We speak to Alex Woodgate about his experiences on the...
Numbers are important in investment banking. Four community buildings, ten gardens and 13 parks have been painted, planted and pruned by Goldman Sachs's London-based employees in the past 12 months. They also served 1,350 meals, assisted more than 1,750 children, constructed 1,895 meters of fencing and handed out 34,000 goody bags at the London Marathon.
All of these things were achieved through the bank's Community TeamWorks (CTW) programme, a global volunteer initiative that has been running for 15 years. The idea behind it is simple: everyone at the bank gets a day off work each year to spend volunteering with a local nonprofit organisation. And it pays significant dividends - to communities, the bank and its employees.
Goldman Sachs introduced CTW to form partnerships with charities and to help its people to give something back to their local area in a sustainable way. "Investing in social and economic development is something that's very important to the bank's culture and to the people who work here,” says Deepak Jayaraman, head of corporate engagement in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Across the world Goldman Sachs's employees have participated in almost 2,000 community service projects in the past year. Deepak says the enthusiasm for CTW from the bank's partner organisations is proof of the programme's social impact. "We're consistently getting charities coming to us looking for spaces on the CTW calendar. The ability to tap into smart people who want to give their time to think through problems or carry out essential work is valuable to nonprofit organisations,” he says.
The programme also benefits the bank and the people who work there. "First of all, CTW is a nice way to remind everybody that people at the firm are passionate, engaged and like to get out into the world to do different things. Our CTW partners respect the fact that we've been committed to the programme for a number of years, which also elevates our standing and reputation in the business community,” says Deepak.
CTW projects also have a morale-boosting effect on Goldman Sachs's employees. "People enjoy working in teams and getting a day out of the office to do something worthwhile. I think participating on CTW promotes a positive team environment. When you have happier people working for you, efficiency and performance improve.”
Programme coordinators find partners in the community who need volunteers and work with them to identify worthwhile projects. People at the bank can then sign up to join teams that will carry out the work. Many of the projects involve hands-on, manual labour such as painting fences, picking up leaves or draining rivers. But CTW is increasingly focusing on projects where people can use their job-specific skills when they volunteer.
"Recently we've organised teams to help charities with their fundraising strategies and to work with at-risk teenagers on their interview skills to improve their job prospects,” says Deepak. He thinks the advantages of these projects are twofold. "It's more sustainable if people use their time to work on a strategy that has long-lasting value and I think it's particularly satisfying for some people to work on a community project where they can use their brain and apply the skills they already have in a different way.”
What makes CTW special is the fact that everybody at the bank can get involved and make a difference, from interns to managing directors. "Senior leaders participate every year and it's nice for interns and graduates to be able to spend time building relationships with those at partner level,” says Deepak. Goldman Sachs also invites students to join them on Community TeamWorks days to learn more about the bank's culture and find out about career opportunities, while also giving back to the community and gaining new skills.
Corporate engagement is the umbrella term that covers everything Goldman Sachs does to invest in areas where its offices are based and to support social and economic development worldwide. It's similar to the corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes at other large firms, but Goldman Sachs is keen to distinguish its work in this area.
"Corporate engagement is about building strategic programmes that not only have a social impact in our local communities but also tie in with the long-term interests of the firm,” explains Deepak.
CTW is Goldman Sachs's longest-running corporate engagement programme. The bank also runs entrepreneurship schemes such as 10,000 Women, which provides business and management education to women in emerging markets, and 10,000 Small Businesses, which aims to drive economic growth in the UK and the US.
Deepak says: "The objective of these programmes is to encourage entrepreneurship around the world. Doing so will improve employment rates, raise GDP and promote innovation, which complements the business interests and expertise of Goldman Sachs.”
Lizzie Pratt joined Goldman Sachs five years ago in the bank's Technology division. Here, she tells us the benefits of the CTW scheme...
"CTW is a great way to give something back to society. I've painted flats for the Royal Institute for the Blind, organised afternoon tea for carers of the elderly, cleared a pathway for a nature trail in a National Trust forest and, most recently, distributed goody bags at the London Marathon.
All the projects have been really enjoyable and rewarding. At the Marathon one runner said: ‘Thank you so much. Without you guys being here I don't think I would have made it.' That appreciation shows how worthwhile the projects are.”
"Enthusiasm for CTW filters down from the partners and managing directors to new joiners and interns. It's great to meet people I don't usually work with and build up my internal network. I now have a professional relationship with the people I've volunteered with, and it's a bonus that we share personal interests as well.”
"On CTW we can put our teamwork, organisation and communication skills into practice in a different environment and develop new skills to take back to the office. At the London Marathon we had to think on our feet to overcome challenges and manage the crowds of people. That's helpful for when we have queries that have to be dealt with quickly at the bank.”
"CTW projects give us all an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. When you're working hard it's easy to become very focused on your day job. It's nice to go out and see how much of an impact you can make by just giving up a couple of hours of your time.”
"At the London Marathon it was amazing to see the resilience that people have and the joy on their faces when they crossed the finish line - I'm considering doing a half-marathon now. I've also been inspired to increase my involvement recruiting students through the European Women in Technology (EWIT) group at Goldman Sachs because CTW has taught me that I can make a big difference to individuals with small actions.”
Jordan Barnes is an analyst in Investment Management at Goldman Sachs. He joined the bank just over a year ago and recently completed his first CTW project...
The mission was to rebuild the bank of a stream at the London Wetland Centre. We had to dig away part of the existing bank and install a barrier to protect it from water erosion. The project involved lots of shovelling and hammering so it was a real physical challenge!
Efficiency and organisation were the main skills we transferred from the office to the project. Teamwork was also very important because everybody had different levels of physical ability. We assigned everyone a suitable set task to get the job done as quickly as possible.
I was thrown into a situation with people I'd never met before and I learnt how to break the ice and quickly build a working relationship with them. I work in a sales role at Goldman Sachs so that ability is very useful to me in my day job.
It was also interesting to learn about the Wetland Centre. The Centre was created to bring wildlife to the city and it was amazing to see the expanse of greenery hidden in the middle of London. We were taken on a tour of the park and were lucky enough to see lots of birds and otters.
None of us had done anything like this before, so everybody was equal in terms of the task we'd been set and there was a great team atmosphere.
I'm an analyst and there were managing directors and partners doing exactly the same thing I was doing. Senior people were eager to get stuck in and get their hands dirty - I wasn't aware of anybody's seniority until we started chatting about work. There were also people who sprung up as leaders on the project who weren't necessarily the most senior at the bank.
Jumping in the river! We all had to be hip-deep in the water to secure the bank and it was a hot day so it was refreshing to just jump in. Also, completing the job - the sense of achievement when I went back to work the next day was very rewarding.
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