Philanthropy, Raymond James Canada Foundation and RJ Cares

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Executive Director of the Raymond James Canada Foundation & Head of Corporate Sustainability Eric Saarvala and Senior Branch Manage Sarah Brillinger join the podcast to discuss philanthropy, the Raymond James Canada Foundation and RJ Cares month, including:

  1. What is RJ Cares?
  2. What does RJ Cares support communities and its importance to our associates?
  3. How does RJ Cares contribute to the culture at Raymond James?
  4. How is the Ottawa branch giving back to the community?
  5. How clients participate in RJ Cares?
  6. How is RJ Cares connected with Raymond James’ corporate sustainability strategy?

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Chris: Hello and welcome to the Advantaged Investor, a Raymond James Limited podcast. A podcast that provides perspective for Canadian investors who want to remain knowledgeable, informed, and focused on long-term success. We are recording this on May 24, 2023. I'm Chris Cooksey from the Raymond James Corporate Communications and Marketing Department.

Today we have two guests to discuss the Raymond James Canada Foundation and RJ Cares Month, executive Director of the Raymond James Canada Foundation and Head of Corporate Sustainability, Eric Saarvala and Senior Branch Manager Sarah Brillinger. This is Eric's second appearance. He joined us for episode 60 where we talked about the importance of corporate sustainability, and I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention episode 48 where Diana Mao spoke about donor advised funds and how they can help investors reach the their charitable giving goals. Please check out those episodes. Sarah, welcome to your first appearance to the podcast. Hope you're doing well today.

Sarah: Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.

Chris: And Eric, welcome back. We sit close together. I know you're doing well today, as we've already had that conversation. But welcome back, officially, to you.

Eric: Always a pleasure to, to join the podcast, Chris.

Chris: Great. I mean, I like hearing that. Otherwise it's not a very good podcast. Let's be honest. One of the important aspects of culture here at Raymond James is the importance of giving back to the communities that we live and work in. Sort of if we use some of those fun corporate-type words baked into the DNA of the firm, but it is very important and I know a lot of people really value about that part of working for Raymond James.

So Eric, let's start with what is RJ Cares.

Eric: Yeah, so this is the absolute best part of my job, Chris. So, I'll just take a step back and we'll talk about how the Raymond James Canada Foundation facilitates the workplace giving programs to support our ongoing charitable efforts, our corporate responsibility that Raymond James Limited colleagues can engage in.

We also manage disaster relief campaigns when tragedy strikes, whether at home or across the world. We applaud this social responsibility of our advisors and our associates and their commitment to making a positive impact in the lives of others. And to that point, at Raymond James, we share that desire to give back to the communities in which we live and work.

We believe that being active in our communities helps us grow a successful business and build strong personal relationships. And in 2013, all of this culminated in in a month called RJ Cares. So Raymond James cares. This is dedicated to the month of May and a month long initiative designed to celebrate and strengthen our passion for volunteering and teamwork. And so each May, our colleagues across the country, we focus our energy on team volunteer activities, donation drives, charitable engagement initiatives. At the local level, we support a wide variety of incredible causes from food banks and cancer research to animals and the environment to vulnerable children and families.

And in addition to serving others, RJ Cares offers employees the chance to engage with coworkers outside of the office, meet new people and create strong personal bonds. One of the initiatives that was born out of RJ Cares through the pandemic, obviously there's not an opportunity to go out and do that in-person volunteering when the pandemic was happening, so we initiated what we called a virtual volunteer or virtual fundraising initiative called the RJ 5K for kids. This was an initiative where we wanted our employees to get out into the community, but from a mental health aspect, get out, exercise, enjoy the fresh air and that opportunity to stay active.

And we had one beneficiary in our first year, which was Drug-Free Kids Canada. Huge successful fundraising initiatives. So as part of the 5K for Kids, we have people that fundraise, the foundation offers a match on some of those fundraising initiatives. In year two, we had two beneficiaries, the Little Warriors and Drug-Free Kids Canada again.

Another successful campaign - we raised $200,000 for each organization, and now we're year in, year three of the of the campaign and Little Warriors is our beneficiary for this year, so all part of RJ cares in giving back.

Chris: And also, I don't know the episode off the top of my head, but we did have a representative from Drug Free Kids Canada on the podcast you know, a couple years ago talking about the impact that drug addiction or addiction in general has to our financial wellbeing as a country and as individuals. So check back in the archives for that. Now, Sarah. I guess on a personal level, what does RJ Cares mean to you and, and I guess by extension, your branch and then the branch community including the clients.

