IF you’re looking for just one reason to back City A.M.’s Christmas charity appeal, try this from a banking executive who has been intimately involved with Opportunity International for the past seven years.
“This is not a charity that gives away money. It enables people to realise their entrepreneurship and when you see how much you can achieve with so little it is a humbling experience.” So says Truett Tate (pictured), executive director of Lloyds Banking Group, which is sponsoring our appeal this year.
Tate says his visits to Opportunity’s projects have been inspiring: “You go off with the mindset that this is charity and you end up being in awe of what they are doing and building.”
Lloyds has generated about £250,000 a year for Opportunity for the past five years and Tate, who is responsible for the bank’s corporate and social responsibility efforts, thinks the link with the charity is hugely beneficial.
Lloyds might still be dealing with the after-effects of its acquisition of HBOS, but that hasn’t stopped it being a generous giver to charities.
“Community service is celebrated within the organisation,” says Tate, pointing to a magazine on his office table called Give, which celebrates the contributions Lloyds staff make. He speaks proudly about Dave Charlton, an employee who has taken in 80 foster children over the past 22 years.
Lloyds is also the official bank sponsor of the Olympic and Paralympic games and is a contributor to the High Street Fund, which was set up in the aftermath of the summer riots in the UK. The bank contributed £76m to charitable causes in 2010.
“Opportunity is part of the puzzle,” says Tate, for whom it has become a family affair since his wife also became involved as a volunteer.
Tate says the bank has received nothing but support from regulators and investors, including UKFI, the government-controlled organisation that manages the public’s stake in Lloyds and RBS.
He thinks advanced economies might have something to learn from the methods used by Opportunity, which makes all its borrowers embark on courses covering literacy (both financial and verbal), marketing and entrepreneurship before they qualify for a loan.
“The emphasis is not really about a single entrepreneur but it’s about family and village success. It’s a new definition of capitalism, the kind of vision that might even be championed by the protesters at St Paul’s.”
Tate says he was recently asked at a conference what he considered his dream. He answered: “I think I would like to be introduced as being from Lloyds Banking Group and people would beam, not chuckle or sneer.
“I can imagine us being an organisation known for what it is at its core; for its people, for its commitment and for its courage and leadership. It will be famous for its spirit, its culture and its heart....That will be a great day.”