Banks are expert at everyday community outreach. What their local markets don't demand, reinvestment rules generally do, and they know what needs to happen.
But no chief executive, no board member, no neighborhood liaison can be immediately certain how to respond to the mass killings that seem to be more prevalent in the U.S., with the latest — and worst example — having taken place in Orlando just days ago.
Florida bankers are reeling and looking for ways to help their customers and communities affected by the tragedy that left 49 people dead and dozens of others injured at the hands of a single killer who attacked a gay nightclub. Banks are doing everything from promoting blood drives to donating money to local organizations that support LGBT equality. But some are also considering ways that they can make a lasting impact, such as promoting tolerance and equality.
"It's definitely a sad time for Florida and a sad time for America," said Trevor Burgess, the chief executive of C1 Financial in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"This attack was an attack on the American people but also an attack on the gay and lesbian community," said Burgess, who is openly gay. "I know from talking with many of our employees they want to know what they can do to help."
'Forever … Touched'
One of the victims Sunday of gunman Omar Mateen was Christopher Sanfeliz, 24, from Tampa, a personal banker for JPMorgan Chase, according to local news reports. The company will "forever be touched by this tragedy," JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said in a statement sent to all U.S. employees on Monday.
The New York company has offered whatever support it can provide to employees, including counseling through its employee-assistance program, a spokeswoman said. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation has committed $300,000 to the OneOrlando Fund, which is run by Strengthen Orlando, a nonprofit that distributes money to various charities in the area. Additionally, JPMorgan will match donations made by employees up to $100,000 for a total of another $200,000 for related recovery efforts.
JPMorgan has roughly 3,000 employees in the greater Orlando area. Other employees lost family members and loved ones during the attack, the company said.
"Our prayers and sympathy go out to the families and friends who are mourning the loss of loved ones," Dimon said.
Citigroup, which has more employees in Florida than any state save New York, is also making a $100,000 donation through its foundation to the OneOrlando Fund.
EverBank in Jacksonville, Fla., will make a contribution to Equality Florida, an organization that lobbies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, in addition to encouraging employees to donate to the group through a GoFundMe page set up to help the victims' families. So far the fund has raised more than $4.4 million from almost 95,000 donors. C1 and its employees are also supporting that fund.
The $26.6 billion-asset EverBank also helped promote a blood drive hosted in one of its buildings in Jacksonville. Michael Cosgrove, a spokesman for EverBank, had heard that people were waiting for an hour in Florida's heat to participate in the event.
USAmeriBank in Largo, Fla., had previously planned a blood drive for next week and will now dedicate that to victims. The $3.8 billion-asset company also will donate money from its next biweekly "jeans day" — where employees can wear jeans on a Friday if they donate $5 — to a fund supporting the shooting's victims. An average jeans day raises up to $1,500, which is then matched by the company, said Tina Ford, director of human resources for USAmeriBank. A specific fund hasn't been selected yet.
Additional initiatives to help are being discussed and could be announced next week, Ford said.
"These events are close to our employees' hearts and minds," Ford said. "We want to do something to help even though we may not know the people affected by this."
Wanting to Do More
Any bank could suddenly find itself at the heart of such a crisis as unimaginable as the prospect seems. A long-term strategy of how to help communities and victims' families months after a tragedy is a necessary component of any philanthropic program, experts say.
"Any kind of crisis brings out the American human spirit of helping others," said Marian Stern, principal at Projects in Philanthropy. "There is a huge influx of help right after, but people eventually get back to their lives. A well-formulated program should always be thinking strategically down the line."
In the Orlando case, this could mean long-term giving to LGBT support groups or promoting education about tolerance, Stern said. Banks could also help with long-term medical care or counseling that survivors may need.
Banks are uniquely positioned to help their communities after such a tragic event because they are already usually embedded in their communities through existing charitable work and often support employee volunteerism, Stern said.
Helping after a tragedy "should really be just building on what already exists," Stern said. "Banks have the chance to provide human resources and to get into the community and participate in whatever civic response there is."
The $1.8 billion-asset C1 has reached out to its customers to see if any had been affected by the shooting, Burgess said. One client had an employee who was killed in the shooting, and C1 was offering that customer any support it could provide, he said
Additionally, C1 is looking forward to its participation in the St. Petersburg pride parade later this month and wants to be a "visible force for equality," Burgess said.
First Green Bancorp in Orlando is considering "anything and everything" to show its support, including updating branch signs to include the message #OrlandoProud, said CEO Ken LaRoe. The shooting occurred about a mile from its Orlando location.
LaRoe is working with board members, including a church pastor and another involved with a family foundation, to develop a "multitiered approach to do something today and to do something months from now," he said.
LaRoe has vowed that the $411 million-asset First Green, which is also donating $1,000 to a local LGBT rights center, would get a perfect score on the corporate equality index by the Human Rights Campaign. The index measures a company's policies and practices, such as demonstrating a sustained commitment to diversity, that pertain to LGBT employees. Many large banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan, already get perfect scores.
"All of the big companies have scored 100 on it so, of course, I want to get a perfect score as well," LaRoe said. "If we do that and start promoting it, then maybe other businesses will take notice and do it as well."