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CHOI SIEW HONG PASSES ON : SAD CLOSURE TO AN ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER OF A MAN OF INTEGRITY

I believe I did mention once about the movie, ‘The Last Samurai’ that starred Tom Cruise.

In the closing scene, the Emperor asked Nathan Algren (played by Tom Cruise) how Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe) died in the battle.

Algren’s reply was, “I won’t tell you how he died, but I’ll tell you how he lived his life!”

This is exactly how Choi Siew Hong will always be remembered ……. the way he lived his life!

From the time he joined the service ….. to Bank Negara Malaysia where he was Deputy Governor for six years …… to his time at OCBC and United Malacca.

It is no wonder that his wisdom was so much sought after even in the latter part of his life.

RIP, Choi Siew Hong.


17 Comments so far
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Had the privilege of working with Mr Choi before, notwithstanding for just a short while.

Qualities to describe him – righteous, sharp, stern, witty, fair and just. All of us young people were just so amazed at the amount of energy he possessed and how sharp he was compared to people 4 times younger than him! I remembered my boss telling me, “make sure, make sure, make sure Mr Choi doesn’t end up spotting any typos on your docs during the meeting!”

Mr Choi will definitely be missed.

RIP.

Comment by Aurelia Lee

He was given to fits of temper in his old age. Like an unpredictable volcano

Comment by rama

Known Mr Choi since 2005. He was in our BOD (Niro Ceramic Group of Companies).

A great man …. strict, sharp, fair,to the point and full of integrity. Loved his no-nonsense approach and direct communication pattern. Last met him in April 2011 and never for once realized he was not well.

Will surely miss him

Comment by Willie Low (CEO Niro Indonesia)

Rest in peace Uncle Choi, You are blessed with all the wonderful things in live and you will be blessed even more in God’s home. I always remember him as a very fit man who walked faster than me or my son William. We had dinner together when he visited Perth. We spent some time together at Elaine and Gianni’s home in De Latinos, outskirt of Jakarta. We went for a walk one afternoon around the estate also the three of us. He was wearing his MBT shoes and his fitness sticks. He liked his reflexology massage on his feet done by myself an amateur therapist. He will always be remembered by our family dearly. Marissa (Elaine’s sister in Perth)

Comment by Anonymous

I am privileged to have known Mr.Choi Siew Hong. For me he embodied what civilization, whether of East or West, is all about. What a fascinating story; from planting padi in Pontianak to deputy governorship of Bank Negara. I was especially touched by the story of his devotion to and care of his much loved wife.
David Bingham. Durham, England. 28 July 2011

Comment by David Bingham

My husband and I first met and got to know Siew Hong when he came back to the University of Malaya in Singapore to read for his Honours in Economics degree in the 1950s.He had brilliant results then and his whole life has followed that pattern – of achievement with integrity against all odds.
A private person and a family man, not many people knew of his struggles or problems because he was not the complaining sort. Hence not many knew of the way he cared devotedly for his ailing wife for thirteen years, nor of his own final illness.
His friendship through the years has been very meaningful for us, because it was based on mutual trust , and our deep respect for his dedication to honest work coupled with a sense of adventure, though not reckless, and his intellectual curiosity and wisdom.
He was indeed a fine, dependable friend and cannot be replaced.
Shirley and Loporte Khoo

Comment by Mrs. Shirley Khoo

I knew him as member of Board of Directors of Malaysia Smelting Corporation Berhad. He was a very punctual member of the Board and was always in the meeting early. Very quiet and unassuming, small stature, friendly and kind but sometimes can be very stern when he spots errors but very quietly corrects you. A man of high intergrity and truly magnificant. The world does not make men like this anymore. A great loss to all of us. We will truly miss you, Mr. Choi. Rest in Peace.

Comment by MK

I come to know Mr. Choi for a brief period when I wast attached to a Company providing consultancy services for his Company’s Palm Oil Mill.

The valuable greatness and lessons to learn from this man come in scattered yet invaluable phrases and short sentences which seemed to etched in my thoughts and action. Among these are:
1) One can have favorites but not favored associates..
2) Machines do not have populations; only humans can populated.
3), One has to mix more with engineers to understand their manner of thoughts and speeches.

khlee

Comment by khlee

Siew Hong and I had been friends ever since we both entered Raffles College in 1939 and our friendship had continued until the present day because he made it a point that we should meet whenever he was in Singapore.

I shall miss his loving friendship.

May he rest in the joy and peace of God’s LOVE.

Lee Kip Lee – Weds 3 August 2011 @ 11.45p.m.

