Mak Kin, the owner of a newspaper stall in front of the HSBC headquarters in Central, has died at the age of 80.
Senior management of the bank attended her funeral service and floral offerings from both HSBC and Hang Seng Bank could be seen at the funeral home, signs of respect and homage to a long-time friend and partner, according to an exclusive report of the Hong Kong Economic Journal published on Monday.
Mak was the only “outsider” that was allowed to freely enter the 34th floor of the HSBC headquarters, where all the bank’s taipans are holding office.
Mak was always invited to all HSBC anniversary and Christmas celebrations and was often referred to as an unsung hero of the bank.
A Catholic, Mak was the fourth generation in her family to have developed close ties with HSBC. She was diagnosed with lung cancer more than a year ago.
“Mak was bringing me newspaper every day since 1973 when I was working for HSBC,” said Rose Lee Wai-mun, vice-chair and chief executive of Hang Seng Bank, who was present at the funeral services.
“We became good friends ever since,” Lee added.
As Mak’s husband is surnamed Lee, people like Mark Kennedy, former head of strategy, subsidiaries and associates, Asia Pacific, at HSBC, would address Mak as Mrs. Lee, while local customers usually called her the “female boss”.
Mak’s family business could be traced back to her great grandmother, who started selling newspapers in Central, and the HSBC headquarters on 1 Queen’s Road Central was one of the delivery addresses right from the start.
Mak, a mother to four children, passed on the baton to her daughter Masie about two years ago.
According to Masie, she just wanted to continue her mother’s aspirations.
Although she has a day job at a travel agency, she would still get up at 4 in the morning and take a bus from home in Kowloon to start the delivery of newspapers in Central until 9 am, before she proceeds to her day job.
“I do not find it tough,” Masie said. “I used to come out to help my mother from time to time, all I need to do now is climb out of bed a bit earlier.”
Albert, Mak’s youngest son, was full of praises for her mother’s perseverance.
She supported the entire family through her newspaper stall and worked tirelessly every day.
Albert said her mother had an exceptional memory, and would know which executive sat where at the HSBC headquarters and would never make a mistake with her deliveries.
“She would start from the 39th floor and distribute the newspapers all the way down to the ground floor,” Albert said. “When I had to do the work when she was sick, I had to call her to find out where someone’s desk was.”
“Mark Kennedy once brought flowers and chocolate to my mother’s stall, and she was featured as an ‘unsung hero’ in a series of video clips that were shared within HSBC.
“It clearly showed that HSBC saw her as a member of their team.”
Former HSBC chairman John Bond even wrote a letter to government departments in 1998 to express consent for Mak to operate a newspaper stall outside HSBC headquarters, which is why Mak was able to move her stall from 5 Queen’s Road Central to where it is now.
Mak was issued an access permit in 1971, which allowed her to go anywhere within the HSBC headquarters.
“She had been to the bank’s vaults,” Albert proudly recalled.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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