HONGKONG Bank appeared, in many ways, a model employer after the arson attack on the Shekkipmei branch, despite questions about fire safety raised by the fact that 12 staff members died. Senior executives publicly mourned the deaths, and the bank, amid plenty of positive publicity, handed over the premises to charity. The general public, and particularly the bank's staff and customers, may be disturbed to learn that the bank's insurance unit is apparently wrangling over compensation, a year after the blaze. While generous payments have been made to relatives of the victims, and a trust fund continues to pay 70 per cent of the salaries of those who died, the relatives claim full insurance payouts may be two years away, and the bank admits that meeting the claims will be a time-consuming process. If the tragedy had occurred in the United States, the bank might have been facing multi-million US dollar lawsuits from relatives of the deceased and from those who survived. The branch had no rear exit and no sprinkler system, and while there is no evidence the bank broke any Hong Kong fire regulations, the bank should accept some moral responsibility for the extent of the tragedy. Insurance companies, like other businesses, hope to maximise income while minimising expenditure, and only people unable to distinguish between advertising and reality would be entirely surprised to learn that insurers are at least as keen to check the validity of claims as to pay out on them. However, Hongkong Bank knows all about insurance. If the bank was thoughtful enough to arrange Buddhist ceremonies for the deceased, it should have been in a position to help shield the victims' families from conscientious staff processing claims, who may consider their first duty to be to their employers, rather than to victims. The apparent generosity of the bank in the wake of the tragedy has been recognised, but the bank would be unwise to seek to draw on a reservoir of goodwill among its customers in responding to criticism. The tragedy of the blaze at the Shekkipmei branch did not end with the deaths of 12 employees: it continues each day as families grieve for the loved ones they lost. The bank owes it to the deceased to do all it can to alleviate the suffering of relatives, just as it owes it to employees to ensure that such a tragedy can never be repeated. The bank has a duty to ensure that the insurance claims are handled expeditiously and with sensitivity.