PayTech Awards 2021 Winner: Icon Solutions – PayTech For Good
Icon Solutions – charitable giving at the heart of its values.
Since it started in 2009 as a result of a management buy-out, UK-based payment services and solutions specialist, Icon Solutions, has had charitable giving as part of its core values.
Co-founder, Darren Capehorn, explains that when the three founders and initial 13 staff started the new company, they asked how they could be different. This was where Icon’s ethos to go above and beyond began and it has lived by those values ever since.
Darren comments: “At Icon, we are proud of our growth but success is about more than percentages. Our involvement with charities isn’t a tick-box exercise. It is at the heart of who we are. Put simply, we’re committed to giving back.”
Icon set out to donate 1% of its profits but in practice it has given significantly more every year. Icon supports multiple charities and initiatives, building long-standing relationships with many of these, so they have become exceptionally close to Icon’s heart.
This includes smaller initiatives where its donations make a real difference, local projects that allow it to give back to its community in Wimbledon, as well as projects that deliver long-term, sustainable change.
“We were delighted to win the PayTech for Good award,” says Darren. “A key reason for talking about the charitable work is to show what can be achieved, hopefully inspiring other companies to do the same.”
Projects that Icon supports are diverse and wide-reaching. A prime example is the Guatemala Water Project which has built an eco-factory to provide purified drinking water to 750,000 families so far, bringing multiple health and well-being benefits, while reducing massive deforestation and CO2 emissions.
Another example is the WeSeeHope classic rally, which Icon has supported since 2015, supporting vulnerable children in Southern and Eastern Africa. Icon’s founders have travelled to Malawi to see the benefits of its initiatives first-hand. The event has raised £1.4 million in five years.
To replace the cancelled 2020 and 2021 events (due to Covid), the ambassadors of WeSeeHope (which includes Icon’s three founders) devised an international challenge for supporters to collectively walk, run, cycle or swim the equivalent distance of traveling from UK to Malawi – 10,000km. Once the Icon team heard about the challenge, it became Icon versus the rest of the world, and as a company Icon hit the 10,000km target two years in a row, raising over £10,000.
Closer to home, Icon supports the Polka Theatre Freefalling, a free drama programme for Merton Borough children aged 9-11 years old experiencing difficulties at home or school.
In 2020, the company was also proud to start working with Future Frontiers. This award-winning education charity provides coaching and mentoring to 13-18 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping them achieve their potential at school and when transitioning to further education, employment or training. The programme combines face-to-face coaching with access to professional role models. In 2020, 16 Icon staff volunteered and became mentors.
“In a year like no other, we knew our support in 2020 would be more important than ever. We donated more than £1,500 per FTE and we actively supported 13 charities,” says Darren.
One other dimension to Icon’s efforts is to ensure it is carbon neutral. Icon is certified as a CarbonNeutral company, with the process managed by Natural Capital Partners (NCP). However, the company set a higher target. As well as the corporate CO2 footprint, it decided to offset the entire CO2 footprint of every full-time employee. This was not just the CO2 generated in their working life but also their home and holiday footprint. The result is that Icon currently offsets 1000 tonnes of emissions each year, with validated projects from NCP.
Icon started as a services company, delivering complex payments projects using its in-depth business and technology expertise. “The consequences of failure in this sector are huge,” points out Darren. “The bar for payments is so much higher, tech giants know about technology but not about the business requirements that sit behind.”
Starting a company with people who have deep payment expertise is one thing. But continuing to attract and retain these scarce individuals is another. To that end, one knock-on benefit of Icon’s charitable ethos is to aid its staff recruitment and retention. This is a clear differentiator and attracts people who want to do good as part of their day-to-day work.
Icon experienced 20% growth year-on-year in its first seven years. However, inspired by the legacy nature of the payment platforms on the market, it then set about building a modern, flexible and open solution, IPF. Even when profits were depressed due to the investment in developing the new offering, the company recalibrated its charitable donations, so that these were not impacted. IPF now has a roster of major banks as users.
“Back in 2009,” says Darren, “we could see the difference that could be made if everyone did something, even a small company like us in Wimbledon.” While the small company is now a bigger company, it has made a big difference throughout to lives near and far, with this clearly ingrained within Icon’s DNA.
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