Purposeful Businesses Leveling The Playing Field
This article was originally published on Forbes.
While Covid-19 unleashed unprecedented challenges globally, it was a game changer for the financial services sector. The adoption of online banking, digital payments and e-commerce soared as consumers turned to technology to fulfill their everyday needs while under lockdown. This shift toward digital financial services has driven greater financial inclusion globally, enabling the unbanked and underserved population to participate in the internet economy.
In developing countries, excluding China where digital payments are widespread, some 40% of people who made a digital payment from their account—whether to a merchant or for a utility service—did so for the very first time since the start of the pandemic, according to the World Bank.
Imparting Digital Literacy And Skills
But while technology is often seen as an enabler, there remains a digital divide. Marginalized or lower-income groups may not be able to afford devices that would allow them to go online, while some may not have the skills to do so. In Singapore, technology is still uncharted territory for many seniors. To address this gap, OCBC Bank launched the OCBC Digital Silvers program for customers aged 60 and above so that they can not only learn about digital banking but also how to steer clear of online scams. This one-on-one coaching, conducted at the bank’s heartland branches, helps these seniors build their confidence and pick up digital skills, which are quickly becoming essential to daily living.
OCBC Bank volunteers switched to virtual volunteering when face-to-face engagement with its beneficiaries was discontinued due to the pandemic.
As part of the program, the bank is conducting more than 25 workshops on how to bank and pay digitally until June 2023, benefiting more than 400 elderly customers.
Another effort aimed at expanding financial inclusion is the OCBC-NTUC First Campus Bridging Program, which makes preschool education free for children from low-income families. The program runs from 2020 to 2024 and is expected to benefit 2,500 children. Additionally, OCBC Bank staff volunteers offer financial literacy workshops for the parents of these children to help them better manage their family finances.
These efforts—which fall under the #OCBCCares program carried out across the bank’s key markets— demonstrate OCBC’s commitment to uplifting communities by equipping them with the right tools and knowledge to succeed. This aligns with the bank’s purpose of helping individuals and businesses across communities achieve their aspirations by providing innovative financial services that meet their needs.
“The #OCBCCares program centers on what truly matters. We have been supporting the vulnerable and underprivileged in society by identifying and addressing gaps not commonly met. This is done with funding of specific programs and staff volunteerism,” says Koh Ching Ching, Head of Group Brand & Communications, OCBC Bank.
OCBC Bank developed training materials to equip parents from low-income families with the skills to plan for their financial needs.
“Since 2022, we have set a new pathway for staff volunteerism beyond companionship and activities—skills-based volunteering. Our staff volunteers use their skills in data analytics, money management, fraud surveillance and digital or personal development to give to charities and their beneficiaries what they truly need.”
For its efforts, OCBC Bank was named a Champion of Good in 2017, 2020 and 2022 by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). Champions of Good is a national recognition initiative which celebrates organizations that are exemplary in doing good and are multipliers by galvanizing and collaborating with strategic partners, stakeholders and non-profit organizations.
Democratizing Financial Services
Another Champion of Good 2022 is global digital payments platform PayPal. The company believes in democratizing financial services and plays a key role in driving inclusive economic growth.
“By embedding purpose into our business, we can better serve and create value for our stakeholders and build a more trusted, fair and inclusive commerce experience for buyers, sellers and marketplaces all over the world,” says Aaron Wong, CEO of PayPal Pte Ltd. This strong purpose means that PayPal is “not just serving blue-chip companies, but also the smallest merchants… anyone who wants to sell,” Wong says.
Singapore-based PayPal employees came together to pack school necessities, including laptops that were procured using the PayPal Community Impact Grants, for children from low-income families.
PayPal’s employees share this vision of powering an equitable and inclusive global economy. In 2022, the volunteer hours of its Singapore-based workforce grew 20%, and total employee donations increased 27% compared to the previous year. Its Community Impact Teams are powered by employees who bring their personal passions to their communities by partnering with local non-profits to make a positive social or environmental impact through volunteering, employee-sourced local grants and fundraising.
PayPal plays a key role in helping small businesses and social enterprises in Singapore with their digital transformation. During the pandemic, PayPal mobilized its employees and partners to develop customized solutions for specific business problems. As a result, traditional brick-and-mortar businesses gained exposure to digital concepts and platforms that they could adopt in areas such as e-commerce, social media and digital payments. These businesses were able to increase their reach and engage in cross-border selling by using PayPal’s payment platform, a key enabler for small businesses to participate in the global economy.
More than 40 PayPal employees joined Aaron Wong, CEO of PayPal Pte Ltd at the “Back to School” packing event, in support of TOUCH Community Services.
While fulfilling its mission in the larger world, the company also looked within to assess its employees’ financial health. In 2018, PayPal learned that many of its employees were facing financial struggles despite being paid a competitive wage. In response, the company introduced a set of programs designed to help its employees build their financial security. This included making every full-time employee a shareholder of the company, enhancing benefits, raising wages where needed and providing financial planning tools.
“Prioritizing the financial health and security of our workforce provides our employees with the capacity to innovate for our customers and communities throughout the world,” says Wong.
Driving Satisfaction, Winning Trust
Both PayPal and OCBC Bank acknowledge that having a strong corporate purpose has earned them a distinct advantage in the marketplace.
Wong believes that when employees see the value of a strong corporate purpose, it will drive satisfaction at work and increase productivity. It helps the company attract (and retain) staff because “people want to join a company that has a greater purpose,” he says.
For OCBC Bank, having a clear purpose has been a positive force for its brand reputation, helping the bank win the trust of its stakeholders.
As economic and social needs change, businesses understand the need to shift their focus on shareholders to stakeholders, contribute more actively to the communities in which they operate and do right and do good as they do well, starting from their core purpose of being.
NVPC is working with various stakeholders including government bodies, associations, universities, NGOs and intermediaries to leverage their specialized and complementary skills and resources to create an enabling, thriving ecosystem for corporate purpose. It recently announced a new Company of Good strategy and recognition model, which focus on a transformational shift toward corporate purpose.