Comment by Anonymous

I count myself extremely fortunate to have met Choi Siew Hong during the past 7 years I have been on the board of Niro Ceramic. Though our meetings were infrequent and Mr Choi unassuming in nature, I found myself increasingly drawn to his integrity, breadth of experience, his thoroughness, his keen sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, and his underlying compassion. Yes, Mr Choi knew how to run successful businesses but, more importantly I think, he ran successful businesses… ethically, and with humanity. In a world which can be many shades of grey, his life and deeds shine out: Here was a man who would do the right thing. Here was a man who would speak his mind clearly without fear or favour. Here was a man that expected much of those around him… but, because he worked even harder himself, made everyone around him better people. I certainly am a better person for having met Mr Choi. He will be missed.

Ng Tee Chuan

Comment by Ng Tee Chuan

If there were any person of integrity to emulate, Mr. Choi Siew Hong would be at the top of my list.

Others in this blog have described his outstanding service to the financial services industry of Malaysia so I will not reiterate.

I have had more than 3 decades of association with him, initially as the CEO of OCBC Malaysia after his retirement as Deputy Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, then as the Chairman of Pacific Bank Berhad, and after the sale of its banking business, as Chairman and CEO of PacificMas Berhad.

He was indeed the leader by example, from something mundane like getting to work early to staying up late at night vetting all public announcements of news, whether good or not so good.

He eschewed all perquisites that would be in keeping with others in a similar position, turning down suggestions from Board members of substantial bonuses in profitable years for himself, or even any significant increases in salary which would have brought him up to par with his peers.

He preferred to live by example and with frugality. By doing so, he held the moral high ground to look after the interests of all stakeholders, be they small or substantial shareholders, staff or customers.

Stoic and pragmatic, he never flailed and never failed whenever faced with adversities in business conditions or when criticized by minority shareholders at AGM’s who often demanded more than circumstances permit.

I felt proud to stand by him in these conditions, confident in the belief that he was indeed looking after the best long term interest of all stakeholders.

I shall never forget this lion of a man.

Comment by Anonymous

If there were any person of integrity to emulate, Mr. Choi Siew Hong would be at the top of my list.

Others in this blog have described his outstanding service to the financial services industry of Malaysia so I will not reiterate.

I have had more than 3 decades of close association with him, initially as the CEO of OCBC Malaysia after his retirement as Deputy Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, then as the Chairman of Pacific Bank Berhad, and after the sale of its banking business, as Chairman and CEO of PacificMas Berhad.

He was indeed the leader by example, from something mundane like getting to work early to staying up late at night vetting all public announcements of news, whether good or not so good.

He eschewed all perquisites that would be in keeping with others in a similar position, turning down suggestions from Board members of substantial bonuses in profitable years for himself, or even any significant increases in salary which would have brought him up to par with his peers.

He preferred to live by example and with frugality. By doing so, he held the moral high ground to look after the interests of all stakeholders, be they small or substantial shareholders, staff or customers.

Stoic and pragmatic, he never flailed and never failed whenever faced with adversities in business conditions or when criticized by minority shareholders at AGM’s who often demanded more than circumstances permit.

I felt proud to stand by him in these conditions, confident in the belief that he was indeed looking after the best long term interest of all stakeholders.

I shall never forget this lion of a man.

Comment by Wong Nang Jang

I welcome this opportunity to express my admiration and respect for Mr. Choi.
Having been associated with him since 1989 when I was appointed an independent non-executive Director of United Malacca Berhad, I fully concur with the tributes to Mr. Choi as expressed above. I consider him as very astute, analytical and ethical Executive Chairman of a plantation company and I was always amazed at his formidability and drive when visiting plantations with him, especially at his fitness which surpassed all those younger than him. He was my role model, from whom I derived the inspiration to continue to serve the plantation industry even at the age of 88 now.
His unexpected sudden demise is a big loss to United Malacca Berhad.

BOON WENG SIEW

Comment by Anonymous

Let me be the first OCBC manager to express my condolence to Mr.Choi. A very strict person whose favourate phrase was ‘early bird catches the worm’. Many of us shivered when we went to talk to him in his room. Not because of the air-condition by something else. But whatever what things people might say about him he was the one who appointed me as the branch manger of OCBC Jalan Sungei Besi in 1981. May he rest in peace.

