Yau Yue Commercial Bank (有餘商業銀行)

York Lo: Yau Yue Commercial Bank (有餘商業銀行)

Yau Yue Commercial Bank Image 1 York Lo

Leaders of Yau Yue Commercial Bank at its opening ceremony in 1953 (WKYP, 1953-10-23)

Founded in 1953, taken over by HSBC in 1966 and closed in 1969, Yau Yue Commercial Bank was one of the less covered Chinese-owned banks in the post-War era thanks to its smaller size and short history and the nature of its principals, who maintained a very low profile despite the fact that their families built one of the largest textile empires in the Philippines and largest property portfolios in HK.

The bank, whose Chinese name means surplus, was incorporated in August 1953 with HK$5 million in nominal capital and opened in October 1953 on the ground floor of 20 Queen’s Road Central in a space which was formerly occupied by Dah Sing Bank. The board of the bank at launch comprised of its chairman Hung Wen-chi, Wong Ming-hin, Lo Wan-shiuand its managing director Wong Ching-yau(WKYP, 1953-9-2, KSDN, 1953-10-21)

Hung Wen-chi (洪文舉) ranked six among his siblings was the younger brother of Ang Wan-lian (洪苑年, #2), Ang Tuan-kai (洪開年, 1893-1986, also known as Ang Kai-lian, #3), and Ong Chui (洪文操, #4), natives of Nan-an (南安) from Fujian province who arrived in the Philippines in the early 20th century and by the late 1920s, the latter two had established Ang Tuan Kai & Co and Ong Chui & Co, two of the largest textile trading firms in Manila under their own names. (Hung, Ang and Ong are three ways to spell the same Chinese surname in English) In 1945, the Ang brothers incorporated Universal Textile Mills (Utex), which became the largest textile manufacturer in the Philippines and Tuan-kai was elected chairman of the Manila Chinese Chamber of Commerce from 1962-67.With their profits from textiles in the Philippines, the family expanded across the region, setting up flour mill in Indonesia, the insurer Overseas Life (華僑人壽) in Taiwan in 1962 and the Yau Yue Bank in Hong Kong.

Wong Ming-hin (黃銘衍) and Lo Wan-shiu (勞允韶) was the in-law and eldest son of Lo Min-nung (勞冕儂, 1898-1980), one of the richest men in HK at the time through acting as the sole distributor of British American Tobacco. (Lo was the top individual taxpayer in HK in 1948, paying $800,000 or 10% of his $8 million income in taxes). LoMin-nung established Man Hing Hong (萬興行) in 1934 with Wong Ming-hin, a Toishan native who worked with his family’s Gold Mountain guild, to distribute cigarettes and invest in real estate and in 1938, the partnership was further cemented when his eldest daughter Lo Chim-wah (勞潛華) married Wong’s eldest son Wong Hoo-chuen (黃浩川).Yau Yue’s first office at 20 Queen’s Road Central was one of Man Hing Hong’s properties which was later developed into Pacific House in 1964. Over time Man Hing Hong built a large portfolio of properties which included Tsai On Building in Wanchai, Parker House and Prosperous Building in Central and Dawning House in Sheung Wan but the firm’s most prominent building without a doubt is the Man Yee Building in Central, which was first built in 1957 and re-developed in 1999.

Yau Yue Commercial Bank Image 2 York Lo

Picture of Wong Ching-yau (Uy Teng-yiu)’s wedding to O Heung-ting in Kulangsu, Amoy in December 1924 (); right: wedding picture of Wong Ching-yau’s son Stephen Wong Kie-chung to the granddaughter of Kwan Wai-nung, the “King of Calendar Posters” in 1963 (KSDN, 1963-3-6)

Wong Ching-yau (黃呈佑), also known as Uy Teng-yiu, was the son of a wealthy Filipino Chinese merchant who started out as a servant. He grew up in Amoy and attended Diocesan Boys School and HKU in HK before entering the banking sector and in the 1940s he was manager of the HK branch of the China & South Sea Bank, which was founded by Indonesian Chinese tycoon OeiIk-tjoe (黃奕住) in Shanghai in 1921. Outside of business, he was a director of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and committee member of DBS and he and his wife O Heung-ting had 8 children – including Goodyear Group managing director Stephen Wong Kie-chung (see article), Keng Fong Sin Kee managing director Alexander Wong Kie-ngok(see article on Kong Tak-yan) and George K. Wong (黃奇仁), who was assistant to the HK Police Commissioner in the 1960s and later served in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (警官手記:六十年代香港警隊的日子)

In 1955, directors of Yau Yue Bank including Hung Wen-chi, Wong Ching-yau, Lo Min-ning and Wong Ming-hin hosted a delegation from the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce led by Alfonso Sycip (1883-1969) at the Winner House Restaurant in North Point. (WKYP, 1955-1-13)

By the early 1960s, Wong Ching-yau had left Yau Yue to become the managing director of HK Metropolitan Bank funded by Thai Chinese of Chiuchow descent (see article on Pak Cheung Wo) and Hung Wen-chi had assumed the position of managing director in addition to chairman. The family of Lo Min-nung had also left the picture as they had invested in HK Chinese Bank headed by Sir S.N. Chau and the Hung/Ang family had completely dominated the 8 person board with Hung Wen-chi and his wife Wang Cheng-ngo (王澄娥) and their son Hung Yen-hui (洪彥徽), his brother Ang Tuan-kai and his nephewsAng Beng-uh (洪名譽), Ang Ben-tan (洪名潭), Johnson Ang Chun-siu (洪俊秀) and William Ang Poe-guan (洪培元). Outside of Yau Yue, Hung Wen-chi was also a founding director of Nomura’s HK affiliate HK International Securities (incorporated in 1961 and renamed Nomura International HK Ltd in 1967) and Asia Insurance (founded in 1959 in HK by Chin Sophonpanich and other Chiuchow merchants).

