Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 December, 2007, 12:00am

Fat cat throws his weight (away) for a million dollars

Christmas is all about giving, right? But how do you do it creatively? We looked to some of Hong Kong's one-time fat cats for guidance.

'I'm not half the man I used to be...' that must be the voice of Merrill Lynch head of equity capital markets Alex Woodthorpe humming Yesterday.

Last Sunday, Mr Woodthorpe finished a 100-day diet-for-charity in which he raised HK$1 million for Hong Kong's oldest orphanage, Po Leung Kuk, to build a language training centre.

More amazingly, he lost 24 kilograms, returning him to his weight when he joined Merrill Lynch back in 1995.

Apparently, the key to his success boiled down to one thing: abstinence from alcohol.

Mr Woodthorpe was clutching a glass of something bubbly to celebrate the end of his charity weight-loss programme/ordeal.

Innovative Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank may be the newest addition to Operation Santa Claus, but the German bank is no stranger to charity and community operations.

Team heads from the bank's private wealth management division serve coffee to staff who donate to charity. Other team heads are expected to buy afternoon tea, serve treats or sing Christmas carols - all in the name of being public spirited.

Some executives include charitable goals in their individual performance targets. One executive decided to study Chinese proverbs and then teach them to team members. Some traders are trying to outguess each other on the currency market, with the proceeds going to charity.

The charity programme concludes with a visit by Deutsche Bank staff to Tseung Kwan O Hospital.

Reason to smile at ABN

Dutch bank ABN Amro also went the extra mile.

Not unlike Pacific Coffee's coupon system, ABN staff can earn at least one smiley stamp for each charity programme approved by a committee. For every eight stamps they get one day off, with a maximum of two days off per calendar year.

Apart from Operation Santa Claus, ABN organises toy collections for poor children, sells flags for the Hong Kong Association for Specific Learning Disabilities and supports the English Project for Teens.

Singing praises

Morgan Stanley Directors Choir will perform its annual Christmas public concert at the IFC this Friday.

Two dozen bankers led by chief executive Hans Schuettler will sing their hearts out, although some of them might be thinking less about the song lyrics and more about next week's bonuses.

Yes, it's that time of the year.

While subprime took the shine off what started off as a bumper year for Wall Street, Goldman Sachs still managed to distribute US$18 billion in bonuses to its almost 30,000 staff - or about US$600,000 per person. The bonus payout was actually 9 per cent higher than last year.

Other banks - Morgan Stanley included - can only hope.

Banking on charity

For the 11th year on the trot, Hang Seng Bank has donated the money it would have spent printing Christmas cards to charity. This year it donated HK$60,000 to two organisations: Heep Hong Society and Friends of the Earth.

Separately, Citic Ka Wah Bank knitted 300 scarves for the Society for the Aged and hosted 60 elderly people to a Christmas lunch.

Hang Seng Bank chief executive Raymond Or Ching-fai is treating his family to a holiday on the mainland to make up for an extramarital affair.

Mr Or said he would be on holiday from today until early January after Next Magazine ran a cover story on his extramarital activity. He said he wanted to apologise and deal with the issue himself.

He is taking his family to his home town of Xiamen.