Bankers in charitable frenzy

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The Independent Online
City bankers pledged pounds 300,000 in just 10 minutes to Save the Children on Thursday night, the biggest single fund-raising exercise the charity has ever seen.

At the same awards dinner last year, hosted by IFR, a specialist investment magazine, a paltry pounds 30,000 was collected by comparison. The contrast demonstrates how John Major's "feel-good" factor is gathering pace in the Square Mile if nowhere else.

The dinner, hosted by TV personality Clive Anderson, was going quietly enough, as bankers bid for a succession of novelty items, including a teddy bear and a Rolex watch. Then, just as the 1,000 City types were about to tuck into their desserts, up popped the man from UBS, the Swiss investment bank, who cried: "UBS will make a donation of pounds 5,000."

The stunned silence did not last for long. The macho competitive instincts of the City had been stirred. The man from Morgan Stanley, a US rival bank, then upped the ante: "We'll donate pounds 10,000 - if UBS matches our donation."

The dinner guests, now seized by the mob instincts of the trading floor, then exploded with a frenzy of higher and higher bids for that ultimate prize, The Bank That Gave Most To Charity: "...we'll go to pounds 15,000 if Merrill Lynch does the same".

And so the bidding grew to a climax, when all the bankers concerned said each bank would give pounds 25,000 - as long as Goldman Sachs, one of America's most profitable houses, would do the same.

"We will!" chirruped the man from Goldman, drowned in cheers of victory. Not since the pound plunged out of the ERMhas London seen such a lively market.

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