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Learnings from 300 years of giving back with Rennie Hoare

C Hoare & Co is the UK’s oldest private bank, founded in 1672 and still family owned, with a long history of philanthropic practices across its 11 generations. This culminated in the formal appointment of a head of philanthropy in 2018, an appointment bestowed upon Rennie Hoare, one of the bank’s youngest partners.

C Hoare & Co is the UK’s oldest private bank, founded in 1672 and still family owned, with a long history of philanthropic practices across its 11 generations. This culminated in the formal appointment of a head of philanthropy in 2018, an appointment bestowed upon Rennie Hoare, one of the bank’s youngest partners.

Rennie had enthusiastically advocated for the need for such a role, to provide greater structure and focus to the philanthropic activity of the family and the bank in order to increase the impact it could have on the communities it served, and strengthen the involvement of its customers on this mission.

The Hoare family and the bank already had a strong foundation in giving, directing 10% of the bank’s profits on an annual basis to the Golden Bottle Trust, a foundation established in 1985 to further the family’s philanthropic work

The Golden Bottle Trust operates quite differently from other family foundations, reflecting perhaps the size of the family behind it and its unique relationship with the bank.

Family members with a deeper involvement in the Golden Bottle Trust have a discretionary pot that they can allocate to charities they know well, without first having to go through the committee process. For example, when the Covid-19 crisis hit, this allowed family members to react and support charities responding to the situation in a timely way.

Creating new ways to engage the extended Hoare family in giving programmes has also been a successful approach to maximising the impact of the trust.

“There are 2,400 direct living descendants of the bank’s founders,” explains Rennie, “and they too can apply for a grant of up to £5,000 [$6,622] to give to a charity in which they are closely involved. In addition, a family forum has been established through which decisions are made on how to allocate funds to a selection of trusted partner charities. These partnerships and networks facilitate the possibility of unrestricted grant making, allowing for the most impactful work to be achieved.

“We make some 300 grants each year in this way,” says Rennie, “and while they may not always be large, they do embed us in the charity sector.

“At a more strategic level, we carve out a third of each year’s grant-giving to go to just 10 charities via our large donations panel. We look to find charity partners we can trust, we get to know them, and then provide unrestricted grants. We do not want to tie them in knots with lots of reporting and gating; we want them to get on and do things.”

That is not to say, however, that reporting isn’t important. It is something, says Rennie, that is approached in a slightly different way.

The trust also employs some creative strategies to help engage bank employees in philanthropic programmes and opportunities to give, including through employee-matching programmes.

“We operate a give-as-you-earn scheme for our bank staff, where the Golden Bottle Trust contributes two pounds for every pound given by staff. It’s an amazing maximiser, with over £280,000 [$370,839] given by staff last year.”

Uniting a community

As part of his efforts, Rennie established a community of giving amongst C Hoare and Co, extending beyond customers to wider stakeholders, creating a forum for like-minded customers to meet, showcase charities and their work, while learning from each other’s successful, and sometimes less successful, philanthropic endeavours. This was also a source of ideas and inspiration for Rennie as he continued to expand on the organisation’s direct philanthropic efforts.

“There has always been a passion for philanthropy and the charity ecosystem,” explains Rennie, “and particularly on improving the way charities operate, and I approach my role from that perspective. I am passionate about improving the way things flow.”

In 2011, C Hoare and Co would become the first UK bank to create a donor-advised fund, now with over £220 million [$291 million] in assets, representing 10% of the UK donor-advised fund market.


In 2016, the Golden Bottle Trust launched its first social impact investment fund, Snowball, with the aim to change the way the charity investment market operates.

“We are trying to establish a strong sense of accountability in where funds go; there is a risk with charitable trusts, that if you are grant-making and holding a sizeable investment portfolio invested in companies that are causing damage to society at a greater rate than the good you are doing, well, that is untenable.

Snowball is much more about harmonising grant making and investments. We espouse the view of what we call total portfolio impact, where both grants and investments are set out to do intentional good.”

To support this, the trust made a decision in recent years to ensure that 100% of activity invested goes towards social impact investments.

“For us, it’s crucial that we understand the impact of all the things we are doing through the charitable trust.”

Snowball’s mission is not insubstantial, with the bank looking to make the fund available to a wide range of individual investors “We want to see Snowball replicated by other fund management firms and think about what the next wave of capitalism should look like, where financial, environmental and social returns are considered,” says Rennie.

Advice for other philanthropists

Rennie recognises that it can be daunting for those starting on a philanthropic journey, often looking impenetrable to the outsider. That can disengage individuals from taking the first step.

“Philanthropists are, naturally, very generous with their time, so if this is something you wish to explore, talk to friends, your advisers and your network. People will want to share, support and encourage best practice.”

He emphasises the importance of focusing on areas of passion, rather than on trying to support every support-worthy organisation. 

“Focus on what you really care about. That may sound trite, but there are over 168,000 charities in the UK and if you spread yourself too thin it can become quite disengaging. Your impact will be minimised.”

This interview was conducted as part of KPMG’s The Future of Philanthropy series exploring emerging trends in philanthropy and how a new wave of philanthropists are giving back. The full series can be found here including the latest white paper on Disruptive Philanthropists. The publication is the result of several months of quantitative and qualitative research, which has been developed by the network of Family Office & Private Client specialists in KPMG firms around the world.

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