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Strength in numbers, power in unity

Deutsche Bank and KPMG in Singapore show how volunteering is beneficial to all involved.

KPMG in Singapore's Make A Difference Day.

Deutsche Bank's staff volunteers engaging with the elderly.

GIVING back to society benefits the companies involved, and its employees. That is one of the key messages that KPMG in Singapore and Deutsche Bank want to get across.

Lee Sze Yeng, partner, head of KPMG Cares, KPMG in Singapore, said: "What has been visible and frequently talked about is the giving we do, the numbers and the impact we've generated. However, it is important to know what the beneficiaries have given to us as well. They have given us the opportunity to look at the world from their perspective, to learn from their life lessons through the sharing of their stories, and most importantly, the friendships built and the reminder to stay rooted to the ground."

Staff volunteer Joachim Goh said: "The journey of volunteering over the years has always reminded me that I am also a beneficiary, learning from others through listening to the thousands of conversations I've had with them, and that motivates me to continue sharing my time with the community."

Deutsche Bank's staff volunteer Hazel Lee, who volunteered at activities organised for the day care patients of HCA Hospice Care, shared the same sentiments and found inspiration in the beneficiaries' inner strength and tenacity about life. 

The accounting firm and the bank were both named Champions of Good by NVPC in November this year. The national recognition framework under the Company of Good recognises organisations that are exemplary in doing good and have also been a multiplier by engaging their partners and stakeholders on a collaborative journey.

Annie Yeo, head of Corporate Social Responsibility Asia, Deutsche Bank, said: "We believe that giving to the community doesn't mean we are losing profit, time or resources. There are many intangible but nonetheless crucial things we have gained, such as trust and reputation. While these are difficult to quantify, there are anecdotal cases where both prospective clients and employees have indicated that our comprehensive CSR programme is part of why they have chosen to work with or for us.

"In addition, in a recent global survey conducted on our corporate volunteers, 75 per cent of corporate volunteers think that corporate volunteering improves job-related skills."

She added that skills-based volunteering has long been a part of Deutsche Bank's giving strategy, and employees tend to find them more fulfilling than the usual donation-type volunteerism. Being named a Champion of Good, the bank also chose to be a part of a community of like-minded businesses and teamed up to help the underprivileged in society. Ms Yeo noted: "Just as no one bank is able to sustain an entire economy without many other business partners, we believe that collaboration is key to making positive change, and together, we can tap into different expertise to support the community. Being a Champion of Good is something we can proud of as an organisation, and it is a testament to the commitment of our corporate volunteers. It also serves as an encouragement to continue our giving journey and to engage more people to join us."

Hence, the bank's flagship corporate social responsibility programme, dbSkillsPlus, came to fruition in 2019 with the combined effort of many partners and staff.

Supported by Li Woon Churdboonchart, the founder of social enterprise The Volunteer Switchboard, Deutsche Bank's pro bono training programme was targeted at the social sector and aimed to bring skills from the corporate sector that are just as applicable in the social sector to the charities, which in turn would support them to make a larger impact in the community.

Ms Yeo said: "We brought together subject matter experts within Deutsche Bank and other corporates for a series of five workshops designed to address key topics that matter to such organisations through sharing of best practices from the corporate world. More than 200 participants from 30 social organisations benefitted from topics that included Strategic Management, Social Media Marketing, Fundraising and Volunteer Management.

"Fifty participants from 13 non-profit organisations that are key Deutsche Bank charity partners joined the 2020 programme which further drilled down on three key topics in six sessions which helped them address new challenges like the pandemic. The workshops were delivered in collaboration with PwC, Arcadia and Simitri respectively, and supported by The Volunteer Switchboard and Singapore University of Social Sciences."

The pandemic posed a challenge to the bank's giving back journey this year, but it rolled with the punches and innovated, as it pivoted to an online format.

"We constantly ask for feedback after each session, hence tweaking the programme and format each time. We learnt to utilise new platforms and tools to engage participants, and in lieu of serving tea time snacks during breaks, we engaged social enterprises to deliver cakes, cookies and tea to participants to keep them fresh and alert for our workshops."

