Lee Quo-wei, the former chairman of Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Bank Ltd. (11) who fended off a bank run, helped peg the local currency to the U.S. dollar and rebuilt the reputation of the city’s stock exchange, has died. He was 95.
Lee died on Aug. 10 at Prince of Wales Hospital in the city’s Shatin district, the unit of HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) said in an e-mailed statement on behalf of his family yesterday, without giving a cause of death.
After joining the lender in 1946, Lee was among those who transformed Hang Seng into the second-largest Hong Kong-based lender from a money-changing shop founded 13 years earlier. Lee helped Hang Seng end a bank run in 1965 with a capital injection from Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corp., later to become HSBC. Four years later he was part of the team that created the Hang Seng Index (HSI), the city’s benchmark stock gauge.
Lee was appointed executive chairman of Hang Seng Bank in 1983, according to a statement from current Chairman Raymond Ch’ien. He retired in 1998, becoming honorary chairman and later honorary senior adviser, Ch’ien said in the statement.
After guiding Hang Seng Bank through the crisis in 1965, Lee helped steer Hong Kong through several periods of financial and political upheaval, receiving the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the city’s highest award, in 1997.
Lee in 1983 assisted Financial Secretary John Bremridge in establishing the city’s linked exchange rate system, which is still in place, the Chinese-language Apple Daily newspaper reported today.
A member of Hong Kong’s legislative council and executive council, Lee met with China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1984, as China and the U.K. were discussing the return of sovereignty over the city, Apple Daily said. Lee and other business and political leaders expressed Hong Kong people’s concerns that the handover would make them worse off, and were criticized by the mainland’s official Xinhua News Agency for obstructing negotiations, Apple Daily said.
He was appointed by the Hong Kong government in 1988 to lead the city’s stock exchange, charged with increasing professionalism and transparency, Fung Bong-yin wrote in his book “A Century of Hong Kong Financial Development.”
Lee “contributed greatly to the development of Hong Kong’s banking industry,” Norman Chan, chief executive of the HKMA, the city’s de-facto central bank and banking regulator, said in an e-mailed statement. Joseph Yam, Chan’s predecessor, called Lee his “most respected senior in the financial sector,” the South China Morning Post reported today.
Lee is survived by his wife Helen and three children, Annie, George and Wendy; his son Philip predeceased him, according to the statement from his family.
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