London offices subdued as workers fear for colleagues

Morgan Stanley
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The Independent Online

Of all the companies affected by the terrible human cost of the attack on the World Trade Centre, nowhere was the magnitude of the tragedy more palpable than at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

The investment bank had a workforce of 3,500 based in the building, most of whom would have been at their desks when the disaster took place.

In addition to the human toll, the cost to the company, whose main asset is its highly skilled and experienced workforce, is incalculable.

As workers at Morgan Stanley's London offices emerged for their lunch breaks with tear-stained faces yesterday, the company announced that counselling facilities had been set up in New York and New Jersey for those who had lost colleagues or were simply unable to cope with events.

While there were reports that some Morgan Stanley employees had escaped the devastation, a company spokes- woman said there was no reliable estimate of how many had survived.

The group employs 63,000 worldwide, and key operations including investment banking, institutional sales, trading and asset management, as well as the back office, were in its offices in Times Square, three miles from the Trade Centre.

In London, Morgan Stanley's European head office in Canary Wharf reported that it was operating normally, although the atmosphere was described as subdued.

The group's chairman, Philip Purcell, said: "We are all saddened and outraged by the attack on America, and extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to all the people affected.

"We want our clients to know that in spite of this tragedy, all of our businesses are functioning ... We are committed to resume full operations as exchanges and markets reopen."

The London Stock Exchange, International Financial Futures and Options Exchange, London Metal Exchange and the International Petroleum Exchange stopped work for a minute to show respect for the victims of Tuesday's disaster.

Under leaden skies in the City of London's parks, squares and alleyways, traders sat silently sipping coffee and readingnewspaper reports as they tried to make sense of what had happened in New York.

Staff at Morgan Stanley's Canary Wharf office were reluctant to speak about the atmosphere inside the building.

Lisa Spink, of the investment banking division's creative services department, said the scene inside the offices was one of "absolute devastation". She said: "It's awful. A lot of people come and go from these offices to New York. We just don't know what's happening there at the moment. It all seems so unreal.

"Everyone is walking around work today not knowing what to do ... The horrible thing is that lives must go on, but you don't want to upset the memory of the people who have died by carrying on as normal."

Lorna Doodson, 25, said: "Lots of people I work with have colleagues in our U.S. offices and they were stunned. Sheer horror. It's the not knowing that is the difficult thing."

Security guards were extra vigilant. One said: "It's so quiet in there today. I've never known it to be so quiet. People are still in shock."

Another staff member said: "I am from New York, I came over here to work for a few days. I can't say anything about what's happened. But I can tell you that I'm pretty sad today, to say the least."

Tania Daniels, 24, works for a marketing division of Morgan Stanley. She said: "We were evacuated from the tower yesterday. Today it's black in the offices. There were around 3,500 people who were our colleagues in the World Trade Centre. We don't know anything about what's happened to them.

"Things are very quiet, but we are trying to carry out business as usual ... No one was speaking to New York when the bombs hit, because we usually wait until 10am their time to call before talking to them.

"Although security is very good here, there is always a risk. You can't defend yourself against attacks like yesterday.