Original language of the article: German

Interview with Laura Hemrika, Global Head Corporate Citizenship & Foundations and Managing Director of the Credit Suisse Foundation

Before we dive into the fascinating world of foundations, would you tell us more about yourself?

My interest in non-profit issues has been a common thread throughout my career. I started out in the world of education and NGOs and then worked in consulting with numerous organisations in the areas of microfinance, fintech and education. Microfinance in particular fascinated me and led me to Credit Suisse in 2010, where I built up the global "Microfinance Capacity Building Initiative" and implemented it for several years. Since 2016, I have been Head of Corporate Citizenship & Foundations and have the pleasure of driving Credit Suisse's social engagement around the globe with a global team. Since the end of 2020, I have also been responsible for the activities of the Credit Suisse Foundation, one of the bank's four corporate foundations.

Tell us more about the Corporate Foundations. What motivates Credit Suisse to establish charitable foundations?

Credit Suisse has a long philanthropic tradition and foundations have always played a central role in this. By establishing a foundation, you send a clear signal: We are here to stay and are committed to the long term. This is evident, for example, in our Credit Suisse Americas Foundation, which has been active for over 60 years. And today's global Credit Suisse Foundation has already celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2021. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the regional foundation has been active since 2008, and in Asia, the Credit Suisse APAC Foundation was added in 2020. The foundations are an integral part of our social commitment. In line with our global corporate citizenship strategy, they make charitable grants to organisations primarily active in the areas of "Financial Education", "Financial Inclusion" and "Future Skills". In this way, we support specific projects and initiatives that are designed to have a social impact. Although we have a global strategy, it is important to us that all our foundations act in a way that is needs-oriented and adapted to the respective regional realities. The boards of trustees and the corporate citizenship teams in the regions know the local or regional needs and align the foundation's activities accordingly - always in line with the foundation's purpose.

Non-profit foundations work for a good cause, want to make a difference or fight a specific problem. Do corporate foundations pursue other goals? What makes them special?

Corporate foundations must also implement their foundation purpose. What distinguishes corporate foundations from "normal" charitable foundations is the approach. Our corporate foundations support their partner organisations with financial resources and can also draw on the bank's social capital, i.e. its employees. With their expertise and time, they complement and strengthen the impact of the financial contributions by making their knowledge available to the partners in various specialist areas (for example, finance, HR, IT, marketing). In addition, we can offer our partners internal and external platforms to raise awareness of their concerns while benefiting from the Bank's large network. Our partners greatly appreciate this additional non-monetary support.

Many people are not aware of the difference between sponsorship and philanthropy. Are there differences?

Yes, definitely. Our four corporate foundations all make charitable contributions, i.e. they donate funds to tax-exempt organisations so that they can implement their programmes and projects, and there is no service in return. I would like to illustrate this with a concrete example: Our Credit Suisse Foundation supports a selected portfolio of foundations and associations in Switzerland, including the go tec! foundation in Schaffhausen. This foundation makes technology, which is often invisible in everyday life, tangible for schoolchildren. With a contribution to the project "Internet & Code for Girls", we help the go tec! foundation to introduce girls in particular to the topics in a playful way and to immerse them in the world of MINT (mathematics, information technology, natural sciences, technology). With sponsoring, on the other hand, there is usually a service in return, i.e. the sponsor receives media and logo presence, for example.

Are there developments in the foundation landscape that you follow particularly closely and/or drive forward yourself?

The numerous innovative approaches that pursue the goal of achieving social impact are certainly promising; for example, cooperation with state actors or competitors, as is the case with the recently launched "Sustainable Development Goal Impact Finance Initiative". Through this initiative, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the UBS Optimus Foundation, the Credit Suisse Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) aim to mobilise up to one billion Swiss francs in private capital for development financing. In addition, we see a growing number of innovative financing mechanisms (for example, impact investing, social entrepreneurship) and technological developments that non-profit organisations can take advantage of. Foundations have the opportunity to support these further developments and promote them by providing "risk and innovation capital". So we are in an exciting environment and see a mix of innovation, collaboration and technology that will help shape the way foundations engage in the future.

Posted in Corporate Foundations

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