February 5, 2024 — Following the passing of Wee Cho Yaw, a revered community leader and titan in the banking industry, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed his respects. Yaw was 95 years old. During his six-decade stint as chairman and chief executive officer, Mr. Wee guided the United Overseas Bank (UOB) to greatness, making it a leading financial institution in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Prime Minister Lee conveyed his deepest condolences by praising Mr. Wee’s brilliant business sense and innovative leadership, which were pivotal to UOB’s ascent to regional prominence. Mr. Lee reflected on their long-standing relationship and Mr. Wee’s significant role in crucial financial shifts, saying, “His contributions to Singapore’s financial sector were immense, and his advice and perspectives were invaluable to me personally over the four decades I have known him.” Mr. Wee’s support of Chinese language, culture, and values earned him praise for his profound impact on the community.
Since its establishment in 2009, the Wee Foundation has had a lasting impact on Singapore’s cultural and educational environment via its contributions to helping the less fortunate and cultivating an appreciation for Chinese history.
President Tharman Shanmugaratnam joined the chorus of fans in lauding his “simply unique” work ethic, business acumen, and dedication to his staff and the community at large. “He played a crucial role in elevating UOB to a regional banking powerhouse and in strengthening Singapore’s position as a financial hub,” according to President Tharman.
Mr. Wee’s innovative leadership was lauded by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong for guiding UOB to great success and setting standards that would last in the banking industry. “His legacy, characterised by ethical business practices and a commitment to excellence, will continue to inspire future generations,” said Mr. Wong.
Mr. Wee played important roles in education and community service in addition to his work in banking. Not only did he head the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, but he also became the first president of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations. His devotion to teaching was on full display throughout his tenure as pro-chancellor at both Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS), for which he received several honours.
The departure of Wee Cho Yaw has left Singapore in sadness, but his philanthropy, creative leadership, and dedication to education and the community continue to inspire. Charity, inventive leadership, and a dedication to community and education have all had a significant impact on Singapore’s cultural and educational institutions as well as the country’s financial environment. Future generations will remember and appreciate his impact.