Westpac Banking Corp: an incredible act of generosity

The bank has made an incredible donation to the education of Australia.

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In a remarkable act of philanthropy and in celebration of its 200th anniversary (in 2017), banking major Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) has announced it will donate an incredible $100 million to education with an aim to “create a substantial, enduring initiative that would reflect Westpac’s commitment to Australia and its continued prosperity”.

As Australia’s oldest company, Westpac recognises its responsibility to help shape Australia’s future. The money, which is being distributed through the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation, builds upon a rich history of donations made by the corporation in supporting the nation. Last year alone it recorded more than $130 million in community contributions.

Although $100 million is a material amount by anyone’s standards, the bank is still almost certain to record a record profit for the year 2014, in line with its primary competitors Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA), National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB) and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ). The banks are all benefiting from record low interest rates and low bad debts and are likely to top last year’s combined $27.3 billion profit.

While the bank’s act of generosity cannot be downplayed, other Australians have actually already led the way. Late last year, Fortescue Metals Group Limited’s (ASX: FMG) Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest donated $65 million to Western Australian universities, while earlier in 2013, commodities trader Graham Tuckwell also gave $50 million to the Australian National University.

Westpac’s one-off payment to the Foundation will be reflected in the bank’s second-half results for 2014.

Foolish takeaway

It is fantastic to see some of Australia’s wealthiest corporations and individuals returning cash to the community. We as investors can also take a valuable lesson from their actions – while we may be investing to secure our long-term futures, or to fund a holiday or a first home purchase, it is also important that we think about others around us and plan to one-day share our success with them.

Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.

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