The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bank roots traced to Indians

Calcutta, Oct. 25: Three Indians were among the founders of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, said Frank H. H. King, an economic historian, who has authored a book in four volumes on the history and origins of the bank.

The three Indian promoters of the bank were all Mumbai-based Parsees.

On a visit to the city, King addressed a gathering of select HSBC customers. He said the Calcutta branch of the bank, set up in 1865, played a very important role. “The Calcutta branch supervised the Rangoon branch for many years,” he said.

The Mercantile Bank, which had its Indian headquarters in Mumbai, later became part of the corporation in 1957. The Mercantile Bank was set up in 1853 under a charter of the British government, which was withdrawn towards the end of the 19th century as the bank “failed”.

“Though the Hong Kong bank in those days had very little local business, it used to accept deposits from Indians. It was focused on transit businesses of the English. The English had business relationships with the Chinese and other South-east countries. The Hong Kong bank had branches in London, Lyon and Hamburg,” King said.

P. G. Woodhouse mentions the Hong Kong bank in his novel Psmith In The City. “The eccentric protagonist used to work in one Oriental Bank, which is actually the Hong Kong bank,” King said to illustrate the popularity of the bank in England.

King, 76, had researched the origins of the bank between 1979 and 1992. King, who has worked with the World Bank as an economist, is currently researching on Rammohan Roy.

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