Over the past year, I have said frequently that firms in the City are too quiet when there is good news to tell. All too often, the negative stories are the ones that gain the most headlines – normally involving rogue operators or massive fines.
This coverage is wholly disproportionate – and wholly depressing. This great City is the pre-eminent global financial centre, and the engine of our economy, for a reason. Its most precious asset is its people: a uniquely diverse talent pool that is world-renowned for fairness, equality and upholding the highest standards of the rule of law. But you don’t need to be doing business with them to benefit. What about all the brilliant things the City is doing in our communities – to support the workforce of tomorrow? Where is the publicity for the thousands of firms silently supporting our young people through mentoring, training and apprenticeships?
This week, 16 year-olds up and down the UK will nervously open envelopes containing their GCSE results. It goes without saying that “education” is the main story in town. But do we know how businesses are helping students to achieve their best in exams, and step closer to their chosen careers? I ask because, if we don’t know, we can’t appreciate the impact it is having. And we won’t know to encourage more of it.
Every week, staff from City firms spend their lunchtimes as reading, writing, IT and number partners to children in local schools – through the charity Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership. Every week, 2,200 volunteers, from organisations including Lloyd’s of London, Baker & McKenzie, the Bank of England and Mayer Brown, partner primary school children to help improve their literacy and numeracy – and wider educational standards.
Let me give you another example, one particularly close to my own heart: the work so many companies are doing to help children and young people with disabilities. Have you ever contemplated the numerous hurdles faced by those with vision or hearing impairments during their formative years? Did you know that only a third of deaf children in England leave secondary school having hit national GCSE benchmarks? This compares with two-thirds for their hearing classmates.
That is why it is so good to see so many City companies offering pro bono support to local and national charities. Law firm Fieldfisher is among them, and it’s teamed up with the National Deaf Children’s Society to help families at tribunals and judicial reviews get what they need to access the curriculum. UBS is also doing a tremendous amount – since 2005, it has given over £12m of support (financial, in-kind and employee volunteering) to the borough of Hackney for the benefit of over 5,000 individuals.
These are precisely the stories we never really hear about: the companies that create and contribute immense wealth – of time and resource – to our communities; the companies helping our young people to progress up the career ladder and achieve their goals – whether scoring top notch GCSE grades, jumping onto an apprenticeship scheme, or taking their first steps as a City professional.
City Giving Day, on 30 September, provides the perfect chance to celebrate everything that the City is doing to help our young people achieve success – for themselves, for their loved ones, and for our whole society. This is a great, “good news” story! And we in the City need to tell it more loudly, and more proudly. Because you all deserve to hear it and take pride in what your City – this great global City – is all about. Do you have a fantastic story to tell? Could your firm help train young talent? Please get involved and be part of one of the City’s oldest traditions: to build a strong, healthy society and help those in need.