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Financial Institutions Find Ways To Give

As the dust settles both literally and figuratively on the events of September 11, the banking industry and its customers are facing the new, frightening world with both questions and caring.

Within days of the tragedy that left more than 6,000 people dead, banks and their business partners stepped in to try to help as well as to calm the fears of customers.

Financial institutions played a key role in the initial investigations by helping investigators trace the funds that may have put the crime into action.

The FBI told banking regulators in late September that large and small banks around the country have located accounts held by several of the more than 20 individuals wanted by the bureau in connection with the hijackings. The FBI has posted the names, aliases and photographs of the suspects on its Web site at www.FBI.gov.

And banks quickly put out information over their Web sites and through correspondence explaining to customers that their funds were safe and that business would continue as usual.

They also opened their pocketbooks in a variety of ways and joined with other businesses to find ways to give. Some of those ways included:

  • Typical of the response was PNC Bank, N.A., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which started accepting donations from customers and non-customers on behalf of the American Red Cross at its 700 branches in six states within 48 hours of the disaster.
  • A group of Chicago's technology leaders and civic organizations banded together to announce a charitable initiative that will support Chicago Remembers Fund, which was established by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Bank One and the City of Chicago. The group is putting its collective muscle to work gathering funds through member companies. The City of Chicago will then work with New York and Pentagon officials to determine how best to distribute the money.
  • Like several other banks across the nation, Applied Card Systems and Cross Country Bank, Wilmington, DE, committed $1 million right away toward relief efforts stemming from the tragedy. However, they also promised to match funds donated by their 4,500 associates nationwide and committed $10 million for the purchase of war bonds as soon as they become available. The organization specializes in nontraditional credit cards market.
  • Wells Fargo, which also donated $1 million right away to the American Red Cross, announced that the Red Cross would become the first major organization to use the Wells Fargo SecureSource payments service, which makes online donations possible through the bank's Web site. People can use a credit card or an electronic check to donate via the Web site.
  • Commerce Bancorp, Inc. launched a "Coins For Caring" campaign to benefit the American Red Cross. The organization started its effort with an initial contribution of $10,000. But it is also encouraging people who have spare change to stop by the Commerce branch nearest them to use the bank's free Penny Arcade coin counting machines, and then donate all or part of the proceeds to the relief effort.
  • Provident Bank, Cincinnati, Ohio, joined forces with three local radio stations to establish a donation account heavily publicized on the stations. Donations are being accepted at any of Provident's 79 locations in Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois. The money will go to the American Red Cross.
  • Paybyweb, Incorporated, a provider of electronic check, pre-authorized draft services, and credit card processing, announced implementation of a "Donate for Disaster Relief" Fund, set up specifically to reduce the heavy volume of online traffic to the Red Cross and other sites. It is accepting online check and credit card donations 24 hours a day with funds going to the American Red Cross and other disaster relief entities. The company allocated extra computer hardware to handle the volume of donations.

Copyright © 2001 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 11, No. 10, 10/01

First published on 10/01/2001

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