that is also a registered charity. It uses your deposits to finance charities and other social enterprises. Social lending is at the heart of everything it does.
I’m going to take off my cynical hat for once and offer an unequivocal pat on the back for the charitable work banks do.
Do you agree? Should banks give money away to charity and social causes? Or should the money be ploughed back into offering better savings rates, lower borrowing rates, or a higher return for shareholders? And in the spirit of positivity, please do add your own examples of companies doing good for their communities.