According to a report on the history of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation [HSBC] (1), its first office in Malaya (now called Malaysia) was established on the Island of Penang in 1884. During the 1900s, HSBC expanded its services in the Peninsular and opened offices in a number of towns. Despite the disruption and dislocation to many businesses brought on by the First World War, the country began to prosper again as new industries developed and trade in commodities such as rubber and tin increased. During the recession in the 1930s the markets were badly hit but HSBC continued to take bold steps to advance its businesses. The Second World War was a challenging time for the bank with many becoming prisoners of war but there was a display of courage in the face of adversity.

After the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II, Malaya was once again governed by the British colonial government through the British Military Administration. It was a time of recovery and rehabilitation for the two key export industries namely, tin-mining and plantations.  Despite the hardships, the banking industry maintained its confidence in the country’s recovery. HSBC took on a major role in the reconstruction of the country’s economy.

Douglas Wong in his book ‘HSBC – Its Malaysian Story’ offers some insights on how the office in Teluk Anson (now called Teluk Intan) was established (2).  When Charles Edwards took over as Singapore Manager, he visited every branch in the Peninsula. Despite the chaotic British Military Administration, and the need for many of the existing branches to be rehabilitated, he saw that prewar prosperity would soon return. So he toured Malaya with George Stabb with the view of taking stock of improvement work to be done and looking for new business opportunities. On returning to Singapore he wanted Stabb to go up to Teluk Anson as soon as possible to open an office there. Stabb later recalled his conversations with Edwards,   

‘when we got back to Singapore, he [Edwards] told me you may be going up-country, Teluk Anson, you’re going to open an office there. You’d better get a move on because the Chartered are going to open shortly.’ (3)

When George Stabb arrived in Teluk Anson, he found out that the Lower Perak Planters Association, knowing nothing of the Hongkong Banks’s plans to set up an office, had already promised to support the new Chartered branch. Harold C.D. Davies who later became the third Manager of HSBC between 1948 – 1950 did not think Teluk Anson would be a suitable place. He later commented,

‘We had nothing there. I don’t think they had any firms there. Even in Sungai Petani we had one or two firms.’ (4)

Infact, Davies thought Teluk Anson would be a terrible place for HSBC to set up office and a very boring place and so did not support the idea. This was reflected in his view that,

“Teluk Anson is right up the creek without a paddle, terrible place. Looking back, I don’t know what it was about Teluk Anson. Nothing to recommend it. A dreary looking place.” (5)

Finally, Stabb opened a branch of the Mercantile Bank of India Ltd for business in Teluk Anson on 1st November 1946 and became its first Manager. He operated in a go-down belonging to one of his earliest customers, Lee Rubber. The only advice he received before coming, was from a Singapore accountant J. Mcl Brown, who told him to be the first to sign the signature card himself so that no one would be able to say that they were the first account holder because – they’d expect a clean overdraft.’ (6)

Very soon, however, a permanent office was built. In HRH Raja Nazrin Shah’s book, “Landmarks of Perak” architect Chen Voon Fee offers the following description of this building.

“It is a two-storey building with a splayed corner entrance and a concrete cantilevered canopy. Its appearance conveys a sense of being strictly for business. Slightly lower canopies shade the ground floor windows, regularly spaced on both sides. The walls are grooved, suggesting a sturdy base, above which is the piano nobile (main floor) with repetitive windows following the spacing of the ground floor windows. The hipped, tiled roof completes the classic tripartite composition. The corner splay above the entrance canopy is framed by a pair of columns with modified capitals that do not belong to any of the Classical Orders.” (7)

It’s has been more than 70 years since and today the building still looks much the same. However, the Mercantile Bank was later merged with the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and the building now bears the sign ‘HSBC.’ George Stabb served only for a year and he was succeeded by W. J. Mc Connwell [1947-1948]. Until 1965 a number of expatriates served as Managers. 

References

  1. https://www.about.hsbc.com.my/hsbc-in-malaysia
  2. Douglas Wong, HSBC – Its Malaysian Story. Editions Didier Millet, 2004. Pg 98
  3. Douglas Wong, HSBC – Its Malaysian Story. Editions Didier Millet, 2004. Pg 98
  4. Douglas Wong, HSBC – Its Malaysian Story. Editions Didier Millet, 2004. Pg 99
  5. Douglas Wong, HSBC – Its Malaysian Story. Editions Didier Millet, 2004. Pg 98
  6. Douglas Wong, HSBC – Its Malaysian Story. Editions Didier Millet, 2004. Pg 98
  7. HRH Raja Nazrin Shah, “Landmarks of Perak”. RNS Publications Sdn Bhd. 2006. Pg 67

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here