Helping out through the genius of simplicity
Leaders of Tomorrow winners base their business idea on charity donations from bank accounts
This year’s Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow are DCU e-commerce masters students James Barry and Callum Bashford, who have developed an innovative service that offers online banking customers a new and convenient way to donate to charity.
The appropriately-named “Cent for Change” business proposition is based on a very simple concept; at the end of each month any spare cents in a user’s account – up to a maximum of 99 cent – will automatically be donated to a charity selected by the customer. This makes it a hassle-free and very affordable way to make charitable donations.
A number of banks have already indicated that they would be favourably disposed towards incorporating the Cent for Change facility into their online banking systems and, unsurprisingly, several charities have also shown a strong interest in the concept.
The Leaders of Tomorrow Award was set up by Accenture six years ago and is designed to seek out and develop the business leadership potential of the next generation, giving Irish third-level students the opportunity to be coached on their individual business concepts, regardless of the sector or industry.
As 2013 winners, Barry and Bashford will get the opportunity to develop their proposal as part of a six-month Idea Incubation Internship with Accenture and will take part in a Leadership Tour to New York later in the year.
The Cent for Change idea was developed partly as a result of a module on the winning pair’s undergraduate course. “We both did business degrees in DCU and we had a module in our final year on new enterprise development,” says Barry.
“We had to come up with a new business idea as part of this. We are both interested in the charity sector and social entrepreneurship, and we saw that charitable donations were going down while online banking was on the rise, so we decided to look at how one could be used to help with the other.”
Charitable work and enterprise have always interested Bashford. “I come from a business-oriented family and at the moment I am working on the intergenerational programme at DCU where we help elderly people acquire IT skills to use computers and other technologies,” he explains. “I also worked with Foróige when I was younger.”
Like most great ideas this one is remarkably simple. “The genius of it is in its simplicity,” Bashford points out. “When a bank customer logs onto their account, they will be presented with a Cent for Change tab which they can click on if they wish to participate. They will then get a simply form to complete to authorise their bank to donate their spare cents to a charity of their choice on their behalf each month.”
According to Accenture Ireland country managing director Mark Ryan, the competition gets more intense every year. “This is our sixth year of doing it and sitting there for the afternoon during the judging and listening to the six finalists making their presentations, you ended up saying to yourself that Ireland is in good shape. The standard was really fantastic. All of the finalists were extremely impressive. Competition this year was exceptionally strong,” he says.
“Overall entry numbers were well up on last year and more than 80 per cent of those who expressed an interest in the competition followed through and made a submission.
“This shows that Leaders of Tomorrow is now very well established as a competition and that this generation of graduates is very keen to follow through on their ideas.”
The social entrepreneurship dimension to this year’s winning entry is by no means new to the competition. “James and Callum have a financial services background in terms of their college courses and the internships they have done and so on,” says Ryan.
“Yet they have come up with this social enterprise project. This is something we have seen emerging in Leaders of Tomorrow over the years. When we look back what is clear is the mindset of all the entrants in terms of sustainability and corporate citizenship.
“They have a keen sense of ethics and of doing the right thing. It’s something I commented on during the judging process this year. Good corporate citizenship is really important to these guys.”
For the two winners, there is some unfinished business in college to be attended to. “We will finish up our masters in August and then begin our internships at Accenture,” says Barry. “We’re looking forward to that as we will have access to the people with the expertise to help us develop Cent for Change.
“That’s one of the things that have been really helpful about the Leaders of Tomorrow competition. The Leadership Development Days for the finalists were great and gave us exposure to senior people who have experience of the real world and were able to pass the benefit of it onto us.”
They also see a bright future for Cent for Change beyond the banking application and even these shores. “We believe it is very scalable,” says Bashford. “We can bring it into other areas like utility bills as well as to other countries. We want to continue developing it after we complete internship with Accenture.”
For Accenture, planning for next year’s Leaders of Tomorrow competition is already underway. “Each year we look for feedback from competition entrants and we learn from that and make some tweaks,” says Ryan.
“For example, we started out with just one Leadership Development Day but when the participants told us how valuable they found them we increased it to two. We will be looking at this year’s feedback to see how we can improve the competition still further for next year.”
To learn more about the Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow award go to Accenture.com.