16 December 2014
Why Christmas should mean a little bit more to businesses
Steve Hughes, Principality Building Society’s Group Finance Director and Chair of BITC Wales, talks about the importance of community all year round, not just at Christmas.
With little more than one week until Christmas, many of us will be frantically making a dash to the shops for those last-minute buys for loved ones. And it’s not as though we didn’t have enough warning, is it?! With each year that passes, Christmas seems to creep up on us earlier than the last – helped by the long-awaited festive adverts that have become almost as intrinsic part of the day as the turkey and baubles themselves.
But for me commercialism doesn’t help make Christmas. It is the coming together of communities that really makes this time of year special; whether that is your family, friends, colleagues or whatever community means to you, it is a special time to share together.
As a mutually-owned building society, for Principality, Christmas is a time to reflect on our role in society and communities engaging with our customers’ interests and activities. Community engagement isn’t something we just do for Christmas, or even a month, it is something that we do all year round.
It is at the very core of our operations and now is an apt opportunity to look back on how we’ve been able to support communities throughout the year. Much of this reflection is saying thank you to our Members for engaging with us and enabling us to support them to make a tangible difference to the communities in which we operate. At a time when many financial corporations are feared and mistrusted, it’s more important than ever for us to demonstrate that we're in business for the benefit of our members.
In 2014, we invested more than £100,000 in communities, through 106 branch sponsorships, staff volunteering, and by supporting our fantastic Charity of the Year, MS Society Cymru.
Our staff, the very backbone of our organisation, have also committed more than 1500 hours to volunteering initiatives, participating in a wide range of projects up and down the country. We’ve supported varied projects across Wales during this time, including facilitating football tournaments, beach clean-ups, community food festivals, sports team sponsorships, and transforming spaces such as school playgrounds into vibrant spaces for children to enjoy.
In November, staff from our head office in Cardiff volunteered their time to lead employability workshops for homeless people, in conjunction with the charity Llamau and the YMCA Housing Association. With joblessness a significant problem in some parts of Wales – particularly for those who are homeless – these charities and agencies make a huge contribution to helping people into the job market, so being able to support them was a hugely positive experience for staff. Working as part of Business in the Community’s ‘Wales Action Week’, staff took on the role of job recruiters, offering participants valuable advice on writing job applications and CVs and helping them prepare for real-life situations by conducting mock interviews. The importance of these projects is not taken lightly by our staff and we hope 2015 will offer further opportunities for us to add real value to community causes in this way.
In 2015 we want our community work to reach even more people and we would like organisations, community groups and schools to get in touch with us and let us know how we can help them in their own endeavors. If this sounds like something you or someone you know might be interested in, then please pop into your local branch and speak to one of our staff about how we might be able to help you in 2015.
This year has proven to be successful once again and has seen us create new ties and build upon existing relationships with our Members. We look forward to a new year with further opportunities to strengthen these bonds. But for now let’s enjoy the rest of 2014, as there are still more volunteering projects to be done. Merry Christmas from all of us at the Principality Building Society.