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Small change, big difference

Years ago I worked for a bank. It was just an ordinary high street bank, albeit a little unrecognisable today. Our computers were the size of washing machines and we only acted on instructions by fax if we also received the original document the same day. We had messengers and very shiny French-polished counters.

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It couldn’t be more different now. But apparently, some things never change, and the forgetfulness of account holders is one of them. In fact, I am sure I am one of those people, because I had an account with what was then a building society which I had forgotten about. It is what they call in banking parlance, a dormant account.

There are thousands of these accounts. Some, like mine, with very modest sums, others with considerably more. People move, bank statements get returned, people forget, money gets left untouched, unused, unclaimed and, well, dormant.

Big Society Capital is a new organisation launched last year, but open for business this week, to use this money, through social investment intermediaries, to invest in social enterprises and similar, helping them access the capital they need to achieve their objectives. This is usually at a very local level, and often for projects out of the consideration of most commercial banks. All UK banks and building societies are opening up their dormant coffers and the so-called Merlin banks are adding half-as-much again to help spark a social investment revolution.

We have been very privileged to be involved, and I wasn’t thinking of my own unclaimed assets. Big Society Capital chose The Team to develop its brand and online presence. To keep costs at a minimum we used a close-working, iterative approach that allowed us to get to the answers quickly together and had early sign-up from the executive, and non-executive, teams. Our identity, made up of four hearts, with a refreshed strapline indicating that this new institution isn’t just about investing, but also about expanding the market overall, had to have the appeal of both bankers and those looking for investment in the social sector.

I must admit I didn’t really have much of a steer on what social investment was all about until we started pitching for this business. I am no expert now, but I do better appreciate two things. Social investment can really make a difference and, although it carries some risk, it is certainly no riskier than straight forward philanthropy. And secondly, it is packed with wealthy individuals with a passion to make a difference. Listen to Sir Ronald Cohen speaking at the RSA to see what I mean.

In the meantime, I am leaving my unclaimed ‘assets’. They will be doing more good there than in my wallet.

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