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At Maybank, CSR serves mission of 'humanising financial services'

Maybank and Etiqa volunteers with Denise Phua, mayor of Central Singapore District. The Maybank Family Fund focuses on the financial empowerment and inclusion of lower-income families.

"The challenge is to maintain a good balance between doing well (growing the business) and doing good (making a positive impact in the community)." - Dr John Lee, country CEO & CEO Maybank Singapore


IT CAN be argued that a bank's core mission - stripping down all financial jargon and complexities - is a social one: providing financial access to individuals and communities.

And so it seems fitting that Maybank ensures that its corporate philanthropy efforts line up behind its stated mission of "humanising financial services", with programmes that aim not merely to give but also to equip families with financial knowledge.

Deliberate, strategic corporate philanthropy was not always the norm for Maybank though. "Over the years, we have evolved from supporting one-off good causes, to focus on short-and-mid-term community empowerment programmes," says John Lee, country CEO & CEO Maybank Singapore, of the bank's approach to corporate giving.

"When businesses take a strategic approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR), there can be opportunities to create shared value for growth, or help manage risks in areas of material concern," he adds.

For instance, the bank's Maybank Family Fund focuses on the financial empowerment and inclusion of lower-income families.

It supports programmes such as CashUP Family Savers, a financial literacy course for families covering basics such as budgeting and saving that is followed by a dollar-for-dollar matched savings programme to incentivise participants to put in practice what they learnt. Since its launch in 2011, more than 1,300 families have participated and over S$493,000 in matched savings has been disbursed.

Other projects supported by the fund keep to the theme of financial empowerment too: one matches the savings of children with credits that can be used to attend enrichment classes; another offers two years of personal accident insurance for free to families already receiving financial assistance.

"The challenge is to maintain a good balance between doing well (growing the business) and doing good (making a positive impact in the community)," says Dr Lee.

So, while the bank states its commitment to providing people with easy access to financing at fair terms and pricing, it also needs to prioritise "being at the heart of the communities, providing equitable opportunities for all, as well as empowering and growing with them", he says.

"We realise that for the bank to grow sustainably, our efforts should not only be focused on the financial front, but also on building an inclusive and resilient future for our people and environment."

Direct volunteering

To that end, the bank also runs a programme that it calls eMpowering Youth, which is centred on funding youth-led projects aimed at reducing poverty or improving livelihoods across Asean communities. Maybank has pledged over S$800,000 to this, in partnership with three local universities. Part of this has since been disbursed in support of six projects, run by NTU, NUS and SMU students, in Indonesia, Laos, Philippines and Vietnam.

"Good CSR is also about the wise use of resources. For example, instead of organising an expensive fundraising event, resources can be used for direct volunteering initiatives, to engage staff in a more meaningful way," says Dr Lee.

Maybank is part of a wave of companies that now offer employees volunteer leave. Last year, 79 per cent of its staff took up that leave. More than 1,300 staff put in 12,000 hours of volunteering in all in 2017, a stronger staff participation rate than the year before. The bank facilitates some of this with its Maybank Corporate Responsibility Day, which is when ground-up volunteer initiatives spring up - home improvement projects for the elderly and vulnerable families, or sprucing up the living spaces of patients at the Institute of Mental Health and children at Movement for the Intellectually Disabled's (MINDS') special school and hostel.

As with business, CSR programmes need to demonstrate impact and value. "Maybank has a dedicated CSR department which looks into setting measurable targets, in consultation with programme partners. We also conduct regular reviews to monitor the progress of beneficiaries," Dr Lee says.

  • This article is part of a series highlighting inspiring companies that are catalysts of change in corporate giving. The Business Times supports NVPC's Company of Good programme as a media partner. For more information, go to