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TAKING HEART

Laying a foundation for the future through education

Credit Suisse's ExcITE Programme mentors ITE students in financial literacy and other areas

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ITE CEO Low Khah Gek and Credit Suisse Singapore CEO Benjamin Cavalli (front, centre) at the opening session of the Credit Suisse ITE ExcITE Mentoring Programme in July last year, with ITE students, prinicipals and executives, and Credit Suisse mentors.

Singapore

STAFF volunteering plays a big role in the running of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives both here and in the region for Credit Suisse, which has a presence in Asia for over 40 years.

Employee engagement forms one of three pillars on which the Swiss bank conducts its social commitments globally, with the other two being financial inclusion and micro-finance, as well as education.

Roughly 53 per cent of its 7,000 staff in the Asia-Pacific participated in community-driven events in 2017.

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Over 60 per cent of its 4,000 staff in Singapore have volunteered across 60 charitable organisations in the Asia-Pacific. Out of this, almost a quarter are involved in skill-based volunteering in education and financial literacy.

Credit Suisse Singapore CEO and head of Private Banking in South-east Asia, Benjamin Cavalli told The Business Times: "We feel that education lays the foundation for well-being of people. So if we are able to play a role in giving the less privileged better access to education opportunities, it can only be beneficial to society in future."

He added: "We believe in using our skills and access to different sorts of capital as well as leveraging our networks to mobilise capital for social impact."

Through the ExcITE Programme, the bank drives educational and mentoring efforts for youth development.

Mr Cavalli explained: "We first partnered ITE College East in 2015 to run this programme with the aim of making a difference in the lives of these students with a three-month-long programme, where our staff volunteers spend their time on Saturdays to engage with a group of 30-40 students."

Through ExcITE, Credit Suisse staff provide mentorship to underprivileged ITE students by sharing personal experiences on the challenges that they have faced in their youth and how they overcame them.

Last year, Credit Suisse extended the programme to students from all three ITE colleges. More than 50 staff volunteers signed up as mentors, up from the 40 volunteers in 2015.

Students from the 2018 cohort can look forward to additional workshops on financial literacy along with choice human resource topics such as resume advice and picking up the interview skills, which are aimed at preparing the students for their job search.

The mentoring sessions will take place between October and November 2018, and will also include field trips to Kranji War Memorial among other things.

Mr Cavalli noted that participation by Credit Suisse staff in the programme has grown from 2015, and said that he was encouraged by the diversity of his staff from different nationalities, backgrounds, departments and levels of seniority, who have taken part in the programme.

"This workshop has also helped us to connect with our colleagues from different departments better - and that's also one objective we want to achieve," he added.

Credit Suisse plans to build on its community-driven engagements, expanding its focus on education across Singapore in the coming months with the participation of family foundations and other corporates.

Mr Cavalli said: "Through collective impact efforts, we engage governments, private foundations (clients), not-for-profit organisations and academia in looking for innovative ways to address social gaps."

Examples of earlier efforts include the SIE Fund in Hong Kong and Agensi Inovasi in Malaysia, which have included partners such as PwC and the British Council.