The Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) was incorporated on 31 October 1932 through the merger of three Hokkien banks – the Chinese Commercial Bank Ltd. (established in 1912), Ho Hong Bank Ltd. (1917) and Oversea-Chinese Bank Ltd. (1919) – during the Great Depression.
When OCBC began operation in February 1933, it was already one of the strongest local banks in the Straits Settlements. Under the stewardship of Lee Kong Chian (chairman of the bank from 1938–1964), and his successors Tan Chin Tuan (chairman and managing director from 1966–1983) and Lee Choon Seng (acting chairman during the Japanese Occupation), OCBC managed to survive the dark days of the Japanese Occupation. During this period, the bank’s head office was transferred to Bombay, India, before being re-registered in Singapore after the war. During the 1950s, OCBC was one of the few foreign banks to have branches operating in China. By 1970, OCBC had total resources exceeding $1 billion – one of the largest for a private sector company in Singapore and Malaysia. By the end of 1981, OCBC’s total assets had grown to over $7 billion; the assets were worth $151 million at the end of World War II. When Tan Chin Tuan retired as chairman in 1983, OCBC was one of the biggest banks in Singapore.
OCBC has introduced many innovations to the local banking sector, including the night safe system in 1948 and the mobile service in 1958. The night safe system allowed customers to deposit cash and valuables after office hours. The mobile “bank on wheels” service visited suburban areas to provide banking services to customers living in these areas. OCBC was also one of the pioneers in the Asian dollar market in the late 1960s and 1970s.
On 9 May 1989, OCBC took on a new corporate identity by changing its logo and its name to OCBC Bank. In August 2001, OCBC Bank acquired Keppel Capital group and by February 2002, both OCBC and Keppel TatLee banks were operationally and legally integrated. Today, OCBC Bank is the second largest banking group in Singapore by total assets, and has diversified beyond banking to other financial services such as insurance, asset management and brokerage.
1. Tribute to bank founders’ faith and foresight. (1972, October 31). The Straits Times, p. 4; Chinese banks to join forces. (1932, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Loh, G., Goh, C. B., & Tan, T. L. (2005). Building bridges, carving niches: An enduring legacy (pp. 15–17, 21–22). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic. Call no.: RSING 332.1095957 LOH.
2. Page 5 Advertisements Column 4: The Chinese Commercial Bank, Limited. (1912, November 27). The Straits Times, p. 5; Proposed Hokien bank for Singapore. (1912, August 12). The Weekly Sun, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Ho Hong Bank. (1918, March 21). The Singapore Free Press, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. The day’s news. (1919, October 3). Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Overseas Chinese Bank. (1919, October 3). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. OCBC: Three Hokkien family-run banks merge to survice. (2001, July 2). The Straits Times, p. 10; Lor, S. (2006, August 9). Visionary bankers. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wilson, D. (1972). 安如盘石 : 华侨银行四十周年 (pp. 130–131). Singapore: Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation. Call no.: RCLOS 332.12095957 WIL.
6. The Straits Times, 9 Aug 2006, p. 15; Oon, C. (2000, December 22). Clerk who went on to head OCBC. The Straits Times, p. L4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lee, S. Y. (2006). Rock solid: The corporate career of Tan Chin Tuan (pp. 75–89). Singapore: Landmark Books. Call no.: RSING 332.1092 LEE.
7. Loh, Goh & Tan, 2005, pp. 50-51.
8. The Straits Times, 31 Oct 1972, p. 4.
9. China eases rules for foreign banks. (1984, December 24). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation. (1971). Annual report 1970. (p. 21). Singapore: Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited. Call no.: RCLOS 332.12095957 OCBCSA-[AR].
11. Mackie, R. (1982, October 31). A banker for all seasons. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Wilson, 1972, p. 71; Bank enlarging deposit vault. (1947, December 18). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Yang Razali Kassim. (1992, May 15). The legend who built the OCBC group. The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Introducing the bank on wheels. (1958, August 16). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Loh, Goh & Tan, 2005, pp. 161–163; The Straits Times, 31 Oct 1972, p. 4.
16. OCBC changes its name and logo. (1989, May 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Keppel TatLee only a memory now. (2002, February 26). The Business Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. OCBC Group. (2013). Group Business: Overview. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from OCBC Bank website: https://www.ocbc.com.sg/group/who-we-are/Group-Business.html
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.