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Leading patron of art UOB steadfast in support of social development

Bank committed to making a difference in stakeholder lives and the communities in which it operates

Mr Wee giving out school bags to children from the Fei Yue Student Care Centre, one of its many initiatives under the UOB Heartbeat Corporate Social Responsibility programme, which aims to open minds and hearts in support of an inclusive society.


FOR corporate giving initiatives to succeed, companies should place emphasis on ensuring that they are run with clear purpose, focus, relevance and long-term commitment - thoughts not lost on United Overseas Bank's (UOB) deputy chairman and CEO, Wee Ee Cheong.

"Just as we are dedicated to helping our customers manage their finances wisely and grow their businesses, we are steadfast in our support of social development, particularly in the areas of art, children and education," he says.

"We believe that art helps strengthen community bonds by connecting people, celebrating cultures and expanding horizons."

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As testimony of this conviction, UOB is a longstanding Patron of the Arts. One of its earliest initiatives was the UOB Painting of the Year (POY) Competition, started in 1982, which at 36 years of age is Singapore's longest-running art competition.

"As a leading patron of art, we help discover, nurture and promote local artistic talent in championing South-east Asian art for the long term," he says.

Its POY initiative represents just one of many arts causes under its UOB Heartbeat Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, which aims to open minds and hearts in support of an inclusive society.

As the bank grew its footprint across South-east Asia, so did the POY competition. In recent years, the competition was also held in South-east Asian markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. A number of winning artworks can be found at the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery, which houses the world's largest collection of modern South-east Asian art.

The bank's efforts also create a multiplier effect using the POY base to reach children interested in art.

"To encourage the young and aspiring to pursue their passion in art, we partnered our UOB POY artists to inspire more than 600 students at our inaugural Artist's Conversation series at four schools offering the Art Elective Programme in Singapore this year," Mr Wee explains.

Art is also made accessible to the public through a range of visual arts programmes and outreach initiatives. The bank works closely with the Community Chest and National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre to identify under-served charities focused on art, children and education.

"At UOB, we believe in being a responsible financial services provider and we are committed to making a difference in the lives of our stakeholders and the communities in which we operate."

This commitment has led the financial institution to play an extensive role to develop and promote financial literacy in Asian countries it operates in.

UOB partnered with Visa in July 2017 to launch the Money Wise Street Smart programme aimed at developing financial awareness and inculcating better saving and investment habits for its Malaysian consumers.

Its volunteers have extended aid to rural schools in China's Sichuan Province, donating school and living supplies to students there. This year also saw UOB employees collaborate with the Yicai Foundation to give Web-based lessons to students in the mountainous regions of Yunnan Province.

"We encourage our own people in the UOB Group to participate actively in projects which we organise. They also initiate a wide range of volunteer projects such as charity auctions, workshops and art excursions for our beneficiaries," he explains.

In 2016, UOB staff volunteered more than 49,600 hours for community initiatives across the region with monetary contributions of S$4.5 million to the community.

With the rise of mobile payment technologies, which have been gaining traction among customers, UOB has made it possible for donations to charities to be made though PayNow since November.

"We launched 'PayNow for a Cause' as part of the national Giving Week (Nov 28-Dec 5), to unite everyone in a drive to help children and babies with special needs by simply keying in a mobile number," he says.

Looking ahead, UOB doesn't intend to slow down. It is instead working towards establishing partnerships with the Central Singapore Community Development Council for the long-term, supporting various inclusive activities such as the Giraffes Singapore movement and The Purple Parade.

  • This article is part of a series highlighting inspiring companies who are catalysts of change in corporate giving. The Business Times supports NVPC's Company of Good programme as a media partner. For more information, go to