AJ Bell: firms need social conscience in pandemic

AJ Bell CEO Andy Bell

Andy Bell, chief executive of Manchester-based investment platform AJ Bell, said on Wednesday that “businesses need to have a social conscience if we are to get through this crisis” of the coronavirus pandemic.

The CEO said society “will not react well” to companies that take government aid “whilst they make large profits, pay out large bonuses to executives or pay dividends to shareholders.”

Bell said his staff have been assured “their jobs are safe and every member of staff will continue to be paid as normal throughout the crisis.”

He said no AJ Bell staff will be furloughed because “we believe that the Government’s Job Retention Scheme should be preserved for those companies that need it most.”

He said AJ Bell will not be claiming benefits from any of the other Government financial support schemes available to employers and will not be deferring its VAT bill.

“We have launched an AJ Bell Wage War on COVID Fund under the umbrella of the AJ Bell Trust, a UK registered charity,” said the CEO.

“All proceeds will be distributed to charities supporting the COVID-19 efforts or directly to those in need as a result of the virus.

“We aim to distribute all of the funds raised quickly, over the coming months with a back stop date of the end of this calendar year

“The AJ Bell Trust has kick started the fund raising by allocating £50,000 of its charitable reserves to the Fund

“I, along with other board directors and senior management, have donated our April, May and June wages into the AJ Bell Wage War on COVID Fund

“I am immensely proud that a number of our staff have already signalled their intent to donate part of their wages over the same three month period and I’m sure many more will donate now the fund has launched.”

The CEO added: “Business leaders and our businesses have their parts to play in taking a socially responsible approach.

“We will all be held accountable as to how we react during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Customers, staff, suppliers, investors and wider stakeholders will all make their own judgements and already the court of public opinion is opining on the actions of certain businesses to a positive effect.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all and will impact our society in ways that we can only imagine at this stage.

“Many people will lose their jobs, their financial independence or, sadly, their loved ones.

“Businesses need to have a social conscience if we are to get through this crisis …

“Businesses with a social conscience will assess the various support schemes through the lens of need and not entitlement.

“Every pound claimed under one of the Government’s financial support schemes is a pound that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back.

“I acknowledge that many businesses have been hit very hard and these support schemes are an essential lifeline for them.

“In the months to come many of us will be drafting annual reports and accounts, talking about the contributions our business has made to society.

“Society will not react well to businesses that take Government aid whilst they make large profits, pay out large bonuses to executives or pay dividends to shareholders.

“CEOs and business leaders are in a unique position to determine their business’ approach to the crisis and we should all lead by example.

“Many CEOs and business leaders have already made a financial commitment to support their employer and their colleagues.

“Others will be considering making donations to worthy causes.

“Anyone who wants to join me in waiving or donating part of their wages to charity in their fight against COVID-19 can join us on social media #wagewaronCOVID.

“The AJ Bell Wage War on COVID Fund is open to anyone who wants to make a donation and be assured that it is used to support a COVID-19 cause.