Ubuntu in Business: Giving Back

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In Africa we have a saying, a philosophy rather, that if you have Ubuntu (human-heartedness), you are a full person.

We at Carrick Wealth believe it is a concept that should be taken much further and should not only apply to individuals, but also to business and the corporate environment. Corporate Ubuntu if you will: giving back to society and connecting in ways that provide hope to those who can only dare to hope.

It is a philosophy that underpins much of what we do in our business – it defines our corporate outlook on life. While we are not a charity, we are a financial services business with a conscience and a desire to help those less fortunate than ourselves, where and how we can.

We live in a world driven by the pursuit of increasingly sophisticated technology and material well-being. Pivotal to this is a dynamic and successful business sector managed by entrepreneurs and so-called captains of industry … people who are driven, talented, successful and financially well-rewarded.

At the same time we are still surrounded by so much poverty, misery, hardship and the lack of opportunity to get ahead.

Consider some of the facts:

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  • – 25% of working-age South Africans, or 5.23 million people, have no work (2QLFS15) while the expanded definition of unemployment puts 34.9 percent out of a job;
  • 21.7% South Africans, or almost 12 million, live in extreme poverty, having less than R779 per-person-per-month on which to survive;
  • Disease and illness are widespread, with 6.19 million South Africans, 11.2%, living with HIV for instance;
  • There is a housing deficit of 2.5 million homes; 7.5 million South Africans lack access to adequate housing, while millions more live in squalor in small, wood and plastic shacks;
  • 2.5 million South African children went to school hungry according to the 2012 household survey; and
  • In the 2014/2015 financial year South Africa still had 206 mud schools, 843 schools without water; a lack of sanitation in 421 schools and 618 schools had no electricity – the backlog of classrooms runs into tens of thousands.

The list goes on. There are many other areas of need, such as children orphaned by AIDS, broken homes, rape victims, teenage pregnancies, lack of community infrastructure, the impact of drugs and gangsterism, the crisis in animal welfare, serious environmental issues and more. While significant progress has been made in addressing backlogs in many areas over the past two decades, there clearly still is much work to be done to alleviate the plight and hopelessness of millions of South Africans, and many millions more beyond our borders.

We cannot simply rely on government to take care of them. There are many individuals and organisations trying their best to make a difference, yet sadly many of them lack the necessary funds and assistance. Business can, and must, play its role in fostering Ubuntu as an integral part of our national psyche. To give back to the society whence we came some of the rewards of our own success … that is our raison d’être.

It is a concept and a desire to which we at Carrick Wealth gave much careful thought and which led to our starting the Signature of Hope Trust.

Spirit of Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a complex word with a multi-dimensional meaning, derived from the Nguni language. It is popularly associated with the caring generosity, the love of fellow humans and life in its totality, as lived by South African icons Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

Its definitions are many. But, in essence, it relates to how we connect with others and the world around us. It encompasses compassion, caring, being fair, being humane, having high moral values, sharing and helping others in need. Or, simply put, giving back.

It is a philosophy that all at Carrick Wealth fully share and subscribe to – in business, in our personal lives, and through our charitable endeavours. Until such time as those of us who have been fortunate in life give back to those less fortunate, we cannot be ‘a full person’. The requirement to give back also relates to us as a company.

The Signature of Hope Trust is an approved non-profit organisation that coordinates our philanthropic endeavours at Carrick. Through the structure we have set up other successful individuals and companies can join us in our efforts to build communities, help the needy, empower people, and change lives.

The word ‘philanthropy’, derived from Greek, much like the word Ubuntu, is etymologically defined as “love of humanity” in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing that which makes us human-hearted, for both the benefactors and the beneficiaries.

The world is full of examples of philanthropic and charitable endeavour, and many wealthy, eminent and respected people – and businesses – have done much, leading by example. They can be extensively quoted on the need to help and to give to others. For instance, Andrew Carnegie said,

“Wealth is not to feed our egos but to feed the hungry and to help people help themselves”. Warren Buffet believes, “If you’re in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99%”. Here’s what Benjamin Franklin had to say: “I would rather have it said, ‘He lived usefully,’ than, ‘He died rich.’” Noble thoughts indeed.

