The Credit Suisse Global Citizens Program – changing lives forever

In a series of articles, our Corporate Volunteering Lead, Amanda Bowman discusses with organisations what makes their corporate volunteer programmes successful and looks at how their programmes hold up to Emerging World’s new Standard for Corporate Volunteering for the 2020s. The Standard includes a set of five Principles to provide an overall strategy and approach to corporate volunteering that can be applied to any existing corporate volunteering programme to augment what’s already working, or be used as a framework for a new corporate volunteering initiative.

In the next in our series Amanda interviewed Eva Halper, co-lead of the Global Citizens Program (GCP), a Corporate Citizenship initiative at Credit Suisse about how the GCP changes lives and drives partners forward.

The Global Citizens Program (GCP) is Credit Suisse’s flagship international skills-based volunteering program. Designed to promote the transfer of skills and expertise between employees and social organisations, the GCP is building the capacity of the company’s financial inclusion and education partners.

Assignments in this leadership development program involve employees travelling from their home country office to an assignment in a different country and, depending on the work, they may spend from 1 week up to 3 months there. Assignments cover a broad range of areas, from financial services related (credit assessments and client research) to more general organisational topics such as IT infrastructure or the improvement of HR or operational effectiveness. Since its launch in 2010, Credit Suisse employees have completed around 400 assignments in more than 50 countries across the globe and the GCP has become an important component of the company’s learning and development portfolio.

The goals of the Program have remained constant since its launch:

    • To enable employees to share their expertise and add value to the work and mission of the company’s education and financial inclusion partners around the world
    • To develop employees’ leadership and other skills through a unique and motivating immersion experience
    • To demonstrate Credit Suisse’s belief that a sound social and economic environment is an important factor in the company’s long term success

Eva remarked on how “the program offers employees something that is unique within the business, providing an opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the world that they would not normally work with, in a completely new and different way. For example, participants reach out to alumni and colleagues across the business for help and support – either to share resources and expertise or to provide tips and information on the country/partner organisation that participants are working with. Employees broaden their perspective on the world and genuinely become global citizens”.

Employees gain skills and confidence in what they all agree is a stretch environment. Even though they work long and hard while on assignment, they return rejuvenated – satisfied with a job well done; that they’ve given something back to the world and seen and gained a new level of understanding. On return, after a deep and enriching experience, employees’ learning and new perspectives can be deployed back in the business: whether that is by making new connections with their clients in sharing the impact of their assignment or by deeper insights into the country, economic or social context in which they are working. And the breadth of learning sustains over the long term. The company measures the long term impact of the Program and sees that it has a profound effect on participants in areas such as seeing things from different perspectives, ability to work with culturally diverse teams, self-confidence and awareness, and problem solving skills.

Most importantly, the social partners are helped. Employees support projects that often the partners have neither the resources nor the capacity to undertake. For example, when Tracey Ricardo De Albuquerque (from the London office) and Stefano Travagli (from the Swiss office) worked on an assignment with Plan Brazil, they were able to change the way the organisation approaches fundraising, completing a project in one week that would have taken several months for the local team to undertake.

Tracey and Stefano supported Plan Brazil in creating a corporate client retention plan. Their complementary skillset of client relationship management and front office IT support and advice provided a perfect mix for the Plan team in Brazil. Despite the organisation’s success in many areas, the pair were able to offer insights into what drives corporate clients, how the NGO could interact with companies and what information should be recorded. During very busy days, they shared experience and knowledge, created workflows and built data models. When not in meetings, they documented the outcomes into a handover pack that included several tangible products. Tracey commented that “for 18 years I have been ‘getting on with my job’ but didn’t really appreciate the value of the knowledge that I had absorbed over that time, or how impactful that knowledge would be to others looking to build client relationships”

Similarly, in another project for Teach for Brazil, Frederico Pessoa, a quantitative strategist, wrote and tested code for a customer relationship management system that meant that what used to take the team a whole week of work each month is now completely automated.

The Program is aimed at leaders at Vice President level or above. To ensure that employees have ‘skin-in-the-game’, the costs are shared: employees cover their own accommodation costs and travel costs are funded by the participant’s business unit. For longer assignments, e.g. those over two weeks, the partner organisation will pay for accommodation. This model allows the company to offer up to fifty assignments each year and results in greater commitment from line managers, employees and partners.

