Sze Hai Tong Banking & Insurance Company Limited

Singapore Infopedia

by Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia


Sze Hai Tong Banking & Insurance Company Limited, one of Singapore’s earliest banks, was established on 7 January 1907. It was founded by members of the Teochew community, including Tan Teck Joon (managing director), Ng Song Teng (assistant manager), Na Kim Seng, Yeo Lee Chiang and Liaw Chia Heng.1 The bank occupied 57 and 58 Kling Street (renamed Chulia Street on 1 January 1922) before it moved into a four-storey building costing $180,000 at the junction of Chulia Street and Phillip Street in 1938.2

Management style

The bank was staffed mainly by Teochews, and attracted customers with its cosy, homely atmosphere, which brought the bank many loyal customers.3 The bank later expanded overseas and set up branches and agencies in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Swatow (Shantou) and London.4

The bank was managed with much conservatism, which helped it to survive during difficult times. Despite the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the bank continued to attract new customers. When the uncertainties escalated into a bank run in Singapore, Sze Hai Tong was able to meet withdrawal demands with its strong cash reserves. The Teochew business community also stood by the bank. Confidence in the bank was bolstered when Low Peng Yam, a director and its largest shareholder, injected $500,000 into the bank.5

Name change and acquisition

In May 1957, Sze Hai Tong Banking & Insurance Company Limited was renamed Sze Hai Tong Bank Limited.6 As foreign customers and business contacts found it difficult to pronounce its name, however, the bank officially changed its name to Four Seas Communications Bank Limited in July 1964.7

On 15 December 1972, the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited (OCBC) acquired a majority interest in Four Seas Communications Bank at a takeover price of one OCBC share for every three Four Seas share. Following the acquisition, Four Seas became a subsidiary of OCBC, but it continued to enjoy autonomy in its daily operations.8 In December 1985, OCBC acquired the remaining shares in Four Seas and the latter became a fully owned subsidiary of OCBC.9 When OCBC changed its name to OCBC Bank and took on a new corporate identity in May 1989, Four Seas Communications Bank became known as Four Seas Bank.10
Merger with OCBC
On 1 July 1998, OCBC Bank was merged with Four Seas Bank to consolidate its operations to meet the higher minimum capital funds of S$1.5 billion required by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.11 Following the merger, Four Seas Bank was renamed FSB Holdings Limited, and its banking operations were ceased.12


Joshua Chia Yeong Jia

1. Tan Chwee Huat, Financial Markets and Institutions in Singapore (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1984), 19 (Call no. RSING 332.1095957 TAN); “Page 10 Advertisements Column 3: The Sze Hai Tong Banking and Insurance Co., Ltd.,” Straits Times, 10 December 1907, 10 (From NewspaperSG); Tan Ee-Leong, “The Chinese Banks Incorporated in Singapore & the Federation of Malaya” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 26, no. 1 (161) (July 1953): 116 (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website); Victor Sim, ed., Biographies of Prominent Chinese in Singapore (Singapore: Nan Kok Publication Company, 1950), 7. (Call no. RCLOS 920.05957 SIM)
2. “Page 10 Advertisements Column 3”; “Page 16 Advertisements Column 5: Municipal Notice,” Straits Times, 1 August 1921, 16; “$180,000 Building,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 25 January 1937, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Hock Lock Siew and Loh Hui Yin, “Why Is DBS Bank So Unpopular?,” Business Times, 7 July 2001, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “Page 11 Advertisements Column 2,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 12 January 1924, 11; “Page 6 Advertisements Column 1,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 19 September 1938, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Song Ong Siang, One Hundred Years' History of the Chinese in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 512. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS])
6. “Page 13 Advertisements Column 7,” Straits Times, 3 June 1957, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
7. “Page 17 Advertisements Column 1,” Straits Times, 12 August 1964, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation: Announcement to the Shareholders of Four Seas Communications Bank Limited,” New Straits Times, 28 April 1973, 27; Blair Johnson, “OCBC Takes Over Four Seas,” Straits Times, 16 December 1972), 1. (From NewspaperSG)
9. “OCBC to Buy Up Shares in Subsidiary Banks,” Straits Times, 3 October 1985, 19; “OCBC Takeover,” Straits Times, 31 December 1985, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “OCBC Changes Its Name and Logo,” Straits Times, 9 May 1989, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Page 16 Advertisements Column 3,” Straits Times, 1 July 1998, 16; Alvin Tay, A. (1996, May 6). “Only Big Four Meet Criterion; Keppel, Tat Lee May Raise Funds,” Straits Times, 6 May 1996, 40 (From NewspaperSG); A. Warner, “Bracing for Harder Times,” Banker no. 148 (870) (1 August 1998), 61–62. (From ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website)
12. “Four Seas Bank Now FSB Holdings,” Business Times, 5 December 1998, 9. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at July 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Rights Statement

