Seow Sieu Jin
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Seow Sieu Jin (1907 - 1958) was a prominent and successful Singaporean banker brought up in a banking family, trained in China and England and was an important contributor to the growth and development of the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) during its early years.
Seow Sieu Jin's great-grandfather was from Jinjiang, China and his grandparents from Malacca but his father, Seow Poh Leng and mother Tan Lark Neo (also spelt Tan Luck Neo), great-granddaughter of philanthrophist Tan Tock Seng, were both brought up in Singapore.
He was born in 1907 and in his early years, was educated at home. He went on to study at the Anglo-Chinese School and then the Raffles Insitution, graduating in 1923.
His father then took him to Shanghai, there to be rigorously trained at the Shanghai Commercial and Savings Bank under the his father's friend, K. P. Chen, the founder of that bank, into whose care he was entrusted.
After three years of training and a short visit with his family in Singapore, his father took him to London where he simultaneously joined the Midland Bank as one of its staff and took up the banking course at the Institute of Bankers.
Anyone who had passed all the banking courses offered by the English Institute of Bankers had the best qualifications in the banking profession and Seow Sieu Jin was one of the first in Singapore and Malaysia to have acquired these qualifications.
He also received training at the most modern commercial bank in China at that time, the Shanghai Commercial & Savings Bank, and he received the guidance of his banker father.
Four years later, around 1930 or 1931, he graduated and returned to Singapore and in 1931 or 1932, he joined the Ho Hong Bank which had been founded by his father, Seow Poh Leng, together with Lim Peng Siang, Dr Lim Boon Keng and others.
After its amalgamation with the Chinese Commercial Bank and the Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation Ltd (OCBC), Seow Shiu Jin continued to work at the new bank. He was manager of the Seremban branch (1935 to 1936), manager of the Ipoh branch (1937 to 1941), manager of the Penang branch (1946 to 1954) and then returned to the head office in Singapore in 1958.
He is credited with bringing back the "premier branch" status to the Penang branch, outstripping the performance of the Shanghai and Hong Kong branches.
Upon his return to Singapore he collapsed during lunch, was operated on for colon cancer, but died ten days later, at the age of fifty-one, due to post-operative pneumonia.
Seow Sieu Jin achieved his ambition, the highest goal in the banking profession at that time, general managership, when he was young, but he was a modest and unassuming man. He referred to himself as "third-class" when lamenting the loss of "first-class" talented people who had left Singapore, creating a brain drain at the time.
He was popular everywhere and was remembered after his death as being co-operative with his colleagues and kind and generous towards his subordinates.
Seow Sieu Jin learned more than banking from his father, he also learned the game of tennis and for many years both these gifts were interconnected. His game skills had improved greatly by the time he took charge of the Seremban and Ipoh branches. He even represented and held his own at Negri Sembilan and Perak in inter-state matches.
In 1938 and 1939, he won the Perak Open Doubles Championship partnering Leong Choon Kheam and Lim Thiam Tet respectively and the Perak Singles Open Championship in 1940. After the war, he turned to golf with a relish, making rapid progress and reducing his handicap to 9. He was captain of the Penang Golf Club.
Both his parents, were musically accomplished, so it followed that he and his brothers and sisters were gradually influenced, and most of them were good at singing and playing musical instruments.
At the Peace Celebrations held on 11 November 1918, Seow Sieu Jin and his younger sister, Betty Seow Guat Beng (later Mrs Lim Koon Teik), sang "If you were the only girl in the world and I was the only boy!" then a popular song, at the "Victoria Theatre". Their beautiful voices and excellent performance won the applause of the audience.
In 1921 (sic.) Seow Sieu Jim married an Englishwoman, Margaret Gwendoline Simkin, in Singpaore, who later gave birth to three boys and a girl:
(1) Gordon Seow Li Ming (1932) studied law, worked at Shell Eastern Petroleum (Pte) Ltd where he retired from after 30 years with the Company. He joined the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1988 and served two terms as Commissioner for the Republic of Singapore to Hong Kong (1988-1994). He is an independent director of various companies, an avid golfer, and is married and has three children.
(2) Rodney Seow Kok Ming (1935) graduated in mechanical engineering London. He worked for Sime Darby, Singapore Motors / Capital Motors Assembly, General Motors & Sanden. He won the Singapore & Malaysian Grand Prix in 1967. He is married, has four sons and a daughter.
(3) Jacqueline Seow Mei Yuk (1937) was educated in Penang, Hong Kong and Switzerland. She has a son and a daughter.
(4) Philip Seow Chung Ming (1941) was sent to Switzerland to study the hotel business by his far-sighted father. After his graduation, he was manager of several hotels in Singapore and Malaysia and was director of the business department of the Goodwood Group. He is married and has a daughter.
Seow Sieu Jin was a member of the Rotary Club in Ipoh and Penang and was very active in social work.
Newspaper Article: SEOW SIEU JIN - A SECOND GENERATION BANKER by Chen Wei Long, Sin Chew Jit Poh, 26 July 1971
Jeffery Seow's ancestry/family tree research interviews.
Lim Peng Siang or Lin Bengxian (1872 - 1948) was a Straits-born Chinese who together with his brother Lim Peng Mao (Lin Bingmao), through their Ho Hong Group of companies, had interests in banking, shipping, parboiled rice, oil mills, cement, coconut and other businesses. President of Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce from 1913 to 1916 except for 1914 when he was Vice-President. He had close ties with the Hong Kong Fujian Chamber of Commerce and he and his brother Lim Peng Mao (Lin Bingmao) were listed as honourable chairpersons of that association between 1930 and 1941. Member of the Chinese Advisory Board between 1921 and 1941. His Ho Hong group built circa 1910 was the most diversified group in Malaya at the time.
(Researched by his grandson, Jeffery Seow)
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