Throughout a long and distinguished business and investing career, William I. Campbell has lent his comprehensive business experience to a diverse group of major public companies – serving as chairman of Visa International, chief executive officer (CEO) of Citigroup’s Global Consumer Business and senior advisor to the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, to name just a few.
He currently serves as CEO and managing partner of venture capital consulting and investment firm Sanoch Management, but it’s his long-term philanthropic work that has truly shaped the man into who he is today.
In 2001, together with his wife and daughters, Bill created The Campbell Family Foundation. Starting out by indulging their passion for art and education raising funds for the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Byrd Hoffman Water Mill Foundation and the Marymount School of New York. After some significant soul searching, the family’s greater goal was to become active philanthropists with the mission of providing low-cost interventions to change lives around the world.
This led Bill to become a founding board member and chairman of the END Fund, an organisation that has delivered more than a billion treatments for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) to people in need. Now, with a clear mission to prevent and treat NTDs , Bill and his family have grown closer than ever thanks to this shared objective.
“Throughout our philanthropic endeavours, our family have all been involved from the start - walking over Victoria Falls on a fundraising event, my daughters being very involved with the media,” says Bill, “the whole family is part of it.”
Here in his own words, Bill describes how the great gift of philanthropy opened his mind and heart and drove him and his family to help create significant change…
STARTING ON THE ROAD TO PHILANTHROPY…
I laughingly say that my career was not really dependent on too much of an education. I was pretty much a layabout during my schooling but, along the way, I discovered that I really enjoyed business.
Fortunately, someone discovered me when I was about to enter into a PhD programme in economics after I did a summer project that turned out really well. This Canadian business leader I got to know said ‘Campbell, you should go to business school,’ and so I did!
Coming out of business school, I went to work in consumer-packaged goods, because I love statistics and they gave me a job with quite a high level of responsibility pretty early on.
Careers are journeys and, along the way, there are going to be more difficult times and better times, and sometimes there's some luck involved. Some of that luck happened for me when, after working in Canada for eight or nine years in packaged goods, they gave me a job running the Asia arm of the business when I was 29 years old. The job covered 40 countries and a deal a week – or certainly a deal a month – and every day was spent doing something different. The opening of China and the rest of Asia gave me an international scope that I could never have dreamt of.
In my midlife, I was troubled, I had just gone through a divorce and I wanted to do something different. I always thought about teaching, so I took a visiting professor role in Virginia, which was a good experience. At the same time, I met the chairman and CEO of Citigroup and, pretty quickly, I was consulting there and then I was running their consumer business – which was a huge break. From there, I moved onto JPMorgan Chase and my last full-time job was chairman of Visa as it went to its initial public offering (IPO) in 2008… It has been a good ride and, along the way, my yearning for giving back became stronger and stronger.
We wanted our daughters to understand what we cared about, what we felt strongly about, and so the foundation was formed as a vehicle in which we could express our philosophy on life.
THE FAMILY THAT GIVES TOGETHER, STAYS TOGETHER…
In 2001, together with my wife Christine, we created The Campbell Family Foundation. It had been a good year and we looked into setting up a charitable foundation. Christine and I wanted our daughters to understand what we cared about, what we felt strongly about, and so the foundation was formed as a vehicle in which we could express our philosophy on life. The first few years, we were involved particularly around arts and culture. But, a few years later, around 2005, my eldest daughter had taken a job in philanthropy and we were talking about what was going on with The Campbell Family Foundation.
She asked for the budget and read off a list of galas and benefits. She said, ‘We really shouldn't call this the family foundation, we should call it the party budget!’
That prompted a rethink of what we were doing and we organised a long trip to Africa. The plan was, essentially, to look at the human condition, so we visited hospitals, education centres and, because of my banking background, micro-finance centres.
On one visit to Tanzania, we saw a line of people outside a health centre where they were treating people with cataracts from the age of five to 65. After a quick treatment, you could see them coming out the back door with the bandages due to come off two or three days later. We realised you could change people’s lives for the cost of $35 per treatment.
After about three weeks of intensive fact-finding, we, as a family, sat down one night at dinner and pretty much all of us started crying. From that point on, the Campbell Family Foundation’s mission was “low-cost interventions that would change people's lives”.
Also, some time later, we met a woman from the American health community, who said we should visit a mass drug administration around neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). So, we went to Rwanda and saw children standing in a line for the deworming pill, a piece of candy, a glass of water and some simple after-care instructions for the parents with the assurance that after two days their children would be infinitely better.
That evening, we were talking about the day and three guys walked in who turned out to be from the private investment firm, Legatum. We became fast friends after a night talking about the mission and, a few months later, they called me and said, ‘Hey, we have this idea. We want to build a fund that really makes things happen around NTDs’. I knew that [chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase] Jamie Dimon had got to know Bill Gates personally, so I asked him to say I'm going to be talking to his people about a foundation to help treat NTDs and that I'm a good guy. The eventual call raised $3 million and they've been our lead partner ever since.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE FUTURE…
In the ten years I’ve been leading the END Fund, we’ve overseen the delivery of more than a billion treatments for NTDs… A billion treatments really is a boatload!
It's a great gift to me to think that we can now deliberately and clearly justify elimination for a number of these diseases in a number of places… I look forward to many of these NTDs being eliminated in my lifetime. My favourite thing is to see the kids in the days right after the medicine has been administered and seeing the dramatic, visible change.
As a result of the work of the END Fund, many of these diseases will soon be eliminated. In many cases, for less than half a dollar, we can change a life pretty dramatically. In 2021, Niger became the first African country to eliminate river blindness, and Kenya is on the brink of eliminating lymphatic filariasis. A lot of research has been done on the economics of our propositions and it’s hard to argue against - for example, Deloitte found that the Nigerian economy will reap USD 18.9 billion from its citizens’ increased productivity if NTD elimination is achieved by 2030. Once these diseases are under control, you'll continue to drive prevalence down through public health awareness, water cleanliness and sanitation. We're putting that into our equation everywhere we possibly can, with local governments leading the way.
When it comes to the future of the END Fund and my own contribution, personally, I want to keep on that learning journey and make it as broad as I can make it. I really try to understand how my experience can be helpful and not a burden. For the END Fund, there are really promising times ahead.