Sterling Bank needs a big lesson on CSR as it announces its MSME Academy- This was the headline on an article published by Enterprise 54 (see here). I smiled inwardly, wondering if it was just another misleading-catchy headline targeted at capturing the attention of would be readers, suffice to say it worked, I was hooked.
So the gist of it is this-Sterling bank wants to empower MSMEs in Nigeria by launching the maiden edition of its Sterling MSME Academy where business owners would be trained and mentored for a period of 4 weeks (Wednesdays only). Now this is a welcome development for SMEs but here’s where it gets interesting, Enterprise 54 is calling out Sterling bank for attaching a monetary value to the program; Sterling bank is charging participants N12,999 if making outright payments or N15,000 if paying in 3 installments over a 3 month period for Academic Fee Structure (whatever that means).
Now, Enterprise 54 feels the program should be free if it is a corporate social responsibility initiative. As a matter of fact, the writer of the article gave good suggestions as to how Sterling bank should have gone about the program. The writer suggests that this would have been a beautiful opportunity for Sterling bank to give back to it its customers, thereby asserting their position as the ‘one customer bank’. The writer also expected Sterling bank to make the training free to its existing customers.
Some folks however seem to agree with the bank’s decision to charge a fee, reason being that people only appreciate a venture they are financially vested in. They also feel it is part of the financial institution’s efforts to weed out un-serious people. A few even opine that it helps control the number of participants expected to show up for the training program.
On the other hand, some others seem to agree with Enterprise 54 as they believe CSR initiatives should attract no financial reward in whatever form as this would not be actual giving, if they are still collecting from the same people they are supposed to be helping. They argue that MSMEs barely find a way to thrive in the present economy despite all the challenges they face and therefore should be given all the support they need as SMEs play a vital role in any nation’s economy.
So here are two divergent views that seem to hold a lot of water, however, do you think the bank should go back to the drawing board to come up with a better CSR plan or do you think they are on the right path? Please let us know your views by leaving a comment in the comment section below.