Nurturing Social Change at HSBC
Cynthia D’Anjou-Brown, head of philanthropy and family governance advisory services for Asia-Pacific, Private Wealth Solutions at HSBC Private Banking, shows how HSBC works with families, partners and beneficiaries to make lasting changes
While the ultimate goal of social and environmental impact has always been the same, the approach is constantly evolving. Today, strategic and hands-on donors expect innovation, sustainability and close relationships with causes and charities to ensure they are maximising their investment and impact.
“For this reason, the relationship we have with our philanthropists, partners and community beneficiaries is a dynamic one,” says Cynthia D’Anjou-Brown, head of philanthropy and family governance advisory services for Asia-Pacific, Private Wealth Solutions at HSBC Private Banking.
“Opportunities to effect social change can come through non-governmental organisations (NGOs), of course: but they can also come through government schemes or agencies, social enterprises or fledgling groups that need help with a great idea. Family-driven initiatives are also increasingly supported as members pursue entrepreneurial approaches to solving issues—it’s in their blood-line.”
See also: Why Sustainability Matters At HSBC
Leveraging HSBC’s extensive networks, the philanthropy team at HSBC Private Wealth Solutions provides access to a wealth of social investment opportunities. The bank has been in the trust business in Hong Kong for more than 70 years and has continually built its NGO database and partnerships during that time. Furthermore, the team also takes family governance into account during the process.
Keeping it in the family
“Our experience in the area of family governance has convinced us that there are real benefits to be accrued from investing in family well-being and development. In this regard, philanthropy is certainly one area for serious consideration,” says D’Anjou-Brown.
“Enhancing participation in a highly valued family activity has the potential to unite members across generations. And the opportunity to contribute to the wider family enterprise may be particularly relevant for those not in the day-to-day running of the family business. Collective decision-making, regular communication, problem solving, and stewardship of jointly-held assets are key to healthy family governance, and therefore, families.”
Today’s philanthropy landscape gives enough scope and choice for different family members to take action based on their preferences and skill sets. “We have noted a growing interest in social enterprises and social impact investing alongside the more traditional grantmaking. And we are working with more families keen to drive a particular project from conception to implementation, and to make it sustainable,” says D’Anjou-Brown, who also says that collective action through joint funding and regular networking is growing in Hong Kong, as well as corporate sustainability programmes.
“We put effort into helping to ensure that we can match donors with the causes they care about or are uniquely positioned to help with”
Staying in the know
In addition, the team follows social and environmental issues and grassroots NGOs or volunteer groups through social media—a unique approach to keeping abreast of different citizen voices and exploring collaboration and learning opportunities.
“This effort helps to ensure that we can match donors with causes they care about or are uniquely positioned to help with,” says D’Anjou-Brown. “This is important because we find that philanthropists have the biggest impact when their interests, passions or expertise are engaged. We can work with them and take care of the rest."
“Once a cause or a project is identified, we walk alongside our clients, providing advice and support—from advising on strategy and set-up to handling grants administration or cash management. We plug into whatever our clients want and help them to achieve their goals.”
It takes a village
The research work that the team does has highlighted many interesting and emerging opportunities for donors. “One connection through social media,” says D’Anjou-Brown, “was a social entrepreneur returning from Japan with a master’s degree in elderly issues who had a desire to share best practices and brainstorm possibilities for establishing an NGO or social enterprise.”
Another innovative project came through a dental student who had heard about a founder who was establishing a clinic for those with learning disabilities and elderly patients—groups who often struggle to access appropriate care. One of the main barriers for the elderly receiving dental services is the daily medication taken for chronic diseases, as many dentists are wary of the complications that can arise from treating such patients.
Similarly, patients with mental health issues may have unique considerations that require specialist care. The proposed solution was a state-of-the-art clinic that was equipped to meet the challenges of the target groups while also applying a sliding-scale fee that supported some free services and would ultimately be sustainable.
The team guided the NGO’s founder, who was inexperienced in submitting proposals to private donors, through its rigorous due diligence process. “It’s easy to think that we only need to find emerging and new charities or social investments as the solution,” says D’Anjou-Brown, “but we have also helped to discover entrepreneurial responses to age-old local issues in large international organisations and well-established local charities.”
For example, an established multi-service charity is tackling the plight of the estimated 100,000 elderly people who live alone and are homebound in some of Hong Kong’s 9,000 buildings that are more than 40 years old and don’t have lifts. A simple solution is to rent a Mobile Stair Climber, sometimes along with a companion caregiver. The demonstration project is now being scaled up and supported by the government and other donors.
Philanthropists themselves are a rich source of new philanthropic interventions—one reintroduced the team to a social enterprise in Mainland China that operates a baking school and French cafes to address vocational gaps for HIV orphans and their families. “Their croissants and baguettes have won international awards and as part of the site visit I just had to indulge,” says D’Anjou-Brown.
Understanding and adapting
It is important to recognise that not all projects turn out as predicted. D’Anjou-Brown believes that it’s important to use feedback loops, experiment and adapt your approach, and to determine your risk appetite at the outset. She says that philanthropy is built on client and community relationships, which are a cornerstone of the business—but it is an art as much as a science.
Nurturing social change is about taking positive steps in the right direction and working with trusted partners who can provide the stewardship needed to make a difference in the long term.
Photography: Moses Ng | Hair and make-up: Jasmine Chan, MAKEUPBEES