Pukka founder Sam White speaks to Insurance Times about the importance of giving back, and how she empowers her staff to support the communities they live and work in

When Sam White first founded Pukka she had a vision. Not only did she want to create a successful business in a highly competitive area of the market, she also wanted to do things differently and give back to the communities her business serves.

White also saw this as a way to improve the public perception of the industry she loves.

“Insurance has lost its human side in the way that we communicate,” she says. “I think a lot of what we do is really good, but we communicate it really badly. Bringing together some of the philanthropy in the activities that we do here at Pukka allows us to engage with people in a completely different way.

“For me, it doesn’t matter what passion is yours in terms of who you want to help, it is about us as an industry saying: “We are all onboard, we are doing good and connecting back with the communities we serve.’’

“This is not just a Pukka thing, it is an insurance thing,” she adds.

People Make the Difference

The philanthropic work that Pukka does is varied, covering everything from supporting  women’s shelters in Gibraltar and Manchester, as well as providing safe spaces for those with mental health issues and the homeless, among others.

Behind all of these great initiatives, however, is the firm belief that it is people that can make a difference, as long as they are given the support they need to be able to act.

To help support her staff in their volunteering and charity work, White introduced a bank of volunteering days for staff to draw from in order to take part in volunteer or charity work during working hours, and is looking to expand this through better use of employee time and flexible working opportunities.

“We can all be a bit smarter in the way we work and then our staff can spend it how they want, whether that is more time with family or giving back to the community.”

Sam White, Pukka

“We are a new start-up business that is self-funding and I have always said we don’t have enough to share, but if we can find a way to work with what we’ve got and build on it we will do,” White says.

“I want to be able to release more time by working smarter. If we can allow people to have more time by working from home or other flexible working arrangements, then we can incorporate more of this charity work into the business. We can all be a bit smarter in the way we work and then our staff can spend it how they want, whether that is more time with family or giving back to the community. We just need to work out ways to facilitate that.”

The Pukka Insure Trust

One of the ways that Pukka is maximising its charity work is through its own charitable trust in Gibraltar, the Pukka Insure Trust, which was set up by Pukka executive assistant Leanne Delaney and supports a number of charities out in Gibraltar, one of which is Women in Need.

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“Women in Need is a women’s refuge centre, but there are a few men their as well with their children,” Delaney says. “In most societies, domestic abuse is brushed under the carpet and even though the government out in Gibraltar does help, and even has a specific department to help victims of domestic abuse, they themselves are formerly abused women who may not have even finished school because of their abusive relationships, so they are fire fighting all the time and Sam stepped forward and said: “I want to help these women.”.

“Lots of charities have big marketing budgets and lots of support, and yes they do deserve that, but Women in Need didn’t even have that level of initial support. Before Pukka got involved they didn’t even have a logo, so I helped them with that, and at Christmas we raised £13,500 within a week and we gave them all vouchers to go and buy themselves whatever they needed, and we gave them toys [to help them celebrate].”

Pukka also supports Clubhouse Gibraltar, which provides a clubhouse for people with mental issues and provides them with a safe space where they can just have a chat or enjoy a meal.

Delaney says that the Gibraltarian business community has provided great support for the work Pukka is doing, but that her aim now is to get people even more involved in the trust’s work.

“Gibraltar is a very buoyant corporate community, so in September we are having a Great Escape event with escape rooms,” she says. “We are getting companies to pay to enter a team to play, and all the profits from that are going to go to our charities.

“We are also doing Adopt a Charity. We just want to help, and if everyone in the community you could serve did just a little bit, then that could make a massive difference. We make money out of this community as a business, so why not give something back? We are also trying to convince other people to do that as well.”

Back in the UK, Pukka also supports a number of charities, the majority of which were chosen after listening to its staff and finding out how they want to help the communities they live and work in.

Supporting Passion

Insurer systems coordinator Katie Dartnell started out volunteering for the charity Booths at weekends, helping to provide food and shelter for homeless people in Manchester, as well as entertainment from local DJs.

With Pukka’s support, however, she was able to dedicate more time to this worthy cause through the bank of volunteering days given to all staff, and has also encouraged other Pukka staff to get involved with the charity, including White herself who took part in an overnight rough sleeping fundraising event.

“Each year we go out to the streets with food and clothing, a lot donated by local companies, and hold a Christmas party in a homeless centre for around 200 people, and a lot of Pukka people are getting involved with that now,” Dartnell says. “Pukka has been amazing. The centre lives off donations – they need to feed 100 people every day – Pukka has donated a van, food and everyday essentials, and at Christmas they donated around 1,000 items and the volunteer days help so much. Pukka really understands what is going on, and how important it is to these people.

“Those connections we build with doing the charity work is really helpful for the team. A lot of people simply don’t have the time to help out with these charities, but by allowing them to do that during work time it allows them to get involved with the charities they want to help.”

And it is passion like that shown by Dartnell that White says is key to making Pukka’s charity work a success.

”We are trying to create the ability for the people that work within Pukka to have a bit more time to do the things they are passionate about, and also get everyone else passionate about it too.”

Katie Dartnell, Pukka

“People like Katie are passionate about these charities regardless of what we do, so there is no point in just supporting a charity that no one in the business cares about,” she says. “So what we are trying to do is create the ability for the people that work within Pukka to have a bit more time to do the things they are passionate about, and also get everyone else passionate about it too.

“Katie has managed to get a whole swathe of the team completely bought into the Booths charity, simply because she is passionate about what it does to help people.”

Delaney agrees, and says that the support she has had from Pukka has helped her to act on her own charitable passions, something that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

“It is really easy to feel passionate about charity, because everyone wants to do more for charity, they just don’t have the time,” she says. “What Pukka is doing is it allows you to do that charity work on the clock, which is very unique. I’m a single mum with a seven year old, so it would be very difficult for me to do something for charity if I didn’t work for Pukka, because I simply wouldn’t have the time.

“The way that Pukka does business, treats its staff and the way it is means it is the champion for the underdogs. People that may not be able to find insurance elsewhere are given the chance by Pukka, as long as they come clean about their convictions or claims and fit our model, then we will cover them. And when it came to choosing our charities, we wanted them to reflect those same values.”

“The people who work at Pukka really embrace the Pukka ideology and make it their own little baby,” she adds.