In this month’s member interview series we feature Renee Hancock, General Manager, Innovation and Marketing at Good Shepherd Microfinance. Renee shares her experience with shared value and the role she plays at Good Shepherd Microfinance to support and grow the development of their programs and services, and work with their corporate partners to achieve their shared value approach and address the issue of financial exclusion in Australia. This follows the recent recognition Good Shepherd Microfinance received as the civil society organisation leading through shared value at the 2016 Shared Value Awards.
What does shared value mean to you?
Shared value recognises that investing in business and the community aren’t mutually exclusive. We can all achieve more together than we can individually, especially when it comes to creating long term, sustainable and scalable programs that address social problems.
What lead you individually to the shared value idea? How did you come across it?
I believe that some of my early childhood experiences lead me to be working in an area focused on shared value. When my parents separated, my mother was treated with disdain by her bank. She was forced to sell our family home (for less than the mortgage) and was left with my father’s debt which almost ruined her financially.
So, it was a bit of a surprise when almost 20 years later I ended up working for a bank. But I think those early memories fuelled my interest in seeing the good that banks could do. If the bank had treated my mother in a more respectful and understanding way, it would have had a profound impact on her life. I knew that banks had the potential to do good and to do that in a way that delivered benefits for everyone including shareholders.
When I took up this role at Good Shepherd Microfinance, it was an opportunity to continue this work from the ‘other side of the fence’. And it quickly became apparent that this was an organisation that was firmly rooted in shared value through its amazing partnerships with NAB, Suncorp, IAG, and The Good Guys.
The relationship with NAB has shown me how valuable a partnership could be when both parties are committed and willing to do what it takes to have a positive impact and make a program scalable. It’s one of the most successful community business partnerships in Australia.
What does shared value success look like at Good Shepherd Microfinance and where are you at on the journey?
For Good Shepherd Microfinance, success is all about having a tangible, positive impact on people who are excluded from financial services.
It’s a single mother being able to send her kids to school with the same technology as all the other kids. It’s somebody being able to buy furniture and feeling comfortable in their own home. It’s people on low incomes being able to afford insurance so, if they have a car accident, they can get back on the road and remain engaged in their community. And it’s knowing that the services which make all this possible are easily accessible and here for the long term.
What we’ve learnt is that the best way to address the issue of financial exclusion in Australia is to leverage the significant resources, skills and expertise of corporate partners.
And it makes good business sense for corporate partners to be involved in our work. Our long term goal is to see people on low incomes move away from financial crisis and hardship to stability and resilience. As clients do this, they begin to use more products and services from business and participate more fully in the community. It’s in the interests of everyone – business, community and government – to improve financial inclusion.
Our shared value journey is well underway, but we see so many opportunities, I like to think we’re not even halfway.
What is your role individually within Good Shepherd Microfinance to support the company along its shared value journey?
As the General Manager of Innovation and Marketing, I have the great role of working with many of our partner organisations like NAB, Suncorp, IAG and The Good Guys, along with State and Federal Governments to innovate and co-create programs.
I am responsible for our Good Insurance program including our key partnership with Suncorp which was founded on the basis of shared value. Together we have co-designed a simple, accessible and affordable insurance product for people on low incomes. We were committed from the beginning to developing a sustainable product – and we’ve done it. Essentials by AAI is now available through our provider network who are providing information to clients about insurance.
Another one of our key innovations is Good2GoNow – a program with The Good Guys which provides low prices on a range of essential household items through a service that is safe, non-exploitative and trusted. This year we’ve reinvigorated the relationship moving it from being largely transactional, to a mutually beneficial partnership. It creates shared value for both organisations. The Good Guys have increased sales volumes by reaching a low income segment that was previously difficult to target and in doing so, are building brand equity with customers for the future. Importantly, Good Shepherd Microfinance is one of the company’s most recognised commercial accounts and is closely aligned with their value of ‘Doing Good’.
How has practicing shared value helped you individually in your role or career more generally?
I think my career has benefitted from having shared value experience across both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors. It’s helped to improve my understanding about how shared value can work through partnerships and it means that I can have honest conversations with our partners about what they are looking to achieve not only in terms of social good, but also commercially.
What do you think are some pertinent issues in Australia that could be solved through creating shared value?
There are so many issues in Australia that could benefit from a shared value approach.
In our experience, shared value is a proven way to drive financial inclusion. It has been fundamental to the success of microfinance, energy efficiency and insurance programs, and we’re already thinking about what’s next.
We’ve seen a growing section of the community which might be described as working poor. These people may be in low paying jobs, underemployed or in casual roles and susceptible to downturns in the market. They’re earning enough to get by, but not enough to deal with unexpected expenses like car repairs or paying bond.
Currently these people are turning to high cost payday loans or rent-to-buy companies, which only compound their money troubles. There’s an obvious market gap here and a shared value lens is helping us to rethink this issue in a different way.
We’re also thinking about how shared value could enable people to buy their own homes – people who would never have considered that one day they would own a home. If we can support these people to get into the market it will help to improve their future economic security as well as employment, education and health outcomes.
This is a lofty ambition, but my experience with shared value tells me if we get the right people from government, business and the community sector around the table, it becomes achievable.