UPDATE: I've noticed a lot of traffic coming to this post. You can also click here later to read Ban Hin Lee Bank (BHL Bank) 73rd anniversary
Today is 17 Sep 2007. If Ban Hin Lee Bank were still in existence, this remarkable bank would be observing the 72nd anniversary of its founding.
The story of Ban Hin Lee Bank is the story of Yeap Chor Ee. In case you don't know who he was, Yeap Chor Ee came from China in the 1890s and settled in Penang when he was 17 years old. He started a trading firm called Ban Hin Lee which evolved into Ban Hin Lee Bank in 1935. As a result of his hard work he rose to become one of the richest men in Penang. The above picture shows the bank's landmark building. On the right is the bank's logo. It has all the right fengshui signs. You would have to be sitting on the mountain to look over the sea. An unsubstantiated story has it that the five coconut trees represented his five sons and the two sailing ships, his daughters.
In this picture, Yeap Chor Ee is seen donating money towards a good cause. Receiving the money was Aw Boon Hor of the Tiger Balm Village fame in Singapore.
Yeap Chor Ee died in 1952 and control of the bank passed first to his widow, Lee Cheng Kin, who died in 1977 and later to his son, Yeap Hock Hoe, until his death in 1980. The chairmanship of the bank then went to Yeap Teik Leong, the eldest of Yeap Chor Ee's grandsons who stays in Singapore, until 1986 when Goh Eng Toon, another of Yeap Chor Ee's grandsons, took over the position.
In the late 1990s, the Federal Government placed pressure on the local banks to merge. Ban Hin Lee Bank was in negotiation with Southern Bank to merge as equal partners in 1999 but suddenly, Bank Negara made Southern Bank the anchor bank in the merger process. What was first supposed to be a merger on equal footing now became heavily weighted in Southern Bank's favour. However, there could not be any turning back and the buy-out was formalised in 2001. Five years later, Southern Bank was in turn swallowed up by CIMB Bank. Today, the building still stands proud along Beach Street in Penang but it no longer sports the name of Penang's most famous local bank.