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Teams go along for a ride

Published on Friday, 12 Nov 2010
Last month’s charity ride by Societe Generale (left) started off at Beijing’s Bird Nest Stadium and ran along a 135km route over two days, wrapping up at the Great Wall. It raised more than HK$1 million for charity. Care International was the major beneficiary.
The Great Wall.

This year's Societe Generale's charity bike ride was such a success that plans were already in the works for next year's event a day or two after it was over. Participants in this year's trek, from Beijing's "Bird's Nest" stadium to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, expressed complete satisfaction and organisers were determined to make next year's edition bigger and better.

"We will try the same thing, but with double or triple the number of riders," says organiser Laurent Tison, referring to next year's edition. "We also hope to invite clients, business partners and perhaps even regulators to form teams and join in."

This year's event took place in the middle of last month and saw 80 or so bank staff members and supporters from around the region cover roughly 135km over two days. Each was asked to raise at least HK$6,000 for humanitarian organisation Care International or an agreed local charity. Participants were grouped according to fitness and ability; rest stops, first-aid services and technical support ensured everyone enjoyed the challenge and experience.

"I hadn't ridden a bike for ages and was a bit scared about not being able to finish," says Tison, who as head of communications for Societe Generale, Asia-Pacific oversaw preparations from early September. 

"None of us knew exactly what it was like to ride 20km an hour, but I got together a team of 11 people of approximately the same standard and everyone had a mission," he says. One person, for example, brought something for muscle pain, while another was in charge of mosquito repellent. This division of responsibilities added to the sense of camaraderie and team spirit.

For Tison, that is an important - and lasting - by-product of the event. He is particularly encouraged by the broad spectrum of participants, coming as they did from all levels within the bank and its eight locations across Asia.

He says such initiatives have a dual purpose: raising funds for charity, while also creating opportunities to bring together a wide cross-section of people, thereby fostering team spirit and promoting co-operation on projects that don't conform to the usual corporate hierarchy. 

"I wanted the charity bike ride to be driven by staff, without much managerial involvement," Tison says. "The first rule is that [initiatives like this] are about engagement, time spent and being able to use your own ideas to make a local impact."

The bank has provided formal support and financial banking for this ride and many other charitable causes throughout the year. For staff, such initiatives help raise overall job satisfaction.

Thinking ahead, Tison's target is to see 250 participants lining up in Beijing next year, but that is not all. He is already contemplating possible routes from Hanoi to Halong Bay in Vietnam, and from Tokyo to Mount Fuji. "We want to attract more attention and more riders," he says.


Tales of the trail

  • The Beijing ride has raised more than HK$1 million for charity
  • Riders stayed overnight at a schoolhouse near the Great Wall
  • Inspired by a Paris-to-London bike ride the bank did last year

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