The power of partnerships: turning creative ideas into actions that drive impact

business collaboration, teams working together

Article by Desirée Clarke-Noble, Managing Director and Head, Brand & Marketing, RBC Capital Markets

Banks are not only important engines of the global economy but increasingly a driver of social impact around the world.

As head of brand and marketing, Europe and APAC for RBC Capital Markets, a key part of my role is building meaningful and lasting partnerships with charities and organisations that benefit worthy causes, help our communities prosper and help build a great culture within RBC.

Helping firms to find social purpose and enact positive change has always been important to me, yet my route into financial services was a little unconventional. I kicked-off my career in the early 2000s in New Zealand’s thriving wine industry. Taking a chance, I decided to change track when offered a marketing and communications role in the UK at the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange – drawn by the creative challenge of promoting innovative products for an exchange.

The gamble paid off as I found a fascinating industry I could see myself building a career in. I later moved to HSBC where I managed global campaigns and promoted our major sponsorships to our 350,000+ employees. I could see that meaningful citizenship and partnership were vital to being good corporate citizens and would help create collaborative, strong cultures and this set me on the path to where I am today. Seven years ago, I took my job at RBC Capital Markets, attracted by the mandate to build something truly unique with the full blessing of the senior team. RBC’s openness to ideas and willingness to get involved with new and daring initiatives has made for an incredible journey.

As part of RBC’s global brand strategy, we build partnerships to support initiatives across several key pillars: youth, arts, sports and thought leadership. In Europe, as RBC is smaller than some of the local banks and therefore has a smaller budget, we take a ‘more than money’ approach – putting the need to drive impact and encourage engagement front and centre. This approach has encouraged creativity resulting in unique partnerships, which have driven genuine impact relative to the size of our team and budget. 

Take my team’s two proudest achievements as examples: RBC Race for the Kids in support of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and our partnership with The Old Vic, financially supporting the theatre to enable them to stage more than 35 productions, 20 of which were world premieres over the past six years. Both initiatives have become a focal point of RBC’s external engagement, synonymous with our brand and a great source of pride in the business.

To make the most out of these partnerships we engage directly – not offering one-off sponsorships supporting a cause that is in vogue – but finding long-term partners that support enduring causes or initiatives. Our partnership with The Old Vic was one of the first I initiated at RBC, just as Matthew Warchus took the reins six years ago as artistic director with a vision to change theatre – an opportunity that we couldn’t miss. Since then, we have been heavily involved with supporting the organisation, meeting the Old Vic team every quarter to see how we can move our collaboration forward and help it to achieve its vision. Most importantly for me, our partnership has grown beyond initial financial support for the theatre to include provision of workshops for kids from underprivileged backgrounds. The Old Vic’s innovative Take the Lead programme helps to build confidence and career skills, and RBC is incredibly proud to be supporting this vital initiative.

We always strive to be a source of stability to our partners, even when times are tough. Through the pandemic, rather than cancelling events or cutting ties, we found creative ways to support The Old Vic even when the theatre sadly had to close its doors, by helping it hold six virtual ‘IN CAMERA’ productions where the cast performed live in the empty auditorium to audiences in 92 countries. When Covid put a stop to in-person sporting events, we supported the Royal Parks and LimeLight Sports to adapt their iconic Half Marathon (presented by RBC) to an engaging virtual event and turned RBC Race for the Kids from a successful series of 17 physical events into the biggest virtual running event in the world with over 33,000 participants from 130 countries raising $8.8m for 36 charity partners around the world, including our local charity partner, Great Ormond Street Hospital

As we look to life beyond the pandemic, we are not slowing down. We have just renewed our partnership with The Old Vic for another three years, renewed partnership with the Royal Parks Half and are building participation in RBC Race for the Kids as it again becomes a global phenomenon. We’re also deepening our long-standing partnership with SportsAid, supporting some of Britain`s most talented young athletes.

Driving impact is about making original creative ideas a reality for good causes. Engaging in these initiatives not only builds a brand, but delivers a positive contribution to society, involves employees and clients, and ultimately makes an organisation a great and aspirational place to work. Whatever your role, wherever you work – you can drive impact. My advice to women looking to push positive change and get results is to be brave, creative, authentic, agile and, most importantly, aim high – with the right attitude and motivation, it is amazing what you can achieve. 

Desirée Clarke NobleAbout the author


Desirée Clarke Noble is MD and Head, Brand and Marketing, Europe and Asia-Pacific at RBC Capital Markets, part of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Originally from New Zealand, she has over 20 years’ brand, marketing and sponsorship experience and joined RBC in late 2014. She is responsible for managing RBC’s brand and sponsorship partnerships and business and content marketing strategies across Europe and APAC and is committed to diversity and inclusion. Des is a member of RBC’s regional diversity council and recently became an Executive Sponsor for the Multicultural Employee Alliance.

Prior to RBC, Des was at HSBC Global Banking and Markets and managed significant global advertising, marketing and sponsorship campaigns. She is a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Marketors, was admitted to the Freedom of the City of London in 2019, is a Trustee of the Marketors’ Trust and Advisory Board Member for The Barbican Centre.

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