Juliet Agnew, Head of Philanthropy at Barclays Private Bank tells Citywealth why she has the best job; helping clients to find the most fulfilling and impactful approach to their giving.
Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.
I am the Head of Philanthropy for Barclays Private Bank. The Philanthropy Service exists to educate, inspire and support our clients and their families on their philanthropy journeys, whether they are just starting out or experienced givers seeking to review their approach or deepen their impact. I help clients to think through their passions and motivations and how to involve the family in decisions. I share best practices, help them to problem solve, explore and refine their ideas, and connect them to expert insights and resources to ensure their giving has maximum impact. I really have the best job – it is a privilege to be able to be part of such a personal and rewarding experience and to offer such a unique value add to our clients.
Talk us through one of your most recent client mandates
I have recently worked with a client who is in the early stages of setting up a family foundation. He has wide ranging interests and was struggling to work out how to focus, prioritise and take the first steps. We spent some time exploring his interests, what he wanted to get out of his philanthropy and honed in on two thematic areas to look into. As part of this, he was keen to contribute to communities in India but didn’t know how to start. He also wasn’t aware of how much the landscape in India had changed as a result of Covid-19. To support him further, I connected him with local experts who could help him source the best local charities and learn from a community of other funders. He is now taking the first steps towards giving in India whilst also working with a family member to explore a second area of interest for his philanthropy in the UK.
What should clients know about Barclays’ approach to philanthropy?
At Barclays Private Bank, we recognise that giving is extremely personal, so we take a highly bespoke approach. No two donors are the same, and this is one of the most exciting things about philanthropy. At the same time, no one needs to do it alone – there are fantastic resources, best practices and stories to share which can help to ensure money is not wasted and that donors have the most rewarding experience possible. We can also point to what we know from evidence really works and the areas or themes that have the greatest need or most potential “bang for buck”. But whatever the client is interested in, we work to ensure their giving has the best possible outcome. Philanthropy has a unique and important role to play in the world and I want to support our clients and their families in finding the most fulfilling and impactful experiences.
Most memorable work moment?
Heading in to Barclays’ office at Canary Wharf for the first time after several months of working from home in the new role. It was exciting and daunting and made me realise quite how much the world has changed over the past 18 months. Aside from this, my most memorable experiences are always client meetings. It is very special to be part of the intimate conversations that take place when philanthropy is on the table. Sometimes we cover big topics, like the best way to tackle poverty and inequality; but we also talk children and family, how to ensure kids are equipped for the future, how to use wealth to live a better life and the personal stories that have inspired their giving. Philanthropy provides an opportunity to address all of these topics, and through this role I have an amazing window into the lives of the people we serve at the Private Bank. It is a total privilege to be able to listen and support in this way.
What’s the biggest challenge philanthropists are currently facing?
I would say the potential for overwhelm. There are over 160,000 charities in the UK alone and the scale and complexity of global challenges that philanthropy is called on to address – from climate change, to poverty, food insecurity and racial injustice – is such that some philanthropists understandably struggle to focus or find where to start. For those further down the line, the challenge is often about remaining connected and bringing others on the journey in the midst of the complexity. We try to simplify the process, put first things first, and help them find the right kind of learning and experience from the get go. Philanthropy is such an important force for good in the world and we need to ensure that clients are supported, informed and connected in these efforts.
Are your clients behaving differently post-pandemic?
Both from research and from conversations with clients we saw how philanthropy really stepped up during the pandemic. This is not surprising – Covid-19 affected everybody in some way and we were all confronted with our own mortality. The pandemic also highlighted issues of inequity as well as the problems we are having in the area of climate change – matters that go right to the heart of some of the concerns of our clients. So it is not surprising that we are seeing over time an increasing number of clients interested in giving back, as well as more interest in sustainable and impact investments. A recently published research report produced by Campden Wealth on behalf of Global Impact Solutions Today (GIST) and Barclays Private Bank, Investing for Global Impact 2021, which considers the views of some of the world’s wealthiest families, revealed that 86% of wealth holders believe that private capital is critical in the fight against climate change. This is a significant, positive indication of the direction of travel of some of the world’s wealthiest individuals.
Best and worst parts of your job?
Aside from working directly with clients and their families, I really enjoy building content and running philanthropy events and podcasts for our client base. In order to do this effectively I need to understand what the key challenges and concerns are in doing philanthropy, then find speakers and curate topics and contents that will provide insights, practical guidance and inspiration. This means I get to have conversations with some of the world’s leading experts and innovators.
The hardest part is simply wishing I had more time. Philanthropy is a huge topic; there are so many areas of interest for our clients. One of my goals in the coming year is to begin to build a digital archive of philanthropy content so that our clients can access a library of resources around the topics that interest them the most to support their learning.
What’s your best lockdown learning – professional or personal.
Mindset is everything. As a parent and busy professional, lockdown was a tough juggling act and I really had to get clear on my priorities but also just accept that this was a season when everything would just have to be different. At times it was difficult to find balance. What worked for me was to make sure I spent time every day defining the most important tasks I had to achieve, but also making sure there was some space every day for exercise. This was a non-negotiable throughout lockdown to manage stress, clear my head and get some perspective. Aside from that, I knew we just had to get through it and that I had a degree of choice about my mindset. Acceptance helped me to free up energy to enjoy the surprisingly positive aspects of lockdown too, like more time together as a family.