Hang Seng Bank’s vice-chairman and chief executive officer Louisa Cheang Wai-wan will take a three-month leave of absence as she recovers from a medical condition first disclosed last year, according to a statement by the lender.
Margaret Kwan Wing Han, executive director and the head of Hang Seng’s wealth and personal banking business, will serve as acting CEO during her absence, the bank said in a stock exchange filing.
Shares of Hang Seng Bank declined by as much as 1 per cent amid an advancing market in Hong Kong. The bank, which is 62.14 per cent owned by HSBC, the biggest of Hong Kong’s currency-issuing lenders, announced Cheang was undergoing treatment for a “recently diagnosed medical condition” last July, without elaborating.
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Hang Seng did not disclose further details of her condition at the time, but said Cheang was able to continue her duties. The bank said at the time that her condition would not affect its strategic or development plans.
People familiar with the situation previously said that her illness was not Covid-19 and she was not expected to take a lengthy sick leave.
Cheang, a former HSBC executive, has served as Hang Seng’s vice-chairman and CEO since July 2017. She took the top job after the retirement of Rose Lee Wai-mun.
Before joining Hang Seng she was group general manager and group head of retail banking at HSBC from 2014. She first joined HSBC in 1999 in its credit card department.
Cheang’s leave of absence comes just weeks before independent director Irene Lee Yun Lien is expected to become the bank’s first woman to serve as chairman, replacing Raymond Ch’ien Kuo Fung, who is retiring after 13 years to devote time to his other commitments and interests. Lee’s appointment is expected to happen at the bank’s annual meeting on May 26.
It also comes just months after Hang Seng reported a 33 per cent drop in profit to HK$16.7 billion in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic weighed on investments and spending activity in Hong Kong, cutting into transaction volumes by its commercial and retail customers.
The city’s economy rebounded sharply in the first quarter, growing by 7.8 per cent after reporting its worst contraction on record in 2020.
Hong Kong’s lenders are also dealing with a period of historically low interest rates, which has weighed on revenue from traditional lending products tied to interest rates.
Kwan, the acting CEO, has been with Hang Seng since 1995, joining from Standard Chartered Bank. She previously served as head of consumer assets, head of unsecured loans and senior marketing, as well as a stint as business development manager for unsecured lending.