KPMG's Ms Lee said that being conferred as a Champion of Good was a testimony to their work as corporate citizens. "Importantly, we are especially proud of all our staff volunteers who contributed in more ways than we can count and are the key driving force behind the success of all our programmes. For example, our KPMG Cyber Security Awareness School Outreach programme which sees our local Cyber team conducting cyber safety classes in schools throughout the year; Giving Month which runs on the pure passion and dedication of our volunteer committee where our staff volunteers gives back to the society in various ways every November; and Make A Difference Day which is a hands-on volunteering day where our staff volunteers give their time to make a positive difference in our local community for their chosen cause."

She added that engaging all stakeholders enabled everyone to be part of KPMG's corporate giving activity and contribute to meaningful causes in the community.

"The ripple effect we have seen from this approach has been encouraging - staff members who participated in craft workshops by our deaf beneficiaries as part of Giving Month are intending to introduce the activity at their children's school, and neighbouring tenants around our office were actively contributing their donations in-kind when they heard about our Giving Month. Externally, when KPMG Cares attends the quarterly Singapore Business Network on Disability, we also drive conversations on the importance of supporting charities and social enterprises."

The KPMG Cares Inclusive Employment Initiative (IEI) was initiated in 2015 and is a programme that bridges the need for corporate tokens and the employment difficulties that people with disabilities (PWD) face. "When we first started, we were faced with the challenge of recruiting the right beneficiary groups who would be a good fit for the programme. By identifying the gaps in the community and speaking to our various charity partners, we were able to on-board the right beneficiary groups to be part of this meaningful programme," said Ms Lee.

Last year, KPMG Cares conducted a briefing on its Inclusive Employment Initiative and encouraged companies to join them on this journey to provide opportunities for PWDs.

As a result of this session, KPMG's partner social enterprise, Personalised Love, had the opportunity to expand its reach in the market, supplying gifts for various events. The company was also a part of the Pro Bono Human Resources (HR) Clinic for Social Enterprises, jointly organised by the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE) and Empact and its staff volunteers provided HR insights and advice to social enterprises in response to their business challenges in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Lee said: "In the recent years, we have chosen to host events at restaurants/eateries by social enterprises, present VIP with gifts and door gifts handmade by special needs beneficiaries from our Inclusive Employment Initiative, and invited non-profit organisations to set up booths at our events, over commercial vendors, in hopes of bringing about a much-needed paradigm shift. We believe that by partnering with other like-minded organisations, we would be able to meet our business needs while doing good."

In 2019, KPMG Cares developed the Skills Training Programme to advance the talents of special needs beneficiaries. Currently in its second phase, the programme impacts groups with trainees from SPD Sheltered Workshop, Personalised Love and The Silent Artisans. The initiative "helps open new doors of opportunities for our beneficiaries", explained Ms Lee.

The organisation also sees merits in both donation-type volunteerism and skills-based volunteering. "With donations, an organisation can financially equip charities and non-profits to continue doing the important work that they do. It gives them the flexibility of channelling the funds towards specific needs. Through skills-based volunteering, this gives us the opportunities to leverage our employees' strengths and expertise that help fill critical capability gaps in charities and non-profits," added Ms Lee.

Ms Lee said that doing good is a long but fulfilling journey, and it is important to ensure a long-term sustainable model that is aligned with business objectives is developed in order to deliver an impact that matters to the society. According to her, this may mean working the ground to understand what needs to be done or making structural changes within one's organisation to effect the change needed to do good.

"Organisations should also consider collaborating with other organisations to leverage the different expertise so as to amplify the impact of doing good. Ultimately, we all want to build a compassionate Singapore that cares for and celebrates diversity and inclusion."

Ms Yeo from Deutsche Bank concurred, and added: "Management should create an environment that encourages giving, while giving staff the freedom to be able to give to causes close to their hearts so they can drive initiatives from the ground up. We also always welcome collaboration, and are on the constant lookout for partners who can help create a bigger impact together."

  • Champions of Good recognises organisations that are exemplary in doing good. Check out the full featured highlights of our Champions of Good 2020 at

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