Posted on Tuesday 8 October 2019 by Ulster Business
Paul Slevin, Alison Mitchell, Ian Sheppard, Sally Irvine, Christine Graham and Paul Magee
With a purpose to enable customers, colleagues and communities to thrive, Bank of Ireland UK staff are building on a long history of supporting local charities and community organisations. Ulster Business speaks to Northern Ireland managing director Ian Sheppard, and learns more about how colleagues are being empowered to play an active role in the local communities where they live and work
Bank of Ireland UK sees developing its colleagues and helping customers and communities to thrive as part of its DNA, according to Ian Sheppard, managing director in Northern Ireland.
From key charity partnerships, to fundraising, volunteering, sponsorship and more, Ian says the desire for Bank of Ireland UK is to make a positive impact by empowering colleagues to make a difference.
“When I speak to my colleagues, I hear how really active and involved they are in their own community,” Ian says. “There are so many examples and I never cease to be amazed by their passion and commitment.
An important partnership for the bank is with Alzheimer’s Society, its flagship charity for the last two years. In that time around £125,000 has been raised in Northern Ireland, but as Ian explains it’s about more than fundraising.
“We realised that not only can we help them financially, but there are resources we can share and opportunities we can offer which can help to significantly raise the charity’s profile and raise much needed funds.”
One example in which the bank has supported Alzheimer’s Society in this way is through its own long-running partnership with Ulster Rugby.
“We donated our advertising and promotion activity for a televised game at the Kingspan Stadium making the charity ‘Sponsor for a Day’. This included using their logo on the back of the Ulster Rugby jerseys, taking over the pitch side boards and inviting a group of people living with dementia, their family and carers to the game – helping to get their brand message out to not only a stadium with capacity of 18,000 people but to a much wider TV audience.”
Alzheimer’s Society sees some fantastic people giving their time to help others. That’s no clearer than its Side by Side programme, which Bank of Ireland UK helps to fund.
The photograph on the front of this edition of the magazine taken at the Grand Opera House in Belfast features Mary Dalzell a Side by Side volunteer, alongside Hazel Whiteside, who has been living with dementia for two years.
They share a love of music, theatre and cinema and the Side by Side programme, which re-connects people with dementia to their communities by doing the things they love, has not only put a smile on both their faces but has had a positive impact on their lives.
There are so many people impacted by dementia and Alzheimers in our local communities, and its touching so many people’s lives, taking this as our motivation, the bank now has almost 1,000 staff trained as Dementia Friends.
The bank’s ‘Give Together’ programme means staff can take one day a year to spend the time working with a charity or community organisation of their choice. “This day can involve anything from gardening work to painting a youth centre,” Ian says
“Beyond Alzheimer’s Society, colleagues are helping many other organisations such as Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Research UK through its Relay for Life Legenderry, the Wooden Spoon children’s rugby charity, and Space NI, which offers support services in health and social care sectors to the local community.” You can read more about some of the good work colleagues have done further on in this feature.
“We are also committed to reflecting the community by developing a diverse and modern workforce – which is part-and-parcel of a progressive company,” Ian says. “It’s something that current and future employees expect in their employer. For us its part of our DNA, something that’s always been there but we are now putting a clear and visible structure around it,” Ian says.
This has included being a founding member of FuSIoN – the Financial Services Inclusion Network which drives to support and promote LGBT+ professionals across the sector, becoming JAM Card members – allowing staff to know if customers with a communication barrier need ‘just a minute’, as well as recently being awarded the Diversity Charter Mark.
“Our community involvement is something we are very clear about - something I’m passionate about and it’s an easy ask to get staff engaged. It’s very natural, and it has always been developed from the ground up,” Ian says.
He believes this contributes to the huge numbers of staff doing their bit – enabling their own local communities to thrive.
A customer service manager for Bank of Ireland UK in Londonderry, Alison has worked for the bank for 22 years, but her motivation for fundraising and support for Alzheimer’s Society began in 2015, following her mother-in-law’s diagnosis with dementia.
Alison trained at her local hospital to become a dementia volunteer and learned so much she asked Alzheimer’s Society to run similar sessions in her own branch to enable staff to better assist customers with dementia.
Sadly, Alison’s mother-in-law passed away in May of this year but to mark her passing and to raise vital funds in her memory, Alison took part in Alzheimer’s Society Cupcake Day. Initial plans to simply sell cupcakes within her own branch changed rapidly as colleagues from nearby branches heard of the event and wanted to support both Alison and the charity.
Faced with orders for more than 300 cupcakes, Alison requested a Give Together day, which is time given by the bank to both individuals and teams to give back to their communities.
Alison says: “I was in the kitchen from 7am to 11pm baking and icing but it was worth it. The event raised £1,750 which Bank of Ireland UK matched doubling the amount raised to £3,500.
“I could not have achieved that without the support of family, colleagues and the wider business. I was proud to raise the funds in my mother-in-law’s memory and I am proud to work for an organisation that not only values our role in the wider community but supports it too.”
