By 2030, emerging market economies are expected to become home to the majority of the world’s working age population. Unsurprisingly, the future value of tomorrow’s talent is starting to be seen as an investment opportunity, and innovative new vehicles for business in education systems are emerging.
By 2030, emerging market economies are expected to become home to the majority of the world’s working age population (and contribute two thirds of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP)). Moreover, the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is changing education requirements in advanced economies as well. One can only imagine the opportunity and challenge. For example, for a “typical” Indian company, USD 1 invested at the start of education returns USD 53 in value to the employer at the start of a person’s working life. Unsurprisingly, the future value of tomorrow’s talent is starting to be seen as an investment opportunity, and innovative new vehicles for business in education systems are emerging.
Education also continues to be society’s great equaliser. It is a cause which many wealthy clients think about first when they become active in philanthropy. They are keen to give a helping hand to the less privileged so they can obtain the fundamentals for a productive life. Education is also a field where we at Lombard Odier have deep philanthropic advisory competence, and a long track record of engagement.
Education philanthropy comes in many guises: primary, secondary, tertiary or vocational education, and programmes centring on the individual student or on the educational institutions. All are important, so clients should follow their passion. The arrival of online education at near zero marginal cost holds the prospect of education for all for the first time in human history.
“Providing access for talent is such a rewarding endeavour,” explains managing partner Denis Pittet, President of Fondation Philanthropia: “Take the experience of one of our sheltered funds at Fondation Philanthropia. The client wanted to provide access to the medical profession to a new generation of talents whose family financial background would not have otherwise permitted them to become doctors.”
To help define the goals, her relationship manager suggested a brainstorming session with our philanthropy advisory team. Out of that reflection came the establishment of the Hussenstein Fund at the University of Geneva (UNIGE). The Fund provides scholarships to deserving medical students in need. Linda, one of its first recipients, explains the tremendous difference the scholarship has made for her: “The scholarship enabled me to overcome a complicated family background and take my independence.”
There are many other such examples, often connecting a personal passion with empowering students. Relationship manager Jean- Michel Galster explains: “in memory of his grandfather, an industry entrepreneur who did very well in Switzerland, one of my clients wanted to create a fund for mechanical engineering students. The philanthropy team identified the partner, an engineering college, and set up a fund that allows young people with no resources to study and find a job.”
At a time when science and technology are becoming ever more central to education, and education itself more complex and global, philanthropists can make a huge difference in attracting and developing the best brains. When philanthropists help universities to develop new disciplines, engage in international co-operations, and ultimately to innovate faster, their contribution ranges well beyond the spatial boundaries of a campus.
What’s exciting is that education is deeply personal, and a relationship booster. When clients set ambitious goals, they want to pursue them in an entrepreneurial, results-oriented manner. Our advisory process enables them to translate their philanthropic aspirations into a sound action plan, adding another dimension to the client relationship.
If our clients show an interest in education, the three first things we find out are:
- Does the client want to do something with his alma mater?
- Is s/he passionate about primary, secondary, tertiary or vocational education?
- Is s/he keen on programmes centring on the individual student, or rather on an engagement with an educational institution?
When it makes sense, we recommend a fully tailor-made solution such as an independent foundation. With Fondation Philanthropia, we also have a ready-made tax-efficient vehicle to deliver on our clients’ philanthropic goals in an effective, engaging and hassle-free manner.
To help address educational challenges, Lombard Odier is a long-term partner to several leading education institutions including the école polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), also dubbed the “MIT of Europe,” and the University of Geneva, established in 1559.
As our senior managing partner Patrick Odier reminds us, “by helping universities to adapt and embrace change, our engagement alongside that of our clients ultimately ensures the excellence and notoriety that are essential for job creation and economic growth.”
For example, launched in 2005 with the support of Lombard Odier, EPFL’s “Innogrants” programme has financed more than 80 teams and helped to create over 50 start-ups, which have subsequently received more than 100 million Swiss francs (CHF) in additional grants and equity. These entrepreneurs are shaping the future of our economy: different areas include biotechnology and medical equipment, electronics, renewable energies and software development. To optimise the start-ups’ prospects of future success, Innogrants are awarded in the form of an annual salary in an EPFL laboratory, with a focus on the phase of proof of concept and business development.
It’s important to note that the world of education is also changing very fast. To stay competitive and retain their international reputation in the fields of education, research and innovation in the next decade, universities and institutes of technology must now go one step further. They need to make the most of the new opportunities offered by globalisation. To support this continuous innovation process at EPFL, Lombard Odier set up the Fondation Lombard Odier-EPFL Venture Fund in 2014.
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