Stop Press: Monday 9 Jan. No reply yet from RBS but this idea has provoked great response from young people and sympathetic support from Malcolm Chisholm MSP and Mark Lazarowicz MP so I will be posting an update as soon as possible…
The Skinny Magazine has wickedly bestowed Stand Comedy Club comedians with magic powers to make New Year resolutions for others (please read David Cameron’s and make a wish that real life could be like this). While the spirit of good will is still in the air, I’m writing my New Year resolution for the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Dear Stephen Hester, as RBS chief executive, instead of paying out a reputed £500 million bonus to your investment bankers this year, why not put the cash into a philanthropic fund for affordable housing? Better still, do a deal with the government and other banks for matched funding to set an inspiring new direction for a gloomy and fearful nation at a time when we are short of both hope and housing.
For good examples, you need look no further than other men of money – the London-based American George Peabody , a banker, who built housing for the poor in Britain during the 19th century or the London money-lender Samuel Lewis whose 1901 legacy endowed a trust to house the poor. As we are fast recreating the social structure of Victorian Britons why not follow their philanthropic footsteps too?
I venture to suggest such a scheme, Mr Hester, at a time when RBS is once more appearing in public places as a sponsor of the arts. Your target market is cleverly chosen. With projects like the highly successful RBS Museum Lates the aim seems to be to connect with a new audience of bright young people.
Investing in creative activities for young people is good but there is no need to stop there. Investing in affordable homes for young people would be a PR master-stroke; providing security for a new generation, stimulating the economy – building houses, you may remember, is good for construction and retail industries – and transforming the image of RBS all at one go.
Your investment bankers will protest of course. They will threaten to go elsewhere (please, oh please). But what exactly are they planning to do with their bonus money procured at our public expense? What could they possibly buy that would make their life better and benefit the economy too?
Philanthropists often talk of the warm glow that comes from giving. Rather sadly, there is no mention of warm glow in the very businesslike corporate social responsibility description of RBS sponsorship on your website.
Our involvement in sponsorship has previously helped us build our brand and deliver specific business objectives across the globe.
Branding and business objectives? Motives for charitable giving are always complex, as Professor Hugh Cunningham revealed in the recent BBC Radio 4 programme How New is the New Philanthropy: desire for power and philanthropy have always gone hand in hand.
What inspired George Peabody? Who can say, but Peabody Estates still provide affordable housing for both rent and sale as does the Lewis Trust (now renamed Southern Housing Group) Here, Stephen Hester, is your chance for the feel good experience of a lifetime. Royal Housing for First Time Buyers! Make it green housing and your warm glow could light up Scotland for years to come.
A philanthropist’s gift. I just happen to be rather closely connected to someone who was born in the bottom right flat of this block of Lewis Buildings in Islington.