And many eminent persons such as Buffet, Bill Gates, or South African billionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe, have put their money where their mouths are, channelling huge amounts of their personal fortunes to charitable causes.

But it is the simple message of Anne Frank, a visionary young Jewish girl trapped in Nazi-occupied Holland and who later died in a German concentration camp, that truly inspires. She said: “How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world”.

And while wealthy people are in a better position to be charitable, Frank’s simple message is that we can all do something, big or small, give something back. And we don’t have to wait another minute to start doing so.

Making a difference

In business, we at Carrick Wealth try to be innovative leaders in our field, maintaining high standards, fostering respect, integrity and professionalism. Our creed is that none of us is as great as all of us. As such, we believe that the defining attribute of true leadership is the propensity to use influence and available resources to effect positive change for the greater good.

And while Carrick’s top management has always invested in philanthropic endeavours and engaged our staff, clients and the general public in these where possible, we believe that our creating and supporting the Signature of Hope Trust is one endeavour that is making a difference in the world out there.

Signature of Hope was founded by Carrick directors Craig Featherby, who is chairman of the trust, Mike Fannin, and Brett Taylor together with Pastor George Georgiou from Port Elizabeth. Craig, a native of KwaZulu-Natal whose career has taken him to many parts of the world, brings his leadership and business skills, passion and vision to the trust.

“Giving back is something that I do, because simply put, it ‘restores my soul’. It is a great reminder of what I have and gratitude in itself says a lot and plays a major role in one’s life.” – Craig Featherby, Group MD, Carrick Wealth and Chairman, Signature of Hope Trust.

Starting from humble beginnings, Pastor George built a small community church in Port Elizabeth into what is now a congregation of over 2,000 people. He has an enormous amount of experience in working successfully within underprivileged communities and charitable or non-profit organisations, the Zanethemba Charity Foundation being one of them.

Mike Fannin is an entrepreneur who has been involved in the financial services industry for many years and has a passion for giving and pushing the boundaries.

“I have been extremely fortunate in my life to be blessed with abundance in many areas, including financial. I believe it is my duty to spread this, and to encourage others to do the same.” – Mike Fannin, Carrick Group Sales Director and Trustee, Signature of Hope Trust.

Brett’s open leadership style and solid business mind have been a great asset to the trust. He has focused on getting like-minded institutions and individuals not only to contribute financially, but also to give of their time.

The newest trustee of Signature of Hope is Kieron McRae who brings twenty years of management consulting and training experience across all sectors of the economy, along with a strong background in operations management to the trust. Bryan Austen is the Chief Financial Officer of the trust.

“For me, it is about ‘being in good exchange’. We simply cannot expect to receive in abundance if we are not prepared to give back in return. Muhammed Ali put it slightly differently: ‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth’.” – Kieron McRae, Carrick Group Business Development Director and Trustee, Signature of Hope Trust.

While it is not mandatory for Carrick’s employees to be involved in the work of the trust, it is expected of them and is something our associates have done generously and enthusiastically.

Carrick’s directors, associates and other staff do not only get involved on the financial side; they also regularly give much of their time, roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty on various projects.

“I see giving back as helping people to grow. The reward you get just seeing that individual grow is massive. There is no monetary figure that can be attached to it.” – Michael Potts, Carrick Wealth Group Sales Director.

The trust’s initial focus was on communities in the Eastern Cape that continue to be in need of socio-economic upliftment in almost all areas – education, health, welfare, youth development and more.

“At present we are busy refocusing and realigning our work in the Signature of Hope Trust,” says Kieron.

“We are looking at something called the One Percent Campaign where a donor may contribute 1% of something like a salary or from some other fixed financial value. Starting at 1% chances are good that may grow to 2%, 4% or more over time. Another priority in future may be education. Within that there are a range of options: for example, funding bursaries, building classrooms or a school, looking at early childhood learning development, or providing children with meals before school.”

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Anybody wishing to learn more about the Signature of Hope Trust and its activities can visit the Signature of Hope website atwww.signatureofhope.org or the Carrick Wealth website at www.carrick-wealth.com.

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