That seems like a pretty heavy statement. But, what if I asked you about RBC's Impact Investment Fund, would you know what I was talking about? If I asked whether you had heard of Scotiabank's MobileWallet Project, would you nod your head? I'll go out on a limb and assume you haven't. If you have, that's fantastic!
I've come across these exciting initiatives primarily due to the research I complete throughout my job hunt. Sure, financial institutions make press releases on their websites and talk about initiatives in their Corporate Social Responsibility reports; however, I find it interesting that these types of projects fail to become more mainstream news.
My sentiments are shared by Nick Temple, director of business and enterprise at Social Enterprise UK. In his article 'Social Investment needs to make good use of its reach' for ThirdSector (http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/1155657/social-investment-needs-good-use-its-reach/), Nick says:
It is often culture that prevents the bridging of these mismatches, and examples of real impact on the ground will be crucial to changing that culture. This is the responsibility of brokers, intermediaries and market-builders (including Social Enterprise UK). But it falls even more heavily on Big Society Capital because of its mission to build a plural social investment market. It is already making investments that benefit local communities across the country, but a visitor to its website would be hard pressed to know that, and anyone thinking of acting as an intermediary in order to tackle a particular local problem might not easily find a way in. Roadshows are fine but will only ever reach a tiny percentage of the charities and social enterprises that they need to. And they do need to: it is those charities and social enterprises that Big Society Capital was established to help, and getting investment into them is ultimately how it will be judged.
Let's take a step back to quickly to define 'Impact Investing'.
Impact Investing is a concept that I became much more acquainted with during my MBA. My simplified explanation of impact investing is this: it is a financial investment that concerns itself not only with a monetary return but a socially good return as well. Nicely put by Good.is, impact investing is putting your money to work for your bottom line and your values.
Now, it's time to spread the news about RBC's Impact Investment Fund and Scotiabank's MobileWallet.
RBC's Impact Investment Fund
In brief, RBC's Impact Investment Fund is a commitment of $20M. $10M is dedicated to financing projects by organizations and entrepreneurs who are tackling social and environmental issues and the other $10M is an investment of RBC Foundation's own assets into Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Funds. RBC is prioritizing projects that promote environmental sustainability and water resource management, and those that provide employment opportunities for youth and newcomers to Canada. (http://www.rbc.com/newsroom/2012/0124-social-finance.html)
RBC released the announcement of their Impact Investment Fund in January 2012 and is the first bank in Canada to do something of this nature.
Awesome, right? More awesomeness to come.
Scotiabank's Mobile Wallet
Scotiabank partnered with Digicel and a company called YellowPepper to help the people of Haiti following the earthquake. Over 1/3 of traditional banks were destroyed, and 90% of the population needed a way to bank. The same 90% also owned a mobile phone. Therefore, Scotiabank created a 'mobile wallet' and named the service Tcho Tcho Mobile. It has allowed over 100,000 Haitians to continue their necessary banking using their mobile phones, ensuring continuity in their lives as well as their necessary contribution to the economic rebuilding of their nation. (Scotiabank's 2010 CSR Report, http://www.scotiabank.com/...R_Report_2011_English_final.pdf)
Ultimately the point I'm getting at is that only through a deep interest and a lot of research might you chance upon the great work that large financial institutions are doing. In my opinion, these institutions are significant game changers in transforming societal priorities and values. Keeping their relationship with social investments and initiatives secret doesn't serve to increase awareness, support, or social good for local and international communities.
With that said, here are a few preliminary suggestions to get the awareness ball rolling:
Suggestions1) Give more prominence on websites to these projects and through social media
2) Educate the public through events, conferences, etc.
3) Build awareness among graduate programs that opportunities like these are available within financial institutions (e.g. MBA recruiting)
My hope is that this trend of social good among Canadian banks continues, grows, succeeds, and becomes just as commonplace as opening a bank account. Society and the world at large will surely thank them!
For more information on impact investing, check out this fantastic article, 'Social Impact Investing: It's not all Wall Street as usual', answering all your questions by Good.is: http://www.good.is/posts/social-impact-investing-it-s-not-wall-street-as-usual/