Nonprofit Newswire | Banks Lure Rich with Charity

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February 4, 2010; Reuters | In the U.S., banks and financial services companies in general offer their investors philanthropic services in addition to investment advice and placements. The U.K. financial services sector is now breaking into this field in a big way with a rash of new programs and new hires focused on the philanthropic needs of their wealthier investors. What motivates them in part is a business rationale articulated by Barclay’s new “client philanthropy” director: “The business angle is we get closer to clients, keep clients longer and we may gather more assets eventually.” The philanthropy manager at Christian Aid described it as “Banks…saying if we want to grow (our) business then something like philanthropy gives us an extra dynamic.” Like the mammoth “charitable gift funds” associated with Fidelity, Vanguard, and Schwab in this country, the U.K. banks are thinking of offering a one-stop-shop kind of service for the investment and charitable needs of their clients. It’s not clear whether the tax incentives will facilitate quite the same dynamic as happened in the U.S. with the creation of Fidelity nearly two decades ago, but the language used by the banks for their philanthropic clients includes taking advantage of tax incentives for charitable giving and avoiding estate taxes. In a very rapid timeframe, largely timed with the growth of the mutual fund sector, Fidelity, Vanguard, and Schwab developed nonprofit gift funds that have become among the largest 501(c)(3) charitable givers in the U.S. With the U.K.’s financial sector starting this process in the wake of a deep international recession, their growth may not be quite as rapid and steep as their American financial services sector counterparts.—Rick Cohen