Yau Yue Commercial Bank Image 3 York Lo

Hung Wen-chi (left) with Ma Kam-chan (馬錦燦right) of Tai Sang Bank at the opening reception for the North Point branch of Yau Yue Commercial Bank in 1962 (WKYP, 1962-10-28)

In 1962, Yau Yue opened its North Point branch at 359 King’s Road. Yau Yue also began the construction of its own head office building at at 127-131 Des Voeux Road Central. During the demolition of the three old buildings on the site, one of them collapsed in May 1963. Fortunately, most of the 20 construction workers on the site were able to escape on time but sadly, one person was killed, and one was seriously injured. (WKYP, 1963-5-7)

Yau Yue Commercial Bank Image 4 York Lo

Article about the demolition accident and picture of the construction site of the new Yau Yue Bank Building in Central in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-5-7)

In January 1964, Yau Yue opened its Western district branch at 408A-B Des Voeux Road West with Wong Tak-kwan (黃德坤) as branch manager. The opening ad shown below listed several dozen industrial enterprises and trading firms, most of them with Southeast Asian connections who likely banked with Yau Yue. (WKYP, 1964-1-23) The next month (February 1964), Yau Yue opened its Kowloon branch at 21 Fuk Lo Tsun Road in Kowloon City managed by Yeung Pong-tong (楊邦棠). The opening ceremony was attended by many of the firm’s Chinese banking peers but also Hung Wen-chi’s in law – Young Chi-wan (whose eldest son Albert Young Bing-ching married Felicia Hung Ling-chun) and his business partner Yu Kee-wan (see article on Stereo for details) and his brother Kee-kuen as shown below.

Yau Yue Commercial Bank Image 5 York Lo

Left: front page ad celebrating the opening of Yau Yue’s Western district branch in January 1964 (WKYP, 1964-1-22); Right: Opening of the Kowloon City branch of Yau Yue Bank in 1964. Left to right: branch manager Yeung Pong-tong, Yu Kee-kuen, bank manager Tse Ping-fai, Yu Kee-wan, Hung Wen-chi, Young Chi-wan. (WKYP, 1964-2-9)

In December 1965, the new 16-story Yau Yue Commercial Bank Buildingin Central opened with great fanfare and the opening ceremony was attended by over 3000 guests including the Finance Secretary John Cowperthwaite and other leaders of the Chinese banking community including Ho Sin-hang and others from Hang Seng, the Liu brothers from Liu Chong Hing, the Ma brothers from Tai Sang and representatives from Kwong On, Dah Sing, Wing Lung and others. (WKYP, 1965-12-29)Branches were also set up in Quarry Bay and Hunghom, bringing the total number of branches in its network to 6.

Behind the scene however, the banking crisis of 1965 had taken its toll on the bank withthe profits of the bank having dropped drastically from $235920 in 1964 to $4931 in 1965 thanks to $1-2 million in unrecoverable loans, the high construction cost of the new building coupled with the difficulty to lease out the new office space due to the economic downturn. Short time liabilities were $34.8 million, including $24 million in customer deposits and $337,000 unpaid construction bills for the head office building. (KSDN, 1966-9-16)

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Headline story of HSBC taking over Yau Yue in 1966 with picture of the front entrance of its headquarters (KSEN, 1966-9-15)

As the bank was deemed insolvent, the Finance Secretary asked HSBC to step in and take overYau YueBank in September 1966 to prevent a potential bank run. The next month, HSBC shut down 4 out of Yau Yue’s 6 branches to cut costs and only kept the main branch and the Kowloon City branch with larger deposit base. (KSEN, 1966-10-28)Deposits continued to fall during the riots the next year and the sale of assets began in July 1967. In March 1969, the Banking Commissioner applied to have Yau Yue winded up and in September, the Governor and the Executive Council ordered to revoke the banking license of Yau Yue. (KSEN, 1969-9-5) As a firm, Yau Yue Commercial Bank was finally dissolved in 2001.

In January 1970, Bak Ling Enterprises (百齡興業) controlled by the book publisher Au Bak-ling (區百齡) of Ling Kee Book Store (齡記書店) acquired the Yau Yue Bank Building in Central and within three months, increased the rent twice for its 100 plus small business tenants by 70% (from $1.20 per sq ft to $1.50 to $2), resulting in 28 of them going to the press to complain and the leftist paper joined in to call for government regulation. (TKP, 1970-4-1) The building was renamed Unicorn Trade Centre (有餘貿易中心) but its Chinese name remains Yau Yue and the only trace of the short-lived bank in the city.

Hung Wen-chi maintained a low profile after the closure of Yau Yue Bank and died in July 1984 at the age of 77.  In the Philippines, his nephew Ang Ben-uh and Ben-uh’s sonPhilip T. Ang (洪毓材, another son married the sister of S.T. King of Wearbest, see article)ran Utex and built up Solid Mills into a leading denim producer in partnership with Ramon Siy in the late 1970s. In more recent years, Philip Ang had shifted to mining and finance as vice chairman of Nickel Asia and director of Security Bank.

Sources (other than those cited above):

https://articles.zkiz.com/?rbid=22102

http://www.mhh.com.hk/eng/about-profile.php

https://www.easyatm.com.tw/wiki/%E6%B4%AA%E9%96%8B%E5%B9%B4

This article was first posted on 8th January 2021.

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