How Financial Services brands can make a positive impact

Mick Smyth, Senior Strategist, Siegel+Gale


In the last ten or so years, there has been a clear increase in Financial Services brands actively demonstrating a new level of ethical standards and transparency. In fact, considering the recent challenges, such as the pandemic and the subsequent inflation and cost-of-living crises, many brands are doing some genuinely positive things for our world. Of course, while the 2008 financial crisis was a catalyst in this shift to regain public trust, many brands are leaning on emotion through purpose or values to ensure their efforts authentic. The results of which are high value, human-centric initiatives that benefit our society.

Mick Smyt

However, the recent demise of Silicon Valley Bank, sandwiched by the smaller Silvergate and Signature Banks, has shaken the industry. The shockwaves sent through the global economy are all too familiar. And while for now, it seems the effects won’t reflect 2008, it’s a firm reminder of the frailty of our global economy when exposed by bad actors or a lack of regulation. For those in the industry looking to regain trust through leading by example, the recent events will not have helped their cause.

In the spirit of looking for the positives, I wanted to share some examples of Financial Services brands that are truly making a positive difference in our society and restoring trust in our financial institutions.


Tugende: helping people help themselves

Kampala-based Tugende focuses on informal entrepreneurs seeking to close the credit gap for small businesses in Africa. Initially providing microloans to motorcycle taxis in Uganda, the brand has quickly evolved to offering services such as lease-to-own financing, training and insurance.

Since 2012, Tugende has financed over $60m of income-generating assets, and currently has over 29,000 active clients, all while creating over 800 full-time jobs. From customers and employees to the local economy, Tugende’s actions are rigidly aligned with its mission of ‘helping people help themselves.’


Triodos Bank: promoting quality of life

Based in the Netherlands, Triodos claims to be one of the world’s most sustainable banks. A brand on a mission to ‘help create a society that protects and promotes quality of life and human dignity for all.’ Having launched its first ‘green fund’ all the way back in 1990, it now boasts multiple ethical opportunities. These include four different individual savings accounts as well as current accounts. Investments are designed to have a positive impact on the planet and society, and include financing renewable energy–not fossil fuels, sustainable farming–not fast fashion, and education–not weapons and ammunition.

Unpicking these investments uncovers a vast array of programmes such as community housing, nurseries, and care homes which are all clearly listed on their website. Triodos Bank is very much living its brand values: fairness, sustainability and transparency.


C-Note: closing the wealth gap

CNote is a ‘women-led impact platform that uses technology to unlock diversified community investments to increase economic mobility and financial inclusion.’ In short, this is a bank on a mission to close the wealth gap. California-based CNote’s initiatives include partnerships with the Mastercard Impact Fund, focusing on providing small business loans to women of colour entrepreneurs.

In their 2022 Q4 report alone, the brand highlights that 81% of loans went to BIPOC borrowers, and 97% to low-to-moderate income communities. Delving deeper into these statistics within the Impact Stories section of their website reveals the funding of independent apparel stores, entrepreneurs fighting food insecurity, and a street circus bringing social change. A wide range of programmes that demonstrate the genuine diversity of communities they are empowering.


Amalgamated Bank: financing opportunities for people

Another New York-based institution, Amalgamated Bank, is the largest and one of the only union-owned banks in the United States. Founded nearly 100 years ago, providing working people financing opportunities on par with businesses and the wealthy were key drivers in its formation.

Today, the brand offers a minimum hourly wage of $20 (well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25) while also supporting New York legislation for a fair minimum wage of $15 per hour in the ‘Fight for $15.’ With clients such as Renew Capital–the Africa-focused impact investment firm–and initiatives such as the focus on accessible identification for opening current accounts, Amalgamated Bank is living its mission to be ‘America’s socially responsible bank.’


Lemonade: digital insurance built on social impact

Founded in 2015, Lemonade is a recognised B-Corporation insurance brand operating out of New York. Asking potential customers to forget their preconceptions of the industry, it positions itself as digital insurance built on social impact. The brand removes any temptation to refuse payment to policyholders by only taking a flat fee and donating the remainder of unspent policies to non-profit organisations.

In 2022 alone, over $1.8m was donated to 59 non-profits with programmes ranging from cleaning beaches to feeding school children in Somalia, to providing clean and safe drinking water to people in Mali. Initiatives all chosen by policy holders. The brand’s mission, ‘to transform insurance from a necessary evil into a social good,’ is clearly reflected in each action.


What can other brands learn from this?

Whether in Uganda, the US or the Netherlands, 100 years old or recently founded, a large corporate or start-up, there is a red thread that connects the above brands. Each is led by something authentic. Whether it’s a set of values, a mission or a vision, there is a genuine desire to do something positive for our society. Brand is utilised to clearly communicate their intentions to both employees and the wider world, and to guide stakeholder decision-making. And although they may arguably be ahead of many of their peers, what they do can be emulated. Matching words with actions. Being transparent. Just adding genuine value to your customers and the society in which they live. The opportunity is there.




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