A sustainable approach to business strategy

April 1, 2021

Dr Emma Black, managing director of Cascade Cash Management (Cascade) recently completed an online course with Harvard Business School which has encouraged her to look at the principles of her own and other businesses, with sustainability at the forefront.


The course in Sustainable Business Strategy, led by Professor Rebecca Henderson, encourages business leaders to consider the competitive advantages of being a purpose-driven leader.

Recently named as the Most Innovative FinTech Company of 2020, Cascade is the region’s leading, award-winning cash management service.

In a nutshell, Cascade delivers an independent and transparent savings service originally designed to generate enhanced cash returns and increased depositor protection through professional cash management.

Having administered £370 million of cash savings by 2015, the company began the build of its unique online savings portal that has seen the team administer today over £1 billion, servicing more than 3000 advisers across the UK.

Cascade boasts an online Fintech portal, which is the only one of its kind in the UK, and Dr Black signed up to the course to ensure the company remains purposeful and unique in its offering.

She says: “The Sustainable Business Strategy course examined the broader environment in which company’s operate, exploring why collective efforts matter and how business can be a catalyst for change.

“At Cascade, we are keen to be that catalyst, not just in the services we offer, but in our behaviours towards our clients, partners, colleagues and staff.

“The course has been the perfect energy boost as we come out of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have now opened up our full portal offering to those with £100,000 or more, instead of our previous level of £250,000, to help more savers and we are finding new ways every day to be more inclusive to every level of saver, irrespective of cash amounts. “Studying at Harvard has allowed me to think further and acknowledge that to do good, you must do well.

“That is, as a leader you have to hit your numbers.

You have to deliver. Doing so allows you to engage at a deeper level with customers, employees and stakeholders around your purpose and common cause – and allows in turn for you to do good.

“To be here in 100 years as a business, you have to think about doing things sustainably and ethically for generation after generation.

“We have to recognise we are part of a community and in the aftermath of the last 12 months, what better time is there to come together for a greater long-term good?”

Using case studies from Walmart, Unilever, King Arthur Flour and many others, the course has enabled Dr Black to explore successful models of companies that do good because they have done well.

“King Arthur Flour really stood out to me,” she says.

“The US has been around for hundreds of years and has successfully nurtured a baking community.

“Going beyond sales, all the employees are focused on helping bakers to bake to their best.

“There is a 24/7 hotline for bakers, a digital engagement team and online learning centres with 3500 recipes and tips.

“They’ve really cared for their customers and worked hard to create a highly engaged community.

“Walmart stood out too for some incredibly bold moves at times that were not dissimilar to what we are experiencing today.

“In 2005, Walmart stepped in when families were without homes after Hurricane Katrina, opening up for those in need of food, clothes and basic essentials at zero cost.

“It cost the company $22.5 million. In the aftermath, Walmart chief executive Lee Scott asked his team, ‘what can we do together so that we feel the way that we do today every day?’

“This led to big changes, including a focus on upskilling workers, working with suppliers to lower waste, changed processes for lowering its carbon footprint and much more.

“What both of these case studies have in common is that they are both focused on doing good – supporting people, creating community and building opportunity.”

The team at Cascade are now taking this knowledge and looking at expanding the technology platform to allow the company to help more people.

The website is being invested in to bring more information to savers of every level, on banks, building societies and depositor protection licenses.

The Cascade service is unique in the market in that it allows independent and unbiased cash solutions for a range of client types meaning clients don’t have to choose only one bank.

With the online portal and Cascade’s client support team, all banks are accessed quickly and easily, on a daily basis. The service is the only one of its kind that tracks every bank and building society in the market and it’s this breadth and depth of data that affords clients the best possible outcomes from their cash.

The Cascade team help clients in completing the onboarding paperwork for each bank and building society selected and savers are then able to use the portal to view their savings in one convenient place, with the dedicated support of Cascade personnel.

Clients of the service include individuals, companies and charities. Partners of the service include IFAs, solicitors, attorneys and accountants, while many more can also self-brand the product for presentation to their own clients.

As part of this, and at looking at the next generation of a saving community, Cascade is now looking at why customers save and have cash, what the greater purpose is behind their cash and what it means to them.

To have that data means Cascade can tailor a service to assist the individual to reach their goals in a more sustainable way.

Dr Black adds: “What I have learnt and will be applying, as well as encouraging others to do too, is that as a business leader you need to be explicit in your purpose and recruit people daily to that mission to do whatever your good looks like.

“If you are explicit about your purpose and as a company you understand that for you to succeed, you have to consider the objectives and needs of others in your community too, then you should take action to materially move your company forward.

“If not now, then when?”

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