Teh Hong Piow: A Banking Thoroughbred

Teh Hong Piow

I’ve just finished reading a book entitled Teh Hong Piow: A Banking Thoroughbred. For those who do not know who Tan Sri Dato Sri’ Teh Hong Piow is, he is the Chairman and Founder of Public Bank.

The book was produced to celebrate Public Bank’s 40th Anniversary and Tan Sri Teh’s admirable achievements.

The book was written without consulting Tan Sri Teh himself. Rather, the author of the book, Datuk Paddy Bowie, compiled bits and pieces of Public Bank’s history, accompanied with numerous amount of testimonials from Tan Sri Teh’s peers.

To be honest with you, I thought the book was a bit dissapointing. I was expecting a full-on autobiography on the life of Tan Sri Teh. However, the RM50 I spent to purchase this book did not go to waste. All the proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated by Public Bank to charity.

Anyway, I’m going to share some interesting phrases and quotes from the book:

“Teh Hong Piow substituted empowerment for qualifications. This should strike a chord in modern day Malaysia. Today there are 18,000 jobless graduates in the market who don’t seem to be employable. Nothing wrong with their degrees – nor is it just their lack of English which is after all the language of business. They are just not business savvy; are unprepared for real life.” -Page 62-

“… if our Chinese compatriots had been afraid of risk they would never have left China in the first place. At the same time prudence dictates that with Tan Sri Teh it is always a calculated risk.” -Page 72-

“Tan Sri Teh he maintained kept his fingers on the pulse – read widely to keep up with the fast-paced world of finance, on the one hand, but combined with a hands-on approach to his own backyard.” -Page 126-

“Branch managers in those days were just people who did what they were told with nothing like the empowerment Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow was later to give them. Nor was Tan Teh necessarily governed only by professional qualification in his people. However impressive a man’s resume, experience came first. Branch managers without a degree often proved themselves to be very practical. The graduates on the other hand often had to be made to go through the mill.” -Page 189-

“Achieving greatness yet remaining humble”. -Page 340-

“To be a billionaire is already difficult but to be one with humility, and to be generous, caring for others, is a precious gem.” -Page 342-

“He was never doubtful about the success of his venture. Contrary to what some people might have thought. Nor did he see it as a gamble. As with all businesses, you need to take calculated risk. Which is different from gambling.” -Page 366-

“His working habits are no secret. He meticulously reads every memo… studies every sentence and all the details, reading between the lines, in order to keep his finger on the national pulse. He doesn’t want to be taken by surprise.” -Page 390-

There are indeed a lot of things in the book that we could learn and exemplify. Read the book if you have got the time. Plus, the proceeds from the sales are going for a good cause.

It is also befitting to end this post with a quote by Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Teh Hong Piow himself:

“Success is not a Destination but a Journey. The Journey Continues…”

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About nadlique

This blog is about the journey of a 28-year-old Malaysian towards financial freedom. This blog was started back when the blogger was 21 years old. However, his journey towards financial freedom had begun way before that. Materials such as investing, business, entrepreneurship, equities, and real estate are presented. The author also posts his thoughts and observations on life in general.


  1. What is the meaning of “Tan Sri Dato Sri”? As I understand it, titles like this are something like Knighthood in Britain. Datuk is like Knight, but it is not hereditary. Dato is something like a hereditary datuk. “Sri” means something like “shining”.

  2. Tan Sri is actually a title of its own and Dato’ Sri is also a title of its own. By right, a person should use only one title in front of his name (the highest). But some people just prefer to use every single titles that he has ever received. I myself don’t know why. Just as a ‘show’ maybe?

    Yes, they are similar to Knighthoods in Britain. No, they are not hereditary. These titles need to be earned.

    With regards to the different spellings, it all depends on where you got it from. Different states has different spellings. Some variations are Dato’, Datuk, Dato’ Seri, Datuk, Datuk Paduka, Dato’ Sri, Tan Sri’, and etc. It all depends on which Sultans you got it from..

  3. Abdul Hamid says:

    This book is a rip-off and a waste of money, even if it claims it is for charity. I thought I was buying a book on the life of the founder of Public bank or at least the story of Public Bank itself. Instead what I got was lines and lines of praise on Teh Hong Piow and photographs which is more suitable to be passed off as an advertisement brochure for Public bank or it’s founder. I got so mad reading this book that I came on-line to see if anyone else had commented on this book. A piece of high-priced junk actually and I suspect the author never authored any other book.

  4. I have to agree with you on that. It indeed was a piece of junk.

    I was expecting the book to be something like Lim Goh Tong’s “My Story”, a story about the character’s journey rather than some repetitive crap of praises and compliments.

    Did you notice that it is as if every single chapter, the same thing is repeated over and over again?

    You know what? I guess that was the reason why the book was neatly and tightly wrapped in plastic packaging and the “RM50 goes to charity” sticker was placed. So that, people will just pick up a copy without checking and proceed to the check out counter.

  5. Abdul Hamid says:

    Yes, that was exactly how I got conned into buying the book. I have been buying quite a number of local Malaysian personalities life-stories and such recently and there was even a book by a Sarawakian guy, Dato Lau Siu Wai, where the English used was not all that great, but I still enjoyed reading the book as it is always interesting to read about another man’s point of view and how he went through his life. It did not even cross my mind to tear off the packaging to check on this ‘A Banking Thoroughbred’ book, especially since the word ‘charity’ was used. My bet would be that it is pure bullshit. Somebody somewhere needed to pad up their bank account and that was all there was to it.

    It is a pity that Public Bank or for that matter Teh Hong Piow did not clearly disassociate themselves from this rip-off masquerading as charity. For all the accolades that Public Bank and its founder has received elsewhere, this book is clearly a black mark against them. The book would have made the Communist USSR Pravda proud as to its ‘propaganda’ value.

  6. Shirley Cheng says:

    An inspiring book written about a young man of ordinary upbringing who has, through his inordinate banking passion, vision, hardwork, management skills and honesty founded and built up Public Bank Berhad into one of the largest banks in Malaysia. The numerous accolates Tan Sri Dr. Teh has received from various organisations and prominent personnels are clear, ungrudging testimonies of his extraordinary achievement that creates wealth for the Nation.

  7. I doubt the book was anywhere near inspiring. The persona himself is outstanding, don’t get me wrong. But the author just couldn’t capture the essence of Teh Hong Piow in the book. The book was full of nothing but mere compliments and testimonies. Really, I was expecting his life story or something. Maybe perhaps like Lim Goh Tong’s My Story. Now, that’s a good book.

  8. John Zhen says:

    “Teh Hong Piow – A Banking Thoroughbred traces the eventful 40-year financial odyssey of Public Bank Bhd founder and chairman. The story tells of how Public Bank is the cornerstone of Teh’s life: Public Bank is him and he is Public Bank”.

    Members may borrow a copy of the above-mentioned book from any of the branch National Libraries in Singapore. Many have borrowed and read the book.

  9. hello~jus want to ask
    where can i get TAN SRI TEH’s autobiography except this—> A Banking Thoroughbred…I need to write bout TAN Sri Teh’s life @ autobiography..can anyone tell me??tq so much

  10. Do you mean autobiographies other than A Banking Thoroughbred? I have not seen any yet, unfortunately. Sorry!

    You might want to check with the libraries. Or perhaps try google-ing for them.

  11. This book is the greatest load of twaddle I’ve ever read. The author is overly self-satisfied with herself and insists on continually patting herself on the back for her “thoroughbred because he’s born in the year of a horse!” analogy. Frustrating, annoying, and insanely idiotic. I’m going to burn this book, and laugh over its ashes.

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