Wee Cho Yaw


Wee Cho Yaw
Wee Cho Yaw, president of United Overseas Bank.
Professor Wee Cho Yaw was born in Kinmen county, Fujian province. At the age of 7, his family immigrated to Singapore, where his father, Datuk Wee Kheng Chiang of Sarawak, was a businessman.

Wee’s education was suspended from 1942 to 1945 because of Japan’s occupation of Singapore. After the Japanese surrendered, he continued his education in Chung Cheng High School.

After he left school in 1950, Wee worked at the Kheng Leong Group, a business owned by his father that traded local commodities. Then, in 1958, he began to serve as board member in the United Overseas Bank (UOB) that his father founded in 1935. Two years later, he became the managing director of the bank. After his father retired in 1974, Wee succeeded him as board chairman and group president.

At the time, UOB was a small bank catering mainly to the Fujian community. Under Wee’s management, it expanded and set up several branches in Singapore and, in 1965, its first overseas branch in Hong Kong.

UOB went public on the Joint Stock Exchange of Singapore and Malaysia in 1970. In the next year, it acquired Chung Khiaw Bank, then Lee Wah Bank in 1972, Far Eastern Bank in 1984, Industrial & Commercial Bank in 1987, and Overseas Union Bank in 2001. It also took over five banks in Southeast Asia, two in Thailand, two in Indonesia and one in the Philippines.

Today, UOB has a network of over 500 branches and offices in 19 countries and regions, with 75 of them located in Singapore; 432 in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and China; and the others scattered in such countries and regions as the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India and Taiwan. The group had a net profit of SGD $2.3 billion ($1.85 billion) in 2011. Its total assets came to SGD $236.9 billion by the end of 2011.

Besides business, Wee also devotes himself to community development and public service. He was president of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations from its founding in 1986 to 2010 and now is its honorary president. He has also been the chairman of the Chinese Heritage Center since it was established in 1995.

Wee is the chairman of the Wee Foundation that was set up in 2008 to support education development and underprivileged welfare.

In 2011, Wee was conferred the Distinguished Service Order, Singapore’s highest National Day Awards, in recognition of his outstanding work in promoting the Chinese community and education.

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