Christine Graham has helped to raise funds for Cancer Research UK through the Relay for Life “Legenderry” event held in St. Columb’s Park, Londonderry.
The Derry-based senior business manager for Bank of Ireland UK has personally been touched by cancer as she lost two close family members to the disease. Her young great niece was also diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2016 and is now doing well, but seeing the impact a cancer diagnosis has on a family inspired Christine to get involved with the Relay for Life event.
“Our event truly is ‘legenderry’,” she says. It is a 24-hour relay race that brings the whole community together to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors, to remember those lost to the disease, to fight back by increasing our knowledge of cancer and by raising money to fund life-saving cancer research.”
In just three years the event has raised over £500,000 for Cancer Research UK with Christine helping to raise £240,000 in 2019 – not only the most successful Relay for Life event in the UK this year but all funds raised in Northern Ireland stays here.
Christine values the support she has had from the bank who promote the event to the wider community and from her colleagues who enter teams.
“Relay for Life is for all ages and stages, all shapes and sizes,” she says. It’s cross community and intergenerational and the atmosphere every year is electric.”
Plans are already underway for Relay for Life 2020 which promises to be another massive event.
Paul Magee, associate director of the corporate banking team, became involved with the Ulster Region Committee for Wooden Spoon, the Children’s Charity of Rugby, five years ago after he successfully completed the charity’s Four Peaks Challenge, reaching the summits of the UK and Ireland’s highest peaks. He is now an active committee member for Wooden Spoon, helping to raise funds to provide life-enhancing experiences for disadvantaged and disabled children.
“All funds raised in Ulster stay in the region and benefit the children here,” Paul says. “For instance, we provided £18,000 to the Mae Murray Foundation to buy specialist equipment for the first fully accessible beach in Ulster at Benone Strand. When we created the access to the beach, one parent was very emotional as he watched his teenage daughter in the sea for the first time. It’s those occasions where we’re responding to a need within the community that makes the effort worthwhile.”
Wooden Spoon has funded numerous charity projects, most recently £33,000 for a new multi-sensory room at Parkview Special School in Lisburn and purchasing a horse for Riding for the Disabled Association in Coleraine, a charity that enhances children’s lives every day.
With his passion for and involvement in Wooden Spoon, Paul is grateful for the support Bank of Ireland has given him in his role with the organisation, specifically the corporate banking team who value his dedication to making a difference.
He says: “The bank has been fantastic – I appreciate the flexibility the team offers in the lead up to events and my colleagues often attend Wooden Spoon fundraisers. I’ve also benefited from the bank’s Give Together initiative, which offers days of paid leave that employees can use for volunteering. The bank’s support has helped facilitate my commitment to Wooden Spoon, where I can really see and be a part of the impact the charity has on the local community.”
Over the last 10 years Sally Irvine’s coffee mornings have become a highlight in the office calendar, in turn raising more than £15,000 for MacMillan Cancer Support and funding 75 days of specialist nursing care for cancer patients across Northern Ireland.
Sally, a business lending and credit governance manager at Bank of Ireland UK, arranged her first Macmillan Coffee Morning in 2008 following a colleague’s cancer diagnosis. She found herself wanting to do something to help people living with cancer and so took the plunge and decided to be a host as part of Macmillan’s biggest coffee morning fundraising event. From the outset, Sally had tremendous support from her team members and the wider business, and this has contributed to the ongoing success of the event.
The bank plays a huge part in ensuring Sally can deliver the event each year by giving her support through their Give Together scheme.
Sally says: “The coffee morning has become a very special occasion and a great day of fun where people from across the bank come together to have a wee cuppa and a cake and take time to catch up while raising money for a really important cause. One in two of us will face cancer at some time in our lives and I am passionate about continuing to fundraise to provide the specialist nursing care that’s so vital for those living with cancer.”
Plans are already underway for this year’s Macmillan Coffee Morning and Sally is hopeful the annual fundraiser will continue to hold a special place in the office calendar.
Branch manager at Bank of Ireland UK in Newry, Paul Slevin is someone who embodies the bank’s ethos of community involvement through his role with the charity Space NI.
Space NI offers support services in health and social care sectors to the local community. Through its service Home to Hospital, the organisation has helped 400 elderly people travel to crucial hospital appointments, while its Family Support Hub offers vital assistance to families in distress.
Paul joined the charity in 2011 and has just completed five years as chairman of the Board of Directors. He is proud that his background in finance has enabled him to support the charity through its repositioning process to ensure that its activities best serve the community.
Since Paul’s involvement with the charity began, Space NI has won the ‘One to Watch’ award at NI Social Enterprise Awards and the ‘Community Wellbeing Initiative’ at the All Ireland Pride of Place Awards. The organisation has also grown and opened a third premises in Newry and launched a range of volunteer made soy wax candles to raise crucial funds.
“Bank of Ireland UK encourage all staff to give back,” Paul says. “Every manager I’ve had was very active in their community, so they were both great role models and great motivators. I think it’s really important to give our time, our expertise, and to do whatever we can to help and support the communities we live and work in.”