Many industries benefit society beyond the dollars and cents they generate. Sometimes, the positive societal impact is more immediate and obvious, such as a teacher’s contribution to the growth of young minds, or a doctor’s ability to improve patients’ overall wellness. However, in the financial services industry, the direct benefit may be less widely known. Financial services businesses safeguard the savings of individuals and families and often enable the ambitions of clients and their communities. Executives in this space must understand and convey the value they provide to the communities they serve and find additional ways to give back in doing so, they will engage employees and strengthen their businesses overall.

Doing Good Is Good for Business

Research suggests that weaving altruism into the heart of any business is beneficial for the company’s well-being and growth. For example, having a clear social mission is a motivating factor for staff members; 74% of employees say their jobs are more fulfilling when they can make a positive impact at work. Moreover, displaying a company’s commitment to giving back is also important when it comes to attracting and retaining clients. Not only do the majority of everyday consumers prefer to align with companies that show a clear drive to improve the world around them, but 84% of Americans believe that businesses have a responsibility to catalyze social change. Ensuring that employees and clients alike understand the ways in which a financial services company makes a positive impact on the world can strengthen a business both internally and externally.

Understanding the Value of Variety

Even when the business benefits are clear, getting a cohesive social program off the ground requires further careful consideration of individuals’ unique values and philanthropic preferences. To increase satisfaction across the board, companies should implement programs that are broad enough to fulfill a wide range of staff values and interests.

For example, some employees may be highly motivated by in-kind campaigns where the firm is encouraged to collect items such as canned food, books or school supplies to donate locally. Others may prefer opportunities to support local philanthropic organizations in person, and would be more inspired by a program supporting paid time off for days spent volunteering.

Employers shouldn’t restrict themselves to just one of these options. Offering a variety of ways that employees can make a difference in the lives of others will not only capture higher levels of overall engagement, but it also communicates that the company is committed to helping staff live their values in ways that speak to them personally.

Don’t Be Afraid of Employee Matching Programs

Another effective way to realize a social mission is to offer an employee donation matching program. Many smaller companies hold the misconception that they do not have the resources to do such a program. But, by limiting the matching opportunity to a certain time of year and/or capping the dollar amount, even the smallest companies can promote a sustainable program. These types of programs grant employees the flexibility to support a vast range of organizations and allow employers to avoid making value judgements that come with selecting causes for the company to support. Given that 79% of employees think it’s important that their companies match their charitable giving, this type of initiative is also a great way to increase staff satisfaction.

Crafting a social mission need not be limited to nonprofits and public affairs organizations; financial services institutions are already enhancing the lives of their clients and expanding this commitment is a reasonable extension of their existing vocations. Infusing an emphasis on making a difference into the very fabric of an organization can deepen connections with clients and inspire employees, and in doing so, strengthen the value proposition of a company as a whole.


Gary Zyla, CFO, AssetMarkGary Zyla has been the chief financial officer of AssetMark since 2011. He oversees finance and human resources for all the AssetMark businesses. Gary’s prior experience includes roles at Genworth Financial in both the Corporate and Retirement and Protection segments.