THE humanitarian disaster in Japan was never far from the City’s minds at the opening of Nomura’s new offices at One Angel Lane, which started with a one-minute silence as a mark of respect for the victims and survivors of the tragedy.

The Japanese bank’s president and chief executive Kenichi Watanabe paid tribute to Londoners for their support for the people of Japan throughout the crisis, and told his guests the bank’s decision to base its HQ in the UK capital marks “the beginning of a new chapter in Nomura’s story in Europe and London”.

The bank has been “transformed” since it acquired the European operations of Lehman Brothers in 2008, said Watanabe, reminding his audience – who included Andrew Bailey, executive director of the Bank of England and David Cooksey, chairman of UKFI – that Nomura has hired 700 members of staff in London alone over the last 12 months.

“We believe this building will support our ambition to become a leading financial institution,” he said. “We are proud to play our part in the growth of the City and we have every intention to work with the government to grow sensibly here.”

OVER to chancellor George Osborne, who declared the building open after pointing out that the last chancellor to open a Nomura bank – John Major in 1990 – started the day as chancellor and finished as Prime Minister. “I am not expecting such an exciting day though,” he said. “I will settle for an exciting morning.”

And, as rumours swirl around the City that HSBC and Barclays are plotting to relocate to foreign shores, the chancellor said he was “delighted” Nomura had reaffirmed London as its European home.

“Nomura is the largest trader by volume on the London Stock Exchange,” he said. “And the great thing is it hasn’t taken a penny of government money – something that can’t be said of all the banks in the City at the moment.”

WHO exactly could Osborne have meant? Surely not Lloyds Banking Group, whose chairman Sir Win Bischoff declared himself a huge fan of Nomura’s new offices, praising the building’s open spaces, environmental credentials and expansive roof terrace with views over the Thames.

Indeed, Bischoff (pictured below right with Lord Levene, chairman of Lloyd’s of London), admitted Nomura’s “fantastic” HQ is “far better than our cramped one, which is 25 years out of date”.

So will Lloyds be looking to move to equally smart new offices soon? “We have more important things to do first,” confessed Bischoff, before dashing to the door. “Such as repaying the government.”

WHEN Nomura’s staff chose to support the Teenage Cancer Trust, they set a target to raise £100,000 for the children’s charity within two years.

However, the bank’s staff have since smashed that target ten times over to hit £1m, prompting a special request from Nomura’s senior managing director John Phizackerley to George Osborne. “If only you could pull off the same trick with next year’s Budget, that would be great.”