French Banking in Hong Kong: From the 1860s to the 1950s<sup>1</sup>

Hubert Bonin

in The Origins of International Banking in Asia

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646326
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745256 | DOI:
French Banking in Hong Kong: From the 1860s to the 1950s1

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The focus of this chapter is the Bank of Indochina. This bank attempted to challenge HSBC in the Far East, even establishing a branch in Hong Kong before the First World War. However, this attempt was not successful and the reasons why reveal much about the success or otherwise of different banks in Asia. Lacking a large two-way trade between Asia and France, in contrast to that between Britain and Asia, the Bank of Indochina had problems matching financial flows. Also, as it was linked to Paris not London it lacked direct access to the London money market and the cheap credit available there. This forced it to open a branch in London indicating the strength of the City as a centre for international banking. As a result the branch in Hong Kong became an increasingly independent unit rather than serving the needs of the bank as a whole. After the First World War this bank retreated to the safety of the French colony of Indochina, where it benefited from government support. This left the Hong Kong branch somewhat exposed as it no longer fitted into the branch structure as that was rooted in the French controlled areas of Asia.

Keywords: Hong Kong; trade finance; Bank of Indochina; France; London; credit

Chapter.  9903 words. 

Subjects: Business History

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