Banks pledge nearly $30 million in Japan relief effort

Not counting employee contributions, financial institutions across the region are pledging millions of dollars to help Japan recover from the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

Financial institutions doing business in Asia are contributing at least $28 million to relief aid organisations working in Japan, and this is not counting individual staff donations, which will no doubt be significant. Furthermore, spokesmen from several major banks say they are still formulating their plans of action, so more money is likely to follow.

Goldman Sachs, alone, is donating ¥500 million ($6.1 million) to help the emergency relief effort in the wake of the devastating earthquake followed by an unprecedented tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11.

J.P. Morgan is also digging deep into its pockets, committing $5 million in near-term relief and recovery efforts. And it is encouraging employees to contribute to the rescue effort being led by The American Red Cross and World Vision, with the bank matching these contributions.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan at this time,” said J.P. Morgan CEO and chairman Jamie Dimon. “This donation is to help both with immediate needs as well as the continuing relief and recovery efforts in the months ahead.”

The donation includes $1.1 million, which has been already been pledged by J.P. Morgan Chase Japan and $1 million to match contributions to The American Red Cross and World Vision by the bank’s more than 220,000 employees, including more than 1,300 in Japan. The balance of the $5 million commitment will be used to support charitable and relief organisations helping with the recovery effort. It has also set up procedures for customers to donate.

J.P. Morgan said this commitment will help with efforts such as setting up temporary shelters, offering medical assistance, helping with sanitation and handling the most pressing issues immediately following the disaster. Exact allocations will be determined in the coming weeks after a full assessment of the earthquake’s damage and the country’s needs.

Citi has established a disaster relief fund benefiting the Japanese Red Cross Society, with an initial contribution of ¥100 million from Citi’s Asia-Pacific businesses. The Citi Foundation has also pledged ¥100 million for disaster relief efforts, raising the bank’s total donation to $2.44 million in dollar terms. In addition, the bank has put out an employee appeal and James Griffiths, spokesperson for Citi, said: “We have had a lot of interest from employees to actually volunteer with the various agencies in Japan and are working on ways to do that.”

In a letter to bank colleagues, Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citi, wrote on Monday evening: “Our hearts go out to the people of Japan as they cope with one of the worst disasters in recorded history. Citi has been doing business in Japan since 1902 and our commitment to the country and its people is unwavering. We are doing everything we can to protect the safety of our colleagues and to help the Japanese people meet urgent humanitarian needs and, over the longer term, recover from the devastation.” Citi’s Asia-Pacific CEOs, Stephen Bird and Shirish Apte, sent out a letter to Asia’s staff underscoring the bank’s commitment and also asking staff to donate directly, as did Darren Buckley, CEO for Japan. Citi employee contributions to the fund currently exceed $100,000. And it, too, is collecting donations from customers.

Barclays Group is also pledging roughly $2.44 million in aid. An immediate donation is being made to the British Red Cross, which is supporting the Japanese Red Cross in disaster relief efforts and once a full assessment of the situation is made, the remainder will be directed through the Red Cross and other non-government organisations to support the country’s long-term recovery.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Daiwa, Mizuho Financial Group, Morgan Stanley, Nomura, Shinhan Financial Group, Shinsei Bank and UBS each will contribute ¥100 million, or $1.22 million.

For Bank of America, the breakdown is a ¥50 million grant to the American Red Cross, which is partnering with the Japanese Red Cross Society to help meet the immediate needs of survivors.

“We are determined to do our part in ensuring that the communities affected by this tragedy receive relief and refuge as soon as possible,” said Brian Moynihan, president and CEO of Bank of America. “We are coordinating with employees in Japan and across the globe on a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging a swift recovery.”

As relief efforts evolve in the coming weeks and months, the bank said the remaining ¥50 million will be directed towards long-term recovery, including the rebuilding of homes, schools and other critical infrastructure. In addition, Bank of America will match employee pledges to the American Red Cross’s Japan Earthquake/Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund, through the bank’s matching gifts programme, and will not limit its overall company donation.

A spokesman from Mizuho Financial Group said it will also donate ¥100 million, and noted that it is working to help its clients in the rehabilitation and reconstruction process, with special disaster-related services for its customers.

Morgan Stanley is donating its ¥100 million to the Japanese Red Cross Society. James Gorman, president and CEO of Morgan Stanley, said: “Our thoughts remain with the people of Japan — especially our Japan-based employees and their families. We stand ready to support them and our clients in any way possible.”

A Nomura spokeswoman said the bank is making ¥100 million immediately available to help support the emergency response, and is also facilitating a global donation scheme for employees who want to make personal contributions to the Red Cross in Japan.

Shinhan Financial Group is donating ¥100 million in relief aid to the Korean National Red Cross and relief organisations. A spokesman said it is “also involved in a wide range of financial support, fundraising and volunteer activities to get things back to normal”.