Emerging World has identified five Principles that companies can apply that create a new Standard for corporate volunteering for the 2020s or what we call CV20². This builds on the best of what we’ve seen in programs like Credit Suisse’s Global Citizens Program. For us, a CV20² Program is:

Emerging World Principles Credit Suisse Global Citizens
Partner focused with opportunities that are designed to meet partners’ real needs. When programs are designed to meet real partner needs, we see strong results from employees in terms of breadth and depth of learning, employee engagement, business impact, responsible leadership and connection to corporate and personal Purpose Adding value to Credit Suisse’s partners is a core value of the program and a high priority for the program team. Partners are given comprehensive briefing materials on how best to design their assignments in order to best leverage employees’ skills. And because these partnerships are long term, there is the opportunity to build on work done in previous years.
Reciprocal in terms of learning – where employees and partners learn from each other so that the volunteering is authentic, balanced and that any outcomes and impact are sustained

Credit Suisse Global Citizens learn about the realities of living and working in parts of the world that are new to them and that potentially they would never have the opportunity to go to. Employees share their skills and expertise on a specific project where the partner may not have the resources or capacity. Many assignments include a training component to ensure sustainability.

Engaging employees by building culture, morale, motivation, pride and productivity. Recent research shows that 81% of employees were inspired to contribute more to their roles after they return from volunteering

Each year the program attracts more applications than there are places. The program provides an opportunity for employees to feel proud of their company with 93% agreeing that they felt increased pride in the company more than one year after returning from their assignment.

Skills-based and leverages the talents and skills of employees. The recently published CISL Impact Benchmark Study shows that when participants feel that their partners have a real need for their skills and expertise, they are more likely to report developments across a range of 12 leadership competencies and behaviours identified as important for successful global leadership.

Credit Suisse measures the impact of the Global Citizens Program against 12 leadership competencies and against its own defined five Leadership Behaviours. Employees are coached and mentored as needed during their preparation phase to ensure that assignments are designed to meet both the partners’ needs as well as to develop the employees’ Leadership Behaviours.

Strategically embedded, helping to achieve business objectives and aligned with corporate Purpose. Our Study showed that 73% of employees reported increased alignment with their company’s objectives and priorities and 80% agreed that participation improved their understanding of the corporate Purpose.

The Global Citizens Program is managed by the Corporate Citizenship Team who work closely with their Leadership Development colleagues on the program. When the program started in 2010, partners were identified by the global team. However, today partners and projects are more diverse leveraging relationships developed in the different operating regions of the Bank.

Eva offered some tips for others developing a corporate volunteering program for the 2020s:

1. Be clear about the target audience for your program. The Global Citizens Program is for Vice Presidents, Directors and Managing Directors. This creates opportunities and challenges. For example, it is sometimes unrealistic to expect a senior manager to be able to take an extended time out of the office and so assignments are designed to take this into account.

2. The Global Citizens Program offers mostly individual assignments which we feel stretches the individual more and offers more opportunity to practise their leadership skills. It also offers a great deal more flexibility in terms of scheduling the assignment in-country and during the preparation phase between partners and participants.

3. Preparation is key. This is built-in to the process by having several check-in calls with the assignee before they leave on assignment to make sure that participants are spending sufficient time in advance of their assignment to brush up on the theory and practical skills required for their project. If that means reaching out to colleagues in a different part of the business, we often make those initial introductions.

4. Group projects provide a point of connection for program alumni. With an individual assignment model, we have had to be creative in terms of how to support people on return and how to build a network of our alumni. We connect alumni with each year’s new cohort so that they can share experiences. Alumni can be coaches or mentors to their colleagues and alumni are also active ambassadors for the program, encouraging others to apply.

5. Some of our most successful projects see employees build on the work of previous Global Citizens. However, we are mindful that we don’t want to create any dependency by our partners that they rely on having a Global Citizen each year as we cannot predict who will put themselves forward to participate.

6. Analyse the results of any measurement and evaluation of your program to support its continuous improvement. Benchmarking can also be useful. Some of the innovations we have built into our program over the last ten years have come from the insights we gained from our M&E and benchmarking work.