Oriental Bank Corporation

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Oriental Bank Corporation
FormerlyBank of Western India
Company typePrivate
FoundedBombay, Bombay Presidency, British India (1842 (1842))
Defunct1892 (1892)
Areas served
Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, San Francisco

The Oriental Bank Corporation (Chinese: 東藩滙理銀行), or "OBC", was a British imperial bank founded in India in 1842 which grew to be prominent throughout the Far East. As an Exchange bank, the OBC was primarily concerned with the finance of trade and exchanges of different currencies.[1] It was the first bank in Hong Kong and the first bank to issue banknotes in Hong Kong.[2][3]


The bank was established in 1842 in Bombay, India, as the Bank of Western India. The bank moved its headquarters from Bombay to London in 1845, and opened branches in Colombo (1843), Calcutta (1844), Shanghai (1845), Canton (1845), Singapore (1846), and Hong Kong (1846).[4] The bank acquired the failing Bank of Ceylon in 1850, and obtained a royal charter for the merged institution under the name Oriental Bank Corporation in 1851.[5] It was chartered in 1851 to allow competition with the East India Company's opium billing monopoly, which was unpopular in England at the time.[6]

Expansion followed with additional branches opening in Mauritius, Madras (Chennai), Thalassery, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Wellington, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Fuzhou (Foochow), Yokohama, Hiogo (Kobe), and San Francisco.

By the 1860s, the bank held a dominant position in India and China and was considered the “most powerful, oldest, and most prestigious Eastern exchange bank,” and “the doyen of Eastern exchange banking.”[7]

From the 1870s, the bank's finances suffered greatly from bad loans to coffee plantations in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and to sugar plantations in Mauritius.[8] On May 2, 1884, the bank suspended payment[9] and it was subsequently liquidated in a Chancery proceeding.[10][11] The majority of its branches and staff were sold to a new corporation and its business reconstituted as the New Oriental Bank Corporation. With growing competition from rivals, the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, the bank failed to survive and once again failed in 1892, an early victim of the impending trouble of 1893.[12][13][5][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McGuire, John (2005). "Exchange banks, India and the world economy: 1850–1914". Asian Studies Review. 29:2 (2): 143–163. doi:10.1080/10357820500221154. S2CID 145514068.
  2. ^ "Banks and Banknotes" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  3. ^ "World Paper Money Catalog and History History = Hongkong Dollar". Archived from the original on 19 February 2017. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  4. ^ Cooke, Charles Northcote (1863). Rise, Progress, and Present Condition of Banking in India. Calcutta, India: Bengal Publishing Company. p. 150.
  5. ^ a b The Rise and Fall of the Oriental Bank in the Nineteenth Century: Archived 4 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine by John McGuire, Department of Social Sciences, Curtin University of Technology
  6. ^ [citation needed]
  7. ^ Muirhead, Stuart; Green, Edwin (5 December 2016). Crisis Banking in the East: The History of the Chartered Mercantile Bank of London, India and China, 1853–93. Routledge. p. 214. ISBN 9781351947411. Archived from the original on 28 June 2023. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  8. ^ Sheehan, Paul (2018). Did the Bankruptcy of Hu Kwang-Yung and the Shanghai Crisis of 1883 Cause the 1884 Failure of the Oriental Bank? (Thesis). Harvard University.
  9. ^ "Oriental Bank Corporation". Times of London. 3 May 1884. p. 11.
  10. ^ "In the Matter of the Companies Acts, 1862 and 1867, and in the Matter of the Oriental Bank Corporation". London Gazette. No. 25350. 6 May 1884. p. 2045.
  11. ^ "The Failure of the Oriental Bank". Bankers’ Magazine. No. 44. London. 1884. p. 614. Archived from the original on 28 June 2023. Retrieved 28 June 2023.
  12. ^ "Oriental Bank Corporation". Archived from the original on 17 August 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  13. ^ "Oriental Bank Corporation". Archived from the original on 12 February 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  14. ^ [1] Archived 14 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine archival material