Purpose Accounting practices of Hongkong and Shanghai Bank from 1865 to 1876 fostered dual identities of the bank for the west and the east. Hongkong and Shanghai Bank used these identities to act opportunistically in commercial dealings with the British colonial administration of Hong Kong, the public of the Scotland and Britain, and the Emperor of China and his government. This paper argues the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank varied its financial reporting practices to manage its identities in different cultural constituencies, and to enable a unique identity to emerge.
Design / Methodology / Approach The approach taken is to use the example of Hongkong and Shanghai Bank’s Foochow loan to demonstrate its use of financial reporting to sustain dual identities. Documents pertaining to the published financial statements of Hongkong and Shanghai Bank between 1865 and 1876 are examined for the accounting practices and policies used. Secondary sources were also analysed.
Findings Hongkong and Shanghai Bank uniquely positioned itself to be simultaneously viewed as a conservative bank based on Scottish banking principles and a trusted local bank of the people of Hong Kong and the Emperor of China. Hongkong and Shanghai Bank was the only bank at the time acting in these two capacities. It achieved this by varying financial reporting and banking practices to manage business relationships. In doing so, the bank projected two identities, an identity acceptable to the Scottish and British, and another acceptable to the Chinese.
Research limitations / implications Only sources written in English were utilised in this study, as English texts dominate the historical records.
Originality / Value of the paper The Foochow loan was noteworthy because it was the first Chinese public loan, and its form was atypical of contemporary lending practice. An analysis of this event reveals Hongkong and Shanghai Bank used dual identities in the Foochow loan transaction to emerge with an evolved identity beyond that of a colonial bank, and one which was historically contextualised, geographically informed and culturally sensitive.