The information on this page and any images that appear here may be used for private research and study purposes only. They may not be copied, altered or amended in any way without first gaining the permission of the copyright holder.

More to Explore

Thomas de Multon Lee Braddell


Sir Thomas de Multon Lee Braddell (b. 25 November 1856, Province Wellesley, Penang–d. 31 January 1927) was Attorney-General of the Straits Settlements and Chief Judicial Commissioner of the Federated Malay States. His father, Sir Thomas Braddell, was the first Attorney-General of the then newly-created Straits Settlements. Braddell’s eldest son, Roland...

Chinese Post Office Riots


The Chinese Post Office Riots of 15 December 1876 were a series of violent protests by the local Chinese community to demolish a new post office established by the colonial government to handle letters and remittances sent to China. The perpetrators of the riots were said to be local Chinese...

Jose d'Almeida


Jose d’Almeida Carvalho E. Silva (Dr) (b. 27 November 1784, St Pedro Do Sul, Portugal–d. 17 October 1850, Singapore), was a former Portuguese naval surgeon who came to Singapore to set up a dispensary, and later became one of Singapore’s leading merchants. ...

Thomas Braddell


Thomas Braddell, C. M. G. (b. 30 January 1823, Rahingrany, Ireland–d. 19 September 1891, London, England) was Crown Counsel of the Straits Settlements (1864), and the first Attorney-General of the Straits Settlements (1867–82). Before joining the legal profession, he was Assistant Resident Councillor of Penang. He was made a Companion...



Echigoya was a Japanese fabric store established around 1907 on Middle Road. It was famous for its fine fabrics and garments, and tailoring of Japanese fashionwear. Echigoya closed down following the Japanese surrender in 1945 during World War II. It resumed business in 1955, but closed permanently in 1977....

Mohamed Sultan Road


Mohamed Sultan Road stretches from the junction of Saiboo Street and Martin Road to River Valley Road. The road is home to several conserved shophouses and national monuments like the Hong San See temple. The area was once a street of busy night spots as it was a popular district...

Singapore–Malaysia 1988 memorandum of understanding on water, gas and ferry service


After six years of negotiations between Singapore and Malaysian officials over a new agreement on water and gas supplies, Singapore’s then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his Malaysian counterpart, Mahathir Mohamad, finally signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on 28 June 1988. The MOU set out the terms of...

1819 Singapore Treaty


On 6 February 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles, Temenggong Abdu’r Rahman and Sultan Husain Shah (also spelt as Hussein Shah) of Johor signed a treaty that gave the British East India Company (EIC) the right to set up a trading post in Singapore. In exchange, Sultan Husain was to receive a...

Benjamin Keasberry


Benjamin Peach Keasberry, Reverend (b. 1811, Hyderabad, India–d. 6 September 1875, Singapore), was an early Protestant missionary to Singapore known for his pioneering work in the Malay mission here. He arrived in Singapore in 1839 and went on to establish the Malay Mission Chapel (today’s Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church), spearhead...

Shenton Thomas


Shenton Thomas Whitelegge Thomas (Sir) (b. 10 October 1879, London, England–d. 15 January 1962, London, England), more popularly known as Sir Shenton Thomas, was the last Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Straits Settlements and High Commissioner of the Federated Malay States (1934–1946). He succeeded Sir Cecil Clementi, who had resigned...