Operation Santa Claus

Bank on UBS to raise laughs – and HK$1.7 million – for a worthy cause

The Force is with employees as they don costumes and spend big at a party for Operation Santa Claus

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 1:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 7:50pm

It was time for UBS staff to take a break for charity, dressing up and enjoying themselves at a Christmas party on the 52nd floor of the International Finance Centre in Central.

Many staff members also bought along their families to join the event themed as a “Winter Market” with stalls selling home-made mince pies, cookies and freshly made juice. There were balloons as well, and a booth for people to take photos with Santa. All the proceeds go to Operation Santa Claus, the annual charity campaign jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

The room was filled with people in costumes depicting popular Star Wars, Power Rangers and Disney characters, while SWAT officers and Game of Thrones favourites were also around.

Staff member Andrew Murfin, who was dressed up as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, said he enjoyed the party despite a little boy mistaking him for Darth Vader.

“It’s the highlight of December. We’ve been doing it for many years, for me at least 10 years at UBS, and it’s great fun, we get to have a good time and it’s also for the best cause as well,” he said.

Among those in Star Wars costumes was Phuak Hoon-Leng, who got the highest bid of HK$43,000 (US$5,512) within his group to dress up as Princess Leia. He said he was surprised by the amount and laughed off the gender switch, saying it was “revenge” by his colleagues.

“It’s fun and very entertaining and we are doing things for charity so it always feels good because it’s for a good cause,” he said.

Eric Mak Koon-shui, appearing as a walking Christmas tree while helping sell gingerbread, said he had participated in this annual event for at least five years.

“I think it’s great, something we love doing every year. It’s great for the team and we are contributing back to society,” Mak said. “We can also get everyone together to do something a bit different from the normal day-to-day work.”

A charity auction was also held during the party, with items ranging from red wine to round-trip air tickets to Japan on the block.

Hiro Takaku, who spent H$14,000 to win spa vouchers and a family hotel package at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, with an estimated price of HK$10,000, said it was worth it.

“The money is for charity and I get to have fun with my family, so it’s win-win and it’s so much fun,” he said. “This atmosphere here is fantastic, we can raise money and we can contribute to society so it’s a very good event. I just moved here from the Tokyo office, and we have similar events but not this size. It’s the first time for me. The amount of people who wear costumes and are contributing, it’s just phenomenal.”

UBS Asia Pacific chief communication officer Rob Stewart said the bank has been supporting Operation Santa Claus for more than 15 years, and each year the events get bigger and better as staff get into the festive mood.

“I’ve taken part in this event for 13 or 14 years, I think it’s great, it’s a fantastic occasion, for us it’s really good because it gets everybody together, gets them doing something that’s valuable, gets that community awareness up in a fun way,” he said. “It has a real value for us as a bank but also hopefully it’s giving something substantial back to the community at the end of the year.”

Stewart said many staff members looked forward to the charity party every year.

“Operation Santa Claus is one of Hong Kong’s institutions that hits a nerve in the community,” he added. “There’s obviously a lot of pressure around in the city and a lot of people who aren’t maybe as fortunate as others and I think this is our opportunity to give back each year and get involved in the community. For us it’s become a very pleasant habit at the end of the year that gives everybody a feel-good factor going into Christmas.”

The bank donated a total of HK$1.7 million to Operation Santa Claus this year.