ABN Amro gets a shock as lightning bolt causes a hi-tech meltdown

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Bankers at ABN Amro have long been worried about the dark clouds gathering over the UK economy, but yesterday they had to contend with the forces of nature as well as those of the market.

A bolt of lightning hit the Dutch investment bank's offices late on Thursday night, causing a huge technological break down. Only the lights and lifts were left working at the Bishopsgate premises in the heart of the City of London. Yesterday, ABN's dealing desks were deserted and some employees simply went home for the day.

Others were determined that the wrath of nature should not have the upper hand over a mighty financial institution. About 30 dealers from ABN's fixed income and derivatives desks yesterday morning made their way across the Square Mile to Finsbury Square and the offices of Bloomberg. Installed at the information provider's terminals, they executed deals on their mobile phones.

"The circumstances are far from ideal, but we are doing our best to make it business as usual," said one dealer at his alternative premises. "We hope to be back at our desks by Monday."

In recent days the southwest of England, Wales and the west of Scotland have been subjected to tropical weather, with lightning, torrential rain and flash floods causing chaos to homes and businesses.

ABN Amro moved into the brand-new Bishopsgate premises in September 1999. A spokesman for ABN said: "Alternative arrangements have been put in place for clients wishing to carry out transactions during the disruptions, and the company hopes to have services back to normal over the weekend."

Technical staff worked all day to restore services at the bank.

ABN has, like many of its counterparts in the investment banking sector, suffered from the slowdown of global stock markets.

It has been furiously cutting jobs and deferring bonuses in an attempt to reduce costs.