Comment by Eddy T

I just Googled for Mr.Choi a few minutes ago only to find too late that he has passed on. The reason I did so was to discover whether he would be receptive of a piece of history about him I discovered recently. In the special school magazine issue of Abdullah School in Kuantan in 1955,to mark the transfer of the state capital of Pahang from Kuala Lipis to Kuantan I noticed the name and person of Mr.Choi. Even then he appeared different, outstanding. I wondered if he was the same illustrious man who has passed on. His name I have come across once in a while in my readings on corporate affairs. And while I never had the privilege and honor of having met him I am grateful because the companies that he headed gave good steady returns. Reading the testimonials now I understand why and they confirm my prior estimation of his character. What a very rare gem. Thank you Mr.Choi.

Comment by Dr.Leong Shown Chong

Farewell/Selamat tinggal Mr. Choi…
It is an honour to remember Mr Choi and to write a tribute to a man of rare ideals and passionate beliefs. Summing his life is not easy – it is full, diverse and spans nine decades and several regions and I will, therefore, just write to remember Mr. Choi firstly as a boss and then as a friend.
To remember Mr. Choi as a boss is to pay tribute to the organization man, aloof and seemingly unfriendly and a man completely devoted to the organization that he served. He was not an easy person to work for and with, like the late Tun Ismail Ali, the first Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia and his successor, Tan Sri Aziz Taha. All three bosses were demanding, gifted with a volatile temper (which considerably mellowed in later years) and ruled Bank Negara with an iron fist during the Bank’s tempestuous years of 1960s and 1970s. But those of us who had worked closely with them knew well that all three men were driven by strong principles and values that included professionalism, honesty, discipline and loyalty among them – values that have stood the test of time and values which were and continue to be sadly lacking in Malaysia, both at the commercial and political levels.The three Bank Negara bosses demanded superior performance from all Bank staff, who must be knowledgeable, technically competent and driven by excellence. There was zero tolerance for non-performance and to a lesser extent, for dissent. Mr. Choi, the strong advocate that he is, made no compromise in these principles and values when he subsequently moved to the private sector after his retirement from Bank Negara in the ‘80s. He would continue to distinguish himself in the bank or in the company he joined, usually leaving a mark in the organization that he led. He was known to be fearless, ready to speak up his mind and take strong stands whenever and wherever needed. A tribute to Mr. Choi is incomplete if there is no mention of his work ethic where a passion for details, precision, hard work and punctuality prevails. While working for Mr. Choi may not be easy, many of us find the experience instructive, inspirational and certainly not easily forgotten.
Around the year 2000, Mr Choi as joined a walking group that I was a member of in the Royal Lake Club and which he came to closely associate with during the last ten years of his life. His joining was a golden opportunity to know and to appreciate Mr. Choi as a friend. Just as he would leave a mark whenever and wherever he worked, Mr. Choi breathed new life and brought a breath of fresh air when he joined the walking group, which was originally a simple band of friends mainly devoted to walking. When Mr. Choi came, through various initiatives, he transformed the group into something more active and more vibrant. Yes, there was walking, but there were also a lot of Qigong, coffee, lunch, dinner, trips up the hills, trips to the seaside and trips overseas. For the group, health and fellowship became more active and inseparable. He became the driver of the group, which also benefited greatly at the time from the contribution of a former member,the late Mr Tay Ming Kok, a gentleman par excellence and the group’s Qigong master.
It was during this time that I noticed the more friendly, the more personal side of his life, as against Mr. Choi the organization man, a man who had reached the pinnacle of his corporate life. He was no longer aloof, he joked,he participated in long and difficult walks, he joined the group in eating and drinking at mundane foodstalls and places and he was quite generous. He became the undisputed head of the group, which often gave way to him and listened to his advice. Definitely, he brought more solidarity, discipline and happiness to the group in a way unlike before and that we knew was sincere and true. His passing away is an irreparable loss to the walking group.
We bid you farewell, Mr Choi, we bid you selamat tinggal. We pay tribute to a distinguished personality and while we will miss you, we shall always remember and cherish your friendship.Yonder over the rainbow and yonder over in the heavens, we wish you rest in peace.

Dr. Raja Lope Raja Shahrome

Comment by Dr. Raja Lope Raja Shahrome

I’m afraid that I’m quite late with my wishes. My apologies. My condolences to the Board of United Malacca Bhd on the loss of their very fine Chairman, Mr Choi, also to OCBC Group and OCBC Malaysia Bhd, who have lost a very able leader. I will, however, congratulate him on his very illustrious life and I would have been proud to serve under him, be it in OCBC, PacificMas or United Malacca.

Rest in Peace, Mr Choi.

Comment by Jonathan Ong




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