Sarah: Sure, yeah. It's you know, absolutely one of our favourite months of the year. And Eric, you just reminded me that we're in our 10th anniversary, so that's pretty exciting.

We should have had a big 10th anniversary party, but yeah, it's super important to me to give back to where we live and work. I mean let's face it, you know, we're some of the lucky ones here. We have, great jobs. We work for a great company. Not everybody's as lucky. And so our branch is extremely involved in our community.

We generally do something on a monthly basis, but when May rolls around every year, we really we ramp things up. So, we tend to have weekly initiatives during the month of May, and actually next week I think we have three different things going on. So it's really a part of our culture here and it's been absolutely great to have the support of the firm behind this.

Chris: Awesome. Now Eric, how would you say that RJ Cares contributes to the culture of Raymond James?

Eric: Oh, easily. This is a culture driver here. You just heard how meaningful this is to Sarah and the folks at her branch. Obviously very meaningful to the communities in which we support.

We're starting to hear a little bit more anecdotal evidence when we're recruiting and people coming into Raymond James recognizing, and them saying, that we noticed what you're doing in community here. We have the same purpose, same shared values. I want to work for a company that’s represented in the community in the way that you do.

So it's amazing that this is actually becoming a driver in terms of that talent attraction. The other piece here is it really is it drives the corporate culture in the sense that we give back in many different ways. So we have RJ Cares, which we've touched on in volunteering in the community.

I mentioned earlier about disaster appeals. So when disaster happens, whether it's nationally here in Canada or internationally, our folks come and want to be activated around that they want to give. We have matching programs that can double the impact of their donations. And when there's a government matching programs that just amplifies what that impact can be.

We have an annual giving campaign every year, where we will match donations to charities up to $2,500 across three charities to a maximum. Hearing that we have that type of benefit at Raymond James as part of our foundation, it is an absolute driver in terms of how people feel about corporate social responsibility.

Chris: And I would say just as an employee of Raymond James, one of the things I like about it is that you can pick the registered charity that's meaningful to you. You're not forced into, if you will, force is a strong word, obviously, but it's not, this is our charity, please support it. It’s about what is important to you, and I think that really leads to the buy-in and really shows the breadth of what employee action can do.

Eric: Yeah. And tat that's one of the key points that really makes this organization unique in this space. So a lot of your traditional corporate philanthropy, you have your buckets of community investment where they will engage with charities, ask for grant applications in money out, and then monitor what is that impact for us at Raymond James.

It is what is important to the employee, to the branch? How do you, how do you identify what those local issues are? And, Sarah will talk about some of those initiatives in her immediate area that they engage with, but what's happening in Vancouver versus Toronto versus Ottawa versus Montreal? Very different in terms of what those immediate needs are.

There's that activation for people to get involved at that local level and for the Raymond James Canada Foundation to come in on that backend with that funding, with that matching opportunity with volunteer grants when people are involved in volunteering in the community.

Chris: Now, Sarah, this goes beyond the firm and the foundation and us as employees even. I know your branch gets clients or the end investors involved, so maybe just talk a little bit about that.

Sarah: Yeah, sure. We have a couple of things that have gone on that do allow for client impact. So recently I actually emulated a branch in Victoria who did this. The idea is not mine originally, but I saw what they were doing was an annual shredding event. So essentially what happens is we bring a shredding truck to a site. The clients come along, they can bring all their shredding to us. And in return, the way we did it is we asked them to go paperless. And so obviously we're always looking for ways to eliminate our footprint, our paper footprint especially.

It's so destructive. So this was a great opportunity. We had about, I want to say maybe 50 clients come out and drop off all the paper that they had built up in their houses, and in return they went paperless on their statements. So it was a great proactive way to you know to really make a dent to that paper usage.

We also don't use paper from trees here in branch. We use paper from sugarcane. So it's a really kind of innovative way, you know, to reduce our, our damage to our trees. Another thing we have coming up next week is what we call Canoe for Kids. And so that is an event that benefits what's called Christie Lake Kids.

So this is a camp where children who can't afford to go to camp are sent there free of cost. And you know, we have clients that have joined us in the canoe and they have told us, listen, like this camp changed my life. If I hadn't have gone to this camp, I wouldn't be the person that I am today. So you know, I take great pride in being part of this, because I've seen the end result and two clients are joining us next week when we go for our canoe race and raise funds for Christie Lake Health.

