Banker Lee Quo-wei dies at the age of 95

Community leaders praise Lee Quo-wei, former Hang Seng Bank chairman, who died aged 95

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 3:53am

Lee Quo-wei 1918-2013

Influential banker Lee Quo-wei, who spent more than a decade as chairman of Hang Seng Bank and was a key figure during Hong Kong's transition from British rule, has died. He was 95.

"It is with profound sadness and sorrow that we announce the peaceful passing away of Dr Lee ... at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin," a statement issued by the bank on behalf of the family said last night. He died on Saturday.

"Although lost to us in life, his legacy and memory will endure," the statement said, without mentioning the cause of death.

Lee joined the bank in 1946 - six years before it was incorporated into a private company. As a trusted adviser to founding chairman Ho Sin-hang, he was appointed a director of the bank in 1960, the year it became a public company. In 1983, Lee was made the bank's executive chairman and following his retirement in 1998, he became honorary chairman and then honorary senior adviser to the bank.

"Dr Lee made tremendous contributions to the financial services, education and public services in Hong Kong and engaged heavily in charitable activities," said Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, former chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, called Lee his "most respected senior in the financial sector".

"His contribution to Hong Kong is indisputable. He gave me support, inspiration and guidance for many years," Yam said.

Norman Chan Tak-lam, the current HKMA chief executive, said Lee "contributed greatly to the development of Hong Kong's banking industry".

Hang Seng Bank chief executive Rose Lee Wai-mun said: "Throughout his career at Hang Seng, he was recognised as a man of the highest integrity ... I had the good fortune and extreme privilege of regarding Dr Lee as a mentor. His wisdom, his insights and his kindness were invaluable over the years."

Born in 1918 in Macau, Lee moved to Hong Kong as a boy and was educated at St Joseph's College before taking a job at the China State Bank at the age of 18.

Lee was also active in politics and was appointed to both the legislative and executive councils. In 1984, Lee, with Chung Sze-yuen and Lydia Dunn, visited Beijing and met paramount leader Deng Xiaoping , who pledged to allow Hong Kong people to rule Hong Kong after the handover.

Lee was a member of the selection committee which chose Tung Chee-hwa as chief executive. Tung awarded him the first post-handover Grand Bauhinia Medal. He was given a knighthood under British rule.

Leung said Lee made significant contributions to Hong Kong's smooth reunification with the motherland.

Veteran politician Allen Lee Peng-fei, who paid Lee a hospital visit more than a month ago, called him "a very mild person".

"I never saw him [become] mad at anybody," Allen Lee said. "He was very concerned about Hong Kong's future [in the 1980s]."

Lee was also dedicated to education, founding the Hang Seng School of Commerce, now Hang Seng Management College. He also chaired the Education Commission.

He is survived by his wife, Helen, and three children, Annie, George and Wendy. His son Philip died before him.