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In memory of Wee Cho Yaw, chairman emeritus of UOB—embodied honour, enterprise, unity

Wee, the respected honorary adviser of renowned Asian institution, United Overseas Bank, passed away at age 95 after a remarkable life in the industry spotlight spanning over five decades

February 05, 2024 | -

Known for leadership, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy, Wee Cho Yaw, chairman emeritus of UOB, led the bank’s growth from a single branch to a regional powerhouse, with assets soaring from SGD 2.8 billion ($2.08 billion) to over SGD 516 billion ($383.3 billion) by 2023, with top ratings from Moody’s, S&P Global Ratings, and Fitch Ratings.

Coming from humble origins in China, Wee started his banking journey in 1958 when he joined the board of directors of the United Chinese Bank, rebranded as United Overseas Bank in 1965. Under his leadership, UOB grew significantly, culminating in landmark mergers and acquisitions that solidified its position as Southeast Asia’s second largest bank by assets in 2009. At that time, it had branches in Singapore, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

One of Wee’s major accomplishments was merging UOB with Overseas Union Bank in 2001, making it the largest bank by assets and capitalisation in Singapore and ASEAN at the time. As chairman from 1974, succeeding his father, he expanded UOB globally to 19 countries and 500 offices by 2022. Assets had surged to over SGD 253 billion ($187.9 billion) by the time he retired as chairman in 2013.

Wee’s stewardship was characterised by his deep-rooted connection to the local community, keen understanding of competition, and unwavering commitment to the core values of banking. His decisive nature and hands-on approach enabled him to seize opportunities swiftly, ensuring the bank’s continued growth and success.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the banking industry and broader community, Wee was honoured with The Asian Banker Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009,  a prestigious accolade highlighting his exemplary career and lasting impact.

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Keywords:Legacy, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy, Mergers And Acquisitions, Regional Powerhouse, Assets, Ratings, Award