Chris: Amazing. Now, Eric, how in a wider sense can clients participate in RJ Cares?

Eric: So this is the amazing stories that I get to hear about in my role. And again, why I think I have the best job at Raymond James, is I'm hearing about the different branches and activations around those client participation in the initiative.

So, like Sarah mentioned that shredding event, I've heard other branches that will have people bring canned foods in exchange for having their having their statements and other documents shredded at those events. So if there's an immediate food crisis where that branch is located, great opportunity to activate your clients around that. I've been hearing stories around different fundraisers that the branches are involved with, whether it's the Ride to Conquer Cancer or Tour For a Cure other type of initiatives like that where they actually activate the clients to participate in these initiatives. So, again, as the Raymond James Canada Foundation, we're supporting these volunteer activities and helping them with their fundraising and different initiatives, and they're bringing the clients in to be aligned to that shared purpose, shared values and getting involved, and it's just a, a way to obviously deepen the relationship the client with their advisor, but also the advisor with the client.

Chris: All right. Now in terms of, like I said earlier episode 60, you joined us to talk corporate sustainability. So maybe just talk about the connection between RJ Cares and corporate sustainability, please.

Eric: Well, Sarah just touched on a couple of pieces. So corporately, we have a sustainability strategy that is focused on three pillars.

So green workspaces, green procurement, and green transportation. And when we think about green procurement, what are some of the things that we can do to potentially reduce are greenhouse gas emissions and thinking about that paper, what can we do to be better from a recycling standpoint? Not using as much paper, getting clients to move to, to paperless. So while we can take some initiatives internally, whether it's reducing our energy use and different initiatives from a workspace and a facility standpoint, there's that opportunity to have clients join in on some of these sustainability initiatives around reducing our paper, reducing our carbon footprint.

Chris: Great. Now Sarah, last question for you. Is there anything else about RJ Cares you'd like to share with us?

Sarah: I guess I would say that I feel lucky to work for a firm that really puts its money where its mouth is. I mean, we're giving two full paid volunteer days per year. Which really allows a full, breadth of people to get to try all different kinds of things in the community.

Usually our events are about three to four hours per event. So, you know, you can really be participating in four different things a year, try different things. It's all, you know, as you mentioned earlier, employee driven. So we go to the field and say, what do you want to do? What do you care about? And we'll build events around what people care for.

So yeah, I just, I feel lucky to work for a caring company.

Chris: Amazing. Eric, any last thoughts?

Eric: Well, Sarah just mentioned caring company. So the Raymond James Canada Foundation is part of the Imagine Canada's Caring Company program. We are a certified caring company, and that is attributed to what we do to give back.

And Sarah mentioned that employee choice is really such a key driver. And again, what makes us unique? Identifying what that local need is. So in Toronto, some of our initiatives around RJ Cares this week is we are doing a shoreline cleanup. There is some time being spent at the Scott Mission, which helps with homelessness in the city and St. Felix is another organization that there's an opportunity for people to get out and volunteer and provide meals to people in need. So different initiatives and activities that that we are seeing across the board, based on what those needs are. The nice part is while we are talking about our RJ Cares, and we do have those two days a year for volunteering, this goes beyond just the month of May. We see branches that are showing up in the community for the other 11 months out of the year. And whether it's initiatives around the holidays in giving back, or whether it's midsummer and shore cleanups or food banks, it's anything and everything based on what those interests are of our employees.

Chris: Yeah, and I just agree with both of you. It's such a great program and the employee driven part where you can pick it, your clients can have something that's very important to them, you want to participate in whatever it is. I just find that it comes across as really genuine here and I think that's very, very important.

If you would like to learn more about this obviously there's the Raymond James Canada Foundation website, but also I would encourage people to check out social media, either our corporate LinkedIn or Twitter accounts or individual employees because there's a lot of really great things that get highlighted there.

So I would just leave the listeners with that. But we have come to the end here, so I want to thank you, Eric for taking the time today and we'll talk to you again soon. And Sarah, thank you very much.

Eric: Well, Chris, one thing I, would add, people can reach out to their advisor, find out absolutely what Raymond James is doing in their local community to give back.

Chris: Great point. All righty. And I just want, to wish you guys to keep the good work, because it is really, really fabulous. Reach out to us at the Subscribe to the Advantaged Investor on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast. Please contact your advisor with any questions you have. On behalf of Raymond James and the Advantage Investor, thank you for taking the time to listen today. Until next time, stay well.

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