Citations and Speeches


118th Congregation (1983)

HO Sin Hang
O.B.E., Hon.S.Sc.

The Public Orator Professor Peter Bernard Harris, B.A., B.SC. (Econ.), PH.D., D.Litt. (PCE), wrote and delivered the following citation:

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you for the award of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Dr. Ho Sin Hang. Dr. Ho was born almost 83 years ago in the Pun U district of Guangdong Province, and established early connections with the city of Macao - the Casablanca of the Orient.

Sir, when Dr. Ho was born, Queen Victoria sat on the throne, China was ruled by imperial decree and the Governor of Hong Kong was Sir Henry Blake. And yet what impresses those privileged to know Dr. Ho, despite his years which he so lightly bears, is his youthful vigour. The painter Degas remarked that everyone has talent at 25. The difficulty he thought was to have it at 50. Mr. Chancellor, Dr. Ho still has a profusion of talents at 80. I will return to those presently.

Our century has seen times good and bad. Since 1900 Hong Kong has experienced the vicissitudes of turbulence and calm, military occupation as well as peaceful periods. Dr. Ho looking back at his life and times could well say that it truly was the best of times and the worst of times.

Sir, Ho Sin Hang was educated privately and was greatly influenced by a deep self-study of the Chinese classics. He ranged over many subjects and in a number of disciplines, including what today might be called management studies. In those early days, while Dr. Ho was still a young man, he perceived the dual nature of so much of Chinese enterprise. One was the call of commerce and the other the imperative of the family. The combination of commerce and the family is often irresistible - as the example of Hong Kong enterprise, vigour and success so well demonstrates. This theme was to recur constantly in his life as Dr. Ho made his way up the ladder of success.

The beginning, Mr. Chancellor, was with gold, and the arrival of Dr. Ho in Hong Kong in the early thirties to begin a modest business in Wing Lok Street. The journey had begun. But from gold to banking is not very far. Not a quantum jump. At least not intellectually. After all, the predecessors of the Bank of England were the goldsmiths. If you, buy gold or sell it you are in a sense already a banker. Indeed in economic history - Lombards and the Bank of England are examples to show this precisely.

Of his early days, Dr. Ho has many vivid memories. One in particular will be of some wry amusement. In 1936, Hong Kong experienced a particularly bad typhoon as a result of which the seawater crashed violently into the little building. Seawater is naturally unsympathetic to paper money and wet paper money is alas as useless as wet paper. Mr. Ho's inspiration was immediately set to work. He called together a number of helpers who repaired to his home in Bonham Road. They then set about ironing the wrinkles out of the wrinkled currency. Sir, we have heard tell of laundered money, but ironed money is a new idea indeed. But there are rules to the game of banking, subtle, sometimes too technical for the public to understand, but always very human. Banking is a way of life, one in which the problems of commerce are constantly sharpened by the intrusion of moral questions.

Dr. Johnson said and Lord Keynes later echoed this sentiment: 'Small debts are like small shot; they are rattling on every side, and can scarcely be escaped without a wound; great debts are like cannon, of loud noise but little danger'. The lessons are for us to ponder today.

Mr. Chancellor, we have now reached 1941, when the Occupation put a temporary stop to Dr. Ho's activities. Unfortunately, he was obliged to retire to Macao to await the 1945 Liberation. Then came new opportunities for the farsighted Ho and he was able to turn his enterprising talents towards new fields and pastures new.

In the 1950s Hong Kong showed just a few signs of becoming the important financial centre which it was later to become. Hong Kong was on the threshold of vast changes. No community, I would submit, can succeed without a sound network of institutions to harness effort into creative paths. Amongst the more important of these are financial interests, and, more specifically, banks.

Hong Kong which was once celebrated only for its magnificent port, and somewhat later its manufactures, now came to inhabit a new world of finance; a new breed of merchant adventurers emerged - at home in the complex world of foreign exchange dealings with its floating pegs, Eurodollars and monetary snakes, as well as in the everyday world of banking the humble earnings of all sorts and conditions of men. Ho Sin Hang is an exceptional and brilliant example of a skilled professional who also has the common touch.

