David Li Kwok-po to step down as chief executive at Bank of East Asia, hands over century-old bank’s reins to his two sons

24-May-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

David Li Kwok-po, the third-generation scion of the family that founded Hong Kong’s very first Chinese-owned bank, will step down as chief executive on July 1, according to a statement by the Bank of East Asia.

Li, who turned 80 in March, will remain the executive chair of the century-old bank, and keep his title as executive director. His two sons Adrian David Li Man-kiu and Brian David Li Man-bun will take over as co-chief executives, the bank said.

“I have worked half a century, and am now 80 years old,” the elder Li said in a telephone interview with the South China Morning Post, after Bank of East Asia’s announcement. “The future strategy of the bank will be in the hands of the younger generation.”

Like his fellow Hong Kong tycoons Li Ka-shing of the Cheung Kong group and Lee Shau-kee of Henderson Land Li is stepping back to facilitate the smooth continuation of his banking empire, which spans more than 200 global branches and representative offices with 10,000 staff.

Li is also stepping back at a time of tremendous change in banking, and in Hong Kong’s role with mainland China.

A city of 7 million people, Hong Kong is home to 160 licensed banks, of which Bank of East Asia with 78 branches and outlets is but one. The city’s monetary authority has handed out eight virtual bank licenses since March to catch up with China and Japan in letting technology disrupt traditional banking in bricks-and-mortar branches. More licenses are likely to come.

More than two decades since the former British colony returned to China’s rule, Hong Kong has also been reassessing its role alongside a homeland whose economy and financial services industry have grown in leaps and bounds, in some cases outpacing the very city that was a role model earlier.

“I believe they will continue to develop [and grow] the China business, and invest more in digital banking,” Li said of his two sons. “They are not new to the bank. One has worked [here] for 18 years while another has worked for 16 years. They are ready to succeed as the chief executives. I am confident they can lead the bank to grow, and [develop it to become] bigger and better.”

Li, whose family traces its roots to Jiangmen city in Guangdong province now a city within the Greater Bay Area cluster received his early education in Britain, studying economics and law at the University of Cambridge. He had been Bank of East Asia’s chief executive since 1981.

In an interview last year when the bank marked the centenary of its founding, Li said he would remain active in managing the bank until he turned 82, at least.

“The Board believes the co-chief executive structure is beneficial to the bank as a whole,” the bank said in a press release. The “complementary skill sets” of Li’s two sons “will support the bank’s continued business growth, allowing the bank to dedicate sufficient resources to focus on its two major markets mainland China and Hong Kong, as well as maximise its cross-border capabilities and collaboration between different operations,” the bank said.



Category: Hong Kong

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