I've taken a year out of banking to work for a charity and it's made me a lot more humble

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We spoke to Raj Narayan, head of secondary loan trading at Lloyds Banking Group. Since May, Raj has been on secondment from Lloyds to Business in the Community, an organization that aims to build a fairer society in London. He advocates that other finance professionals try working in charities too. Here's why.

So, you were Lloyds’ Bank head of secondary loan trading and a high yield specialist? What brings you to a charitable organisation in Tower Hamlets?

I am on secondment from Lloyds Banking Group to Business in the Community (BITC). I’ve taken a year out from banking to do this. It’s a great opportunity and has allowed me to really engage with the local community. You have these almost parallel societies in London – on one hand there’s big business and on the other hand you have some of the highest rates of child poverty in England and people living off food banks.

What are you doing exactly?

I’m a business connector. I encourage greater collaboration among a wide range of organisations in local communities. I spend time with key people from business, education and the voluntary sector to better understand the collective issues they face. There are some amazing charities around here and I’m helping to build bridges so that they can get the support they need. For example, I’ve been working with a charity called Rooted Forum which helps disengaged local youths and connected them to another charity, which is providing Rooted Form management expertise. I am working with ‘Idle Man’ a small but ambitious online men’s fashion retailer. I connected them to a 'growth accelerator', which is providing advice to the retailer to grow and I connected an artist to an social enterprise called Poached Creative which is helping the artist showcase her work online.

Have you come across many other ex-bankers in Tower Hamlets?

No! – Only one. There’s a former banker who runs East London Radio, which is a radio station that encourages youths to come along and work on radio programmes. More bankers should get involved though – people in the industry have amazing skills and can make a real difference!

So what have you been up to this morning?

I had a meeting with the manager of Waitrose in Canary Wharf. He has over 700 people working there. I’m trying to organize for his leadership team to come and do a presentation in local schools and universities, to encourage and share the skills you need to work and rise in retail.

It’s partly about raising aspirations then?

Yes! I’d love for people from banks, law firms, big companies who have come from humble, to come forward and talk to some of these kids – they’ll be able to relate to them.

I want kids from deprived areas to think big and have aspirations. When I went into schools and spoke to people who were good at maths, many said they didn’t want to become bankers because it was too difficult. It’s all about exposing people to the industry and letting them know that other people like them have done it.

Did you know anyone from Tower Hamlets before the secondment?

Two or three. Within a few weeks I’d met over 50! It’s actually very similar to a banking job. I’m a broker and a networker. I’m connecting people, networking and using sales skills.

Do you think you’ve changed as a result?

Yes! I definitely see things differently. I’m a lot more humble and energised. I really believe that we can all make a difference. There’s a lot of talent in the local community that goes unrecognized outside – I’ve met some amazing people, like Farah Mohammoud, who’s been helping young ex-offenders and homeless to come back into the mainstream. He organized 10 artists to work with the ex-offenders and came up with an amazing album – I’m trying to help him make that into a sustainable enterprise.

What would you say to your colleagues in banking?

I’ve managed loads in a few weeks. Imagine if there were 1,000 people from banking out there working in the local community. We could absolutely change the world for the better!

At the same time, the banking and corporate sector can learn a lot from the charity sector. Charities have very engaged and enthusiastic staff and achieve absolutely incredible results with very limited resources.

I would like to encourage people to come, see and experience our phenomenal community. Feel free to contact me via Raj.narayan@bitcconnect.org.

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