Philanthropy: With wealth comes responsibility

Date: 11 Nov 2009


More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle wrote on the need to be judicious in one’s charitable giving: “To give away money is an easy matter, and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it, and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power – nor an easy matter. Hence it is that such excellence is rare, praiseworthy and noble.”

Since Aristotle wrote that, philanthropic giving has arguably gotten even more complicated. The number of charities continues to grow, while increasingly complex financial vehicles are being offered, with more investment-oriented approaches.

The appetite for philanthropy remains undimmed. The likes of Sir Richard Branson and Bill and Melinda Gates, and the foundations they have founded, continue to give a very public face to charitable giving.

More broadly, increasing disposable income and overall wealth have fuelled demand for philanthropy, particularly among High Net Worth individuals. It is estimated that US$41 trillion of intergenerational transfer of wealth will take place between 1998 and 2052, with philanthropy the main beneficiary.

Many Private Bank clients want to be involved in charitable giving and are keen on seeing tangible results in their lifetime. Increasingly, they are turning to their financial advisers for specialist philanthropic advice in order to make their charitable giving as satisfying and effective as possible.

Traditionally, tailored philanthropy programmes focused on providing advice that pre-supposed a certain level of wealth. For some people, particularly those who are unsure how they’d like to give and which cause or causes they’d like to support, this can be intimidating, too structured, and with the entire onus being on the client.

We try to take a different approach at The Standard Chartered Private Bank. Like Aristotle, we believe that any charitable giving needs to be carried out carefully, mindful both of the recipient and of the effect that the philanthropic act will have. We believe that with wealth comes responsibility, and that acts of kindness carry a degree of shared responsibility between client and Private Bank.

‘Investing for a Better Future’ is our comprehensive philanthropy programme, launched in August this year. We have designed this programme to be flexible to the charitable giving needs of our clients. Responsibility should be multi-dimensional, and we provide options that suit each individual’s personal wealth, mindset, family and social conscience.

Often it is not just about the amount of money that is donated – smaller acts of charity can be just as impactful as large ones. Indeed sometimes, it is not even about money. Putting aside time to provide hands-on assistance to charities can be equally important. An increasing number of our clients like to be actively involved in the charities they are supporting and appreciate the opportunity to help, which they are able to do through our programme. One of the key aspects of our programme is the Education & Involvement component, which includes tours and also internships with a number of different charities, including Sight Savers International.

We believe that charitable giving should be easy and meaningful. In order to provide clients with a tailored philanthropy programme, suited to their needs, we work with them to find answers to the key questions of what, where, when and how. Once we have those answers it makes it much simpler to work out a solution.

Above all, we believe that philanthropy should be a partnership between the Private Bank and the client. We even go so far as to donate alongside our clients. As part of Standard Chartered’s Seeing is Believing programme aimed at tackling avoidable blindness, the Private Bank has committed to fund three eye projects over five years, a commitment of around $3 million.

Just as we believe that with wealth comes responsibility, we believe that, as a multinational company and as a financial institution, we have a great responsibility towards the communities in which we operate, particularly given the economic turmoil of the past 18 months.

As Standard Chartered Chief Executive Peter Sands puts it: “Our sustainability agenda must take into account the fundamental task of re-establishing confidence and trust in banks whilst continuing to maintain an unwavering focus on addressing the longer-term social and environmental challenges that the world faces.”

We recognise the responsibility we have to work with our Private Bank clients to help them to give meaningfully. As Aristotle said, to give money away is easy. While we want to make charitable giving easy, we also want to make it effective, enabling our clients to make a collective difference, no matter what their philanthropic objectives might be.

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