NEW YORK - Getting business back to as normal as possible, while providing support for emotionally shattered employees, was the primary task faced by Bill Yun, president of Fiduciary Trust Co. International, after the company's offices in the World Trade Center were destroyed in the terrorist attack Sept. 11.
"We've been focusing on employees and their families; business is secondary," said Mr. Yun, who was at a client meeting in New Jersey when the airplanes struck the twin towers.
But he also acknowledged that getting back to business has been cathartic to the surviving 563 employees. (Eighty-three employees still were missing at press time; four have been confirmed dead by their families).
"It's a very personal thing. It's supportive to be with your fellow colleagues," said Mr. Yun. "People were anxious to get back to work. It's amazing how driven people have been in a terrible time."
Fiduciary's offices were on the 90th, 95th, 96th and 97th floors of the South Tower, the second of the towers to be hit. Just after the first plane hit the North Tower, Fiduciary employees began evacuating their building, according to spokeswoman Lisa Gallegos.
Recovery plan in place
Fiduciary was able to get back to business quickly because it had a disaster recovery plan in place, which had just been reviewed in August. In fact, Mr. Yun headed to the disaster recovery site in New Jersey immediately after learning of the World Trade Center attack. He would not say where in New Jersey the backup office is because of employees' concerns about security. The backup systems at the site contain all necessary client information.
Fiduciary's institutional clients, which include the $24.8 billion United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, New York, have been very supportive, according to Mr. Yun.
"We were in contact with as many as possible on the first and second day, and the support from our clients has been a great strength for us," said Mr. Yun. "Their first thoughts were about the people in the firm." There has been no indication any clients are thinking of leaving Fiduciary. The firm had $43.9 billion under management as of June 30.
He pointed out that "from a business perspective, all assets are being fully managed. There was no disruption other than on the first day of the attack."
An important milestone
Despite the loss of a huge amount of office space in downtown Manhattan, Fiduciary also was able to secure new permanent space in midtown Manhattan by Sept. 15. The firm negotiated with Tishman Speyer Properties Inc., New York, which owns Rockefeller Center, and reached an agreement to lease space in the giant complex at 600 Fifth Ave.
Getting the new space "has been an important milestone for the whole recovery process," said Mr. Yun. "It shows clients that the business is ongoing; that we do things the way we've always done them."
He added that "a lot of people" from Fiduciary; its parent, Franklin Resources Inc.; and Rockefeller Center are working as quickly as possible to get data lines set up so employees can start moving into the new offices.
The firm is participating in manager searches that were under way before the disaster and won a $45 million core fixed-income mandate during the week the tragedy occurred. (He could not disclose from whom the mandate came because the contracts haven't been signed yet.)
Mr. Yun also said that the help Fiduciary has received from Franklin has been invaluable. (Franklin bought Fiduciary in April).
"I can't underscore how helpful the entire firm has been from the human resources people to the communications people that helped us communicate with clients," said Mr. Yun. Fiduciary lost its website in the disaster and Franklin's efforts had it running again the next day.
As concerned as he is about business, Mr. Yun knows he will have more memorial services to go to in the coming weeks, saying, "it's part of the grieving process. Many of my friends are among the missing."