Although the Tokyo-based International Bankers Association has issued a statement signed by 16 of the biggest global banks which confirms that they are currently operating a policy of 'business as usual' in Japan, Reuters reports that foreign bankers are fleeing Tokyo 'en masse', after 'fears of a large aftershock and reports of radiation from damaged nuclear power plants' has caused further panic and accelerated the exodus from Japan's capital city.
Units of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Bank of New York Mellon, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, ING Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered and UBS are officially still open for business, but the news agency says that most firms are allowing individual bankers, who are concerned for their safety (and / or that of their families) to leave the area / country, and many foreign bankers are said to be either be trying to leave, or have 'fled for the safety of Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul'.
One banker told Here Is The City: 'I know we have been criticised for being selfish in the past - mostly because of the way some of us behaved in the lead-up to the financial crisis - but now is not the time to be a hero. Radiation is an invisible killer, and many international bankers just do not want to take any chances'.
Some foreign bankers were away on business trips in the region last week, and are understandably relectuant to return to Japan. The position is more complicated for bankers who are Japanese nationals, however, as they will fear for their safety if they return, but will also want to be close to their families.
Finally, Dow Jones Newswires reports that the global market sell-off which followed the Japan crisis 'could translate into lower first-quarter profits for US investment banks 'as clients (globally) pull back business until the uncertainty subsides'. Debt and equity underwriting in particular is likely to be impacted.
Image: © Dave Bellous