At least, that’s how Jonathan Moulds (pictured), Europe president at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, sees it. The bank is backing our Christmas appeal after seeing the difference our charity of choice makes to people’s lives in poor countries such as Malawi.
“The philosophy of providing people with the opportunity to improve their standard of living, to provide a sense of dignity and to succeed in life is so important,” Moulds says. “What is great about Opportunity International is that people are not only given the chance to help themselves, but in doing so, they help the community at large.”
Opportunity’s work strikes a chord with him because it delivers real economic benefits for those it touches. By helping entrepreneurs to access the finance they need, it helps to turn micro-businesses into employers and suppliers of others.
“It takes us back to the very roots of banking. Its business model reflects the importance of savings and access to funding. Even a small loan, managed properly, can change a person’s life,” Moulds says.
“Fostering small businesses also creates a multiplier effect, empowering and enabling growth and potential.”
BofA Merrill’s ethos is to invest in organisations that contribute to economic opportunities, such as by educating people to give them life skills or greater financial independence.
Employees are also encouraged to get involved. In the City, the bank is part of the Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership, where volunteers work with local schools to raise students’ aspirations, prepare them for the world of work and teach personal financial accountability.
Each year, more than 200 of the bank’s staff deliver learning activities to more than 3,500 students.
Moulds says such interventions are vital, particularly now.
“In today’s economically uncertain times, it is more essential than ever for the City to continue to provide financial support to organisations that invest in employability, economic independence and individuals’ business skills,” he says.
It can create prosperity in communities that benefits everyone that works in and with them, he believes. “By supporting and strengthening communities they become economically stronger and more independent – which leads to a healthy environment in which to do business.”