Dr. Ho soon began to expand his business in the world of banking. The Hang Seng Bank was largely his creation, a bank for the people of Hong Kong which he founded and which he has chaired for more than 30 years. He has seen the bank grow from small beginnings to become a formidable power. Everyone knows, we have recently seen marked the fiftieth anniversary the establishment of the Hang Seng Bank Nothing testifies more to Dr. Ho's foresight, wisdom, courage and tenacity. Hong Kong needs men like Dr. Ho who have so steadfastly served us in the past with ingenuity and with flair. For Hong Kong has always seen its forte in industrious men who form our class of illustrious entrepreneurs. They, (the Dr. Ho's of our town) fly the flag of commerce, of industry, and of progress. Dr. Ho is a senior citizen of great perspicacity. He has helped in the creation of the infrastructure of that complex of finance and commerce which is Hong Kong. Hang Seng is known for its index both financial as well as providing a more general index of industry and of endeavour. Despite the faint-hearted outside Hong Kong, we here surge ahead following the trail blazed by Dr. Ho. To him today we wish to return a modest bonus share.

In 1842, Your Excellency's predecessor, Sir Henry Pottinger, first Governor of Hong Kong, prophetically stated that Hong Kong would become an Emporium of Commerce and Wealth. How right he was. Dr. Ho's interests have been mainly financial and gold and precious stones constitute a central concern for him. From banking Ho has diversified his business interests, not moving out of banking - (rather the reverse for he is a director of the Wing Lung Bank as well as the Bangkok Mercantile [Hong Kong] Company Limited) but into hotels, including a directorship of the Miramar and Furama Hotel enterprises, and shipping. Recent events in world finance have shown us how fruitful have been the wise pioneering efforts of Dr. Ho. This year the nations of the entire world will require over US 8 billion to cover their international deficits for 1983 alone. Hong Kong is not amongst these nations and is relatively free of such worries. Countries should never forget that when they fail to sustain their banking and their monetary systems they run considerable risks many of which fall on very ordinary folk. Dr. Ho wished to help Mr, Everybody in Hong Kong and brilliantly pioneered his idea of banking for the surging populace in our city.

As far as finance is concerned, Hong Kong today is understood to be the third most important centre in the world. Certainly the financial sector here produces something like a quarter of our Gross National Product. Our banks are household names, and our bankers are men of international importance.

Dr. Ho is aware of the need for this new Hong Kong endeavour to be sustained and developed - and to this end he has founded the Hang Seng School of Commerce as well as a number of schools and colleges associated with the Buddhist faith.

Dr. Ho's own superb book is a serious work of self-appraisal, business acumen and faith. He analyzes with great skill in direct clear images how one should cultivate self-improvement, partly to lay open the skill of business and partly to refine one's own self-control. He skilfully discusses the techniques which can be learned for knowing how to deal with people, putting oneself in the shoes of others. Service, he believes, is always paramount and so is a proper and genuine regard for those in one's employment. The business leader is responsible to his subordinates as well as to his shareholders. Management is thus for him as much an art as a science. He is truly a man ahead of his time, a veritable professor of business studies in his own right.

Mr. Chancellor, in his perceptive address delivered to the,1981 meeting (AGM) of the Hang Seng Bank, Dr. Ho depicts the bank striding ahead. From May 1982 upon the completion of the Tsuen Wan extension MTR, some 27 banking outlets have been established at the stations. The public can, therefore, obtain cash while they travel. The age of Mass Transit Banking has triumphantly arrived and it is not even the end of the journey of a man who was born when the twentieth century was only six months old. All this proves, Your Excellency, that a bank is not just for young bucks. But Dr. Ho has the happy gift of combining experience with a sense of innovation.

Mr. Chancellor, Dr. Ho's generosity to our University must be remembered. To this University he has given valuable support especially in the departments of medicine and surgery as well as providing for a hall of residence and a number of other ventures. Dr. Ho was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen with membership of the British Empire and became an Officer of the Order in 1978. He was also honoured by the Thai and Japanese governments for his services to trade and commerce as well as being an Honorary Citizen of Tennessee (1972). In 1971, Dr. Ho was given the degree of Doctor of Social Sciences by the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

This University wishes to pay tribute to the many services which Ho Sin Hang has rendered to our community in a long working lifetime. We are happy to bestow upon him the highest academic award which we possess. Nothing less would do full justice to the range of his many varied activities.

In recognition of his outstanding and dedicated service in the fields of commerce, education and particularly for the creation of a number of Hong Kong's important financial institutions, I call now upon you Mr. Chancellor, to confer upon Ho Sin Hang the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.