SIR William Purves, chairman of HSBC Holdings and winner of the Businessman of the Year Award in last year's DHL-South China Morning Post business awards, has enjoyed another fine year in the territory as the head of one of the world's 10 largest banks. Regrettably for Hong Kong, this is to be the end of his time in the territory, for Sir William is to leave shortly for London, where the bank group is now based. Last year's award came in the aftermath of HSBC's takeover of Midland Bank, one of the largest and most daring takeovers in banking history. Early fears over possible problems arising from the merging of Midland into HSBC have proved groundless, and Sir William has presided over remarkable pre-tax profit growth from both groups. Sir William said: ''The HSBC group has made good progress over the past year, thanks to the hard work and talents of all of our staff. ''The integration of Midland into the HSBC group has proceeded satisfactorily, with synergy benefits exceeding our expectations.'' Sir William joined HSBC in 1955 and had stints in Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka before he became chairman of the bank in 1987. However, the highlight of his career must be last year's takeover of Midland, which stunned the banking world because of the speed and boldness with which HSBC and Sir William acted. On a personal level, it was only a few short weeks after receiving the Businessman of the Year Award that Sir William received his knighthood in the Queen's New Year's honours list. As for the future, Sir William, who is notorious for his dislike of interviews and photo sessions, has been characteristically silent as to his personal plans and aspirations, although on the subject of HSBC, he believes there is a bright future for the bank, which he helped put on the world map. He said: ''We continue to face a number of challenges, given the difficult operating conditions in some parts of the world, and there is still much to do to ensure our shareholders receive the full benefits of the merger. I remain confident, however, that the group can work successfully to exploit its unusual combination of strengths.'' Sir William has recently been stepping down from his many public roles in preparation for his move to London. He has already been replaced as head of the Jockey Club and as chairman of the advisory committee of the Eric Liddel Foundation. He also recently attended his last Executive Council meeting, and his replacement, Hongkong Bank chairman John Gray, has already been announced. Indeed, it seems like the end of an era as one of the territory's most respected and most popular businessmen prepares to leave these shores although he will no doubt be returning on a regular basis.