Shinsei Bank said it will donate ¥100 million to aid with the relief and recovery efforts for persons and areas affected by the earthquake. The donation will be made once the affected areas have completed preparations to receive donations. It is also working with customers affected by the earthquake regarding payments and loan applications, including a special disaster recovery assistance loan.

UBS executives said they will donate ¥100 million towards rebuilding efforts, teaming with the best suitable partners. In addition, according to its standard practice, it will match employee contributions.

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Jefferies, a global securities and investment banking firm, will donate $1 million, plus all net equity trading revenue for the entire week from its offices in Asia. Today, Jefferies will donate all net revenues from US and European equity trading. Furthermore, the firm said that all 3,099 Jefferies employees will be given the opportunity to donate today’s salary to the relief effort. Jefferies said these contributions will be allocated to a series of charities with the goal of quickly getting funds to relief efforts directly involved in the rescue and recovery.

“The citizens of Japan are our global partners and we all feel their pain and suffering from these tragic events. While we know they and their government will do all in their power to help those in need and recover, it is our goal to help in this small way,” said Richard Handler, chairman and CEO of Jefferies. “We ask for the support of investors around the world and offer our platform as a means to provide relief to those in need.”

Credit Suisse is also donating $1 million, and in addition will contribute double the amount that Credit Suisse employees pledge.

A Deutsche Bank spokesman said that staff and Deutsche Bank’s initial commitments to the relief effort currently stand at ¥60 million. This includes immediate donations to the Red Cross and Save the Children funds. But the bank is also coordinating fundraising efforts with staff and clients internationally. “Further focus will be on long-term rebuilding efforts and additional funding will be available from the bank’s various charitable foundations for this purpose over time,” said a spokesman.

HSBC is making a donation of ¥20 million to the Japan Red Cross and a multi-currency account has been set up for staff donations.

CLSA, through the CLSA Chairman’s Trust, plans to hold a dealing day where it will donate all net commissions from one day’s trading to the trust for the benefit of Japan disaster relief. “We will do this at a point when the market stabilises,” said a spokeswoman, noting that CLSA has also solicited staff donations.

A DBS Bank spokesperson said it is making available its self-service banking channels for donations from the public to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. From now until April 13, DBS and the Post Office Savings Bank customers can contribute to the Red Cross Japan Disaster fund through any of its ATMs or its internet banking services.

Macquarie has a matching programme for all staff donations. “Staff in the Tokyo office are obviously very involved, and have set up a number of charity drives seeking a mix of appropriate goods and services with the beneficiaries being The Red Cross and Save The Children,” said a spokesman. “Our office head, who is also the head of our institutional equities business in Tokyo, Stuart Smythe, has been approached by clients asking how can they help, which is absolutely fantastic. Stuart has launched a number of fundraising efforts to work with many of them, pooling their funds and assisting with ensuring their funds are heading in the right direction.”

Commonwealth Bank of Australia told us that it is accepting donations for those affected by the Japan disaster through its branch network in conjunction with the Red Cross.

A Standard Chartered spokesperson said: “Last year we celebrated 130 years of operations in Japan. We were there to rebuild after the terrible 1923 quake hit Tokyo. We have developed deep long-term relationships throughout our global network with Japanese clients and we are now working out a way to respond to the many requests from staff globally to support the people in Japan. Our present thinking is to find a longer-term reconstruction project probably focused around a specific village where we can combine fundraising with our employee volunteering initiative. The bank overall has committed to match fund the donations raised by our staff. As you can imagine the situation is very fluid so we cannot provide any more details at this stage.”

Of course, the banks continue to try to calm market nerves, particularly given fears on Tuesday of a worsening nuclear emergency at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The Nikkei 225 dropped 10.6% on Tuesday to 8,605, while the broader Topix index fell 9.5%.

At the close of business yesterday the International Bankers Association announced that it “wishes to express its deepest sympathy to all the people affected by the devastating earthquake, which struck northeastern Japan on March 11”. It went on to add that “major foreign financial institutions in Japan today reaffirmed that they are continuing to operate business as usual”.

Meanwhile, global corporations are also stepping up to the plate.

For example, Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest business conglomerate, said yesterday that it has donated ¥100 million to help Japan’s earthquake relief. In addition, the group will dispatch 10 rescue workers and 11 medical workers after consulting with the Japanese government, it said in a statement. The group will also send 2,000 rescue kits.

And McDonald’s is kicking in $2 million to the effort through the International Federation of the Red Cross.

“The devastation in Japan has stunned and saddened the global community and we’re reaching out to help with this contribution,” said Jim Skinner, McDonald’s CEO. “We send our best to everyone affected by this disaster, including our employees and our customers.”

McDonald’s has 3,302 restaurants in Japan. As of this date, the vast majority of the restaurants are open; fewer than 300 remain closed due to damage or staffing issues.

Lillian Liu and Rupert Walker contributed to this article.

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