A bank's legacy, 100 years onwards

China Bank

Posted at Apr 07 2022 10:33 AM

The year was 1920. The world was still dealing with the effects of the First World War and the Philippines was still pursuing its goal to become free and sovereign from foreign powers. It was a time of economic opportunities and social advances, there was even an export boom for things such as sugar, copra, and hemp.

However, not many could take part in these opportunities as financial institutions do not just lend to anyone. Among those disgruntled with the situation were members of the local Chinese community who saw the potential in participating in the growing economy. But without the support of big banks, they did not have the necessary financing. It was then that a group of Chinese businessmen in the country, led by Dee Ching Chuan, met up and planned to set up a new bank that will allow entrepreneurs like them to have access to financing on an unprecedented scale.

On August 16, 1920, China Bank was born. 

hina Bank's founder was then 31-year-old Dee C. Chuan. He was called the Lumber King and was also the 14th President of the Filipino Chinese General Chamber of Commerce Inc., the youngest to be elected in that position. Photo source: 100 Years of Trust: The China Bank Story
China Bank's founder was then 31-year-old Dee C. Chuan. He was called the Lumber King and was also the 14th President of the Filipino Chinese General Chamber of Commerce Inc., the youngest to be elected in that position. Photo source: 100 Years of Trust: The China Bank Story

Humble beginnings in Binondo

Chuan wanted a different kind of bank. Supported by his friends and colleagues, they established one that combined eastern values and western expertise to serve clients and help aid them in participating in the growth of the economy. 

This daring new bank opened its first shop at No. 90 Calle Rosario (now Quintin Paredes Street) Binondo,Manila. Its first managers were Americans with financial expertise, but it was also supported by special Chinese characteristics like the principle of xinyong or trustworthiness. Because of this, China Bank was able to help aid the success of many big names in business today and others who did not have the extensive financial records required by other banks at that time. Big loans were lent to people based on their character, integrity, and financial reputation - something that helped set the bank apart and allowed it to support entrepreneurs in growing their businesses. 

Another important figure in China Bank's history is the ''Dean of Philippine Banking'' Albino SyCip. He served as a member of its first Board of Directors and later became President and Chairman, noted for establishing the bank's corporate DNA with positive values that have helped mold it into what it is today. Photo source: 100 Years of Trust: The China Bank Story
Another important figure in China Bank's history is the ''Dean of Philippine Banking'' Albino SyCip. He served as a member of its first Board of Directors and later became President and Chairman, noted for establishing the bank's corporate DNA with positive values that have helped mold it into what it is today. Photo source: 100 Years of Trust: The China Bank Story

Growth over the decades

China Bank grew quickly over the years. 

By the end of its founding year, the bank had P9.745 million in resources and P5.32 million in deposits, but by 1940, this grew to P31.77 million in resources and P21.566 million in deposits. Even the Great Depression of 1929 only helped strengthen the relationship of the bank and its clients as it gave reasonable chances to borrowers and did not cut credit lines. 

It moved to its own building in 1924 and was among the first companies to be listed on the Manila Stock Exchange in 1927. Even after the devastating effects of the Second World War, the bank remained strong and became one of the biggest local private commercial banks by 1955. 

The 70s was a good decade for China Bank. It is in this timeframe that the bank reached its one billion mark in total resources. In 1975, it became 73% Filipino-owned, thereby allowing it to grow further and open more branches – from the four branches it had for 55 years to 28 by 1983.

It formed BancNet in 1990 with seven other banks, utilized ATM Banking, launched its ATM card TellerCard, and the phone banking service TellerPhone. 1991 was an even greater year as it acquired its universal banking license, allowing the bank to expand its services and continue fostering growth. 

China Bank reached P100 billion in assets in 2002. Through organic growth and acquisitions, it has remained steadfast in its commitment to good governance, sustainability, and progress.

By its 100th year in 2020, China Bank has grown into a P1-trillion bank with a network of over 630 branches and over 1,000 ATMs nationwide. Even the outbreak of the health crisis in its centennial year did not shake the bank – after all, it has weathered through various wars and financial crises over the years and has emerged stronger together with its loyal clients. 

Then and Now: China Bank's original headquarters in Binondo, Manila. As part of its centennial celebrations, the building underwent major restorations inside and out. Photo source: 100 Years of Trust: The China Bank Story
Then and Now: China Bank's original headquarters in Binondo, Manila. As part of its centennial celebrations, the building underwent major restorations inside and out. Photo source: 100 Years of Trust: The China Bank Story

Celebrating 100 years of trust

To preserve its legacy for the next century, China Bank embarked on a major undertaking to restore its original headquarters in Binondo. The centerpiece of its centennial celebration, the Binondo Heritage Restoration Project, aims to restore the building to its former glory and sustainably equip it for future generations. The building was recognized by The National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Museum, the former bestowing a historical marker and the latter the Important Cultural Property marker. Both markers are proudly displayed at the faithfully restored China Bank Binondo Business Center.

Another important component of the restoration project is the China Bank Museum, located at the 4thfloor of the same building. Visitors can find artifacts, memorabilia, documents, photos, and paintings, that communicate not only the bank's rich history but also its core values.

To better tell its story, the bank also released its Centennial Book titled ''100 Years of Trust: The China Bank Story,'' chronicling 100 years of its growth – from its humble yet determined beginnings in Binondo to its current standing.

The Philippine Postal Corporation also joined in the celebration of China Bank's centennial anniversary by releasing special postage stamps, featuring its Binondo building. Photo Source: China Bank Facebook page [LINK OUT
China Bank released its Centennial Book titled "100 Years of Trust: The China Bank Story" chronicling 100 years of its growth. Photo source: China Bank

100 years onwards

100 years is a notable stretch of time. Nations have risen and fallen in the time that takes to complete a century. For China Bank, reaching its centennial anniversary is a testament to its original values and Dee C. Chuan's vision, and proof of its fiscal strength and longevity.

Amid the challenges of the global pandemic, China Bank was named the Best Bank in the Philippines by Hong Kong-based financial publication The Asset. The bank's investment banking subsidiary, China Bank Capital, also bagged the award for Best Bond Adviser (Domestic) for the sixth consecutive year, as well as six other awards for its role in the best deals of 2021.

For its contribution to the growth and stability of the Philippine financial markets, China Bank won top honors from the Philippine Dealing System. China Bank was named Cesar E.A. Virata Best Securities House (Bank Category) and China Bank Capital emerged as the Top Corporate Issue Manager/Arranger (Investment House Category).

China Bank's financial strength was also recognized by The Asian Banker in 2021. It was included in The Asian Banker's Top 500 Strongest Banks  for the Asia Pacific Region, ranking the second strongest bank by balance sheet among the banks in the Philippines.

All these accolades serve as proof of the bank's enduring commitment and values that have helped shape the legacy it holds today. 

Moving forward to its second century, the bank continues offering its unwavering dedication and brand of service to clients who have stayed and grown with them across generations. 

As it celebrates the past and embraces the future, the bank remains strongly committed to its stakeholders, both in good and difficult times. It will remain adaptive and responsive to the changing trends in order to keep serving society and helping aid economic development. 

Times may continue to change, but China Bank's unwavering values remain the same. 

To know more about the 100 years of China Bank, visit its website.

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