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Cantor Fitzgerald CEO details annual charity event in honor of 9/11

Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the company's remembrance of the employees lost during the 9/11 attacks and how it has made an annual charity event a tradition.

Video Transcript

- Well, Sunday marked the 21st anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. A solemn weekend across the US. Cantor Fitzgerald, which had an office located in the former World Trade Center's Tower One is now raising more than $200 million for charities to honor those lives lost. Here to talk about their charitable work, we've got Howard Lutnick, Cantor Fitzgerald CEO. And Howard, it's tough to imagine it's been 21 years since those attacks happened. I'm curious what was going through your mind yesterday as you saw the memorials play across the country.

HOWARD LUTNICK: Well, on September 11th, we lost 658 of our 960 New York based employees. So what we do on the 11th is we have a big get together of all the families. And then we go with white roses and we cover the names of all the Cantor Fitzgerald people at the Memorial at the 9/11 Memorial downtown, which is an amazing, amazing sight. We cover their names in white roses. And then we read their names and we remember them. So it's really emotional and important for me.

And then the next business day, we come out and we try to raise as much money as we can for charity. So all of my employees, they all waive their compensation for the day. And every penny we do, not profits, every penny of revenue Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC partners we give every penny to charity. Last year, we raise $12 million. And we get celebrities. So you might see behind me we've got Eli Manning right on the floor right now. Gronk is here. Julian Edelman. Henry Lundquist.

We get amazing people to come and help our clients trade more. And then we give every penny to charity. Last year, $12 million. Hopefully-- I know the markets are a little tougher. But hopefully, this year will we'll meet it again.

- Yeah. I mean, it's incredible to see how that specifically has grown. And can you talk about the growth there? And really the awareness, especially when we're talking about--

HOWARD LUTNICK: See you got-- this is what happens. Eli coming to visit. I mean, he's been doing this-- how many years you been doing this for us? It's unbelievable.

ELI MANNING: 15 years at least.

HOWARD LUTNICK: It's unbelievable.

ELI MANNING: I'm retired now. So you can hire me full time now if you need me. I'm ready. I'm ready.

HOWARD LUTNICK: This is great.

- Yeah, Eli's got a lot of time on his hands.

HOWARD LUTNICK: Thanks, man.

ELI MANNING: All right.

HOWARD LUTNICK: Thank you.

- Oh, what a pleasant surprise there, Howard. Talk to us about the growth of this charity though. As you said, you've really been building on it year after year.

HOWARD LUTNICK: Yeah. So what we do, we started small obviously. We were just in the first five years we were just taking care of the families of those we lost. And just trying to take care of those 658 families. We raised $180 million. We gave 25% of everything we made at the firm to those families to try to take care of them. And then after five years, we turned to our communities and the charities-- Eli's charity and the other charities that we support. So we have about 150 different charities. And it's grown bigger and bigger.

Cantor Fitzgerald was 2,200 people. We lost 658 on 9/11. We're now 13,000 people strong. So it's a big, strong, amazing company. It's come back strong. But it's come back with the right heart to try to take care of others. And turn this tough, tough day into something beautiful.

- Yeah. And Howard, I wonder if you can talk about how you have evolved in trying to remember this day. Obviously, in the aftermath, Cantor Fitzgerald in many ways became unfortunately the face of the tragedy because of the employees that you lost. But you've really sort of built on this to expand beyond just those victims of 9/11 in building on this charity. Can you talk about the evolution, and how the company has thought about this day year after year?

HOWARD LUTNICK: Well, so we started-- so the company had a rule. We wanted to work with people that we like. I mean, that's it's an unusual rule. But you know, it was my company. And that's the way we decided. So at the end of the interview process, we would all sit together and say, what do you think? Do you like this person? Because you spend as much time with the people you work with as you do your family.

And so we really chose to work with people that we like. Now couple that in, and we had lots of brothers. And we lost 26 sets of brothers. Meaning mom lost two kids. We lost a set of sisters. I mean, think about how horrible that is. So after the events of September 11th, we had to take care of those families. That was just-- that was the driving force to rebuild this company. Because you can't take care of 658 people if you've got a small company. So it's got to be serious and it's got to be big.

And so we turned our attention to helping those families because let's face it, all we all wanted to do was just hide under the covers, hold your family as close as you could. But we turned it back out and said, we're going to take care of those families. And then we took care of well look, we've got to take care of others. We've got to turn our emotions and the toughness we've been through into something beautiful.

So with all these people behind me fighting tooth and nail to get there, we've rebuilt this company. But we did it on a foundation of taking care of families, taking care of our community. And we've been everywhere. We've been to Moore, Oklahoma when they had a tornado. We've been to Puerto Rico and Houston when they had hurricanes. When we had Superstorm Sandy we adopted 19 elementary schools. So the key to our rebuilding this company was on the foundation of something that was beautiful. And it and it worked out. We're standing. So we're still standing.

- Yeah. Certainly building a lot of strength.

HOWARD LUTNICK: So we got someone else. So Henrique, this is the greatest the greatest goalie ever. And he just happens to come by and visit. See this is what you get. So how many years you been doing this?

- There you go.

- Well, tried to count on the ride up here. But it's been a lot. It's a lot of years. I'm starting year, year 18 in the city. And I feel like this day has always been important.

- Did you say eight?

HOWARD LUTNICK: Eight years he's been coming here. It's been so amazing. You've been made amazing. And he helped so many people through charity. And this is what happened. So think about it. My employees, they donate everything today. So I want him to go home and not say I worked all day, and I gave all the money away. They take a picture with Henrique. And then they say, look. And their kid says, how cool is your job? You've got the coolest job in the world. And that's what makes it special.

- Unfortunately, we're out of time. But two surprise appearances in one segment. Appreciate your time today. Howard Lutnick, Cantor Fitzgerald CEO, really great to have you on today. And appreciate all the work that you've been doing there. Thanks so much for that.

HOWARD LUTNICK: All right.