Charles Stewart Addis was born in Edinburgh on 23 November 1861, the youngest son of the Reverend Thomas Addis, a minister of the Free Church of Scotland. He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy. Between 1876 and 1880 he worked for Peter Dowie and Co., Grain Importers of Leith.
In 1880 he joined the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in London. In 1883 he was posted to Singapore, then to the HSBC head office in Hong Kong. In 1886 he became one of the first western bankers to reside in Peking [Beijing, China], when he was posted there as Acting Agent. During this time, he also began his experience as a writer when he was invited to contribute material to the Chinese Times by its editor, Alexander Michie. After Peking [Beijing], Addis undertook assignments in Tientsin [China] (1889), Shanghai [China] (1889-1891), Calcutta [Kolkata, India] (1891) and Rangoon [Yangon, Myanmar] (1892). While on home leave in 1894 Addis met and married Eba McIsaac, the daughter of the Provost of Saltcoats, a small town in Scotland. They were to have thirteen children.
Following his marriage, Addis was posted to Shanghai. He was appointed Agent in Hankow [Wuhan, China] (1896), Calcutta [Kolkata] (1897), and served as Sub Manager in Shanghai (1898 and 1900). In 1905, he was appointed to the HSBC London Office as Junior Manager and also to the Board of Directors of the British and Chinese Corporation and the Chinese Central Railways. In 1908, he received his first official government appointment as British Censor of the State Bank of Morocco, a post he held until 1944. In 1911 he was appointed Senior Manager of the HSBC London Office. From 1912, he began his work to bring competing national banking syndicates together to form the Six Power China Consortium, transforming the policy of competition for loans to one of co-operation. The height of the Consortium's success came in 1913 when it issued a Reorganisation Loan to Yuan Shih-Kai's Republican Government. The British Government awarded Addis's efforts with a knighthood in that year. In 1917 he was appointed to the Cunliffe Committee on Currency and Foreign Exchanges After the War. In 1918 he became Director of the Bank of England, and in 1919 a member of the Bank's Committee of Treasury upon which the Governor of the Bank of England relied for advice. In that year he was also appointed to the Council of the Institute of Bankers and the India Currency Committee. In 1920, he served on the War Relief and China Famine Relief Committees, and visited New York to organise the Second China Consortium, which included banking groups from the USA, France, Japan and Great Britain. He was awarded a K.C.M.G. in 1921. In that year he retired as London Manager of the HSBC, but continued as Manager of the British Group of the China Consortium and Director on the Boards of the British and Chinese Corporation and the Chinese Central Railways. He was also elected President of the Institute of Bankers. In 1922, he was appointed Chairman of the London Committee of the HSBC, and attended the British Alternate Genoa Conference as the British financial expert. In 1923, he became Chairman of the Exchange Committee, Imperial Economic Conference. In 1924 he became a member of the Montagu Mission to Brazil; was appointed to the Colwyn Committee on National Debt and Taxation; gave evidence to the Chamberlain-Bradbury Committee and was appointed British representative on the General Council of the Reichsbank. In 1925, he served as a member of the China Advisory Committee, Boxer Indemnity, and in 1926, on the US Debt Committee. In 1929 he was the British Delegate on the Committee of Experts for Reparations in Paris. In 1930 he was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Bank for International Settlements, and also attended meetings of the Cabinet Economic Advisory Sub-Committee on China.
He retired from the HSBC London Committee in 1933, and in the same year became a member of the Royal Commission on Canadian Banking. In 1944 he resigned as Manager of the British group of the China Consortium and from directorships of the British and Chinese Corporation and Chinese Central Railways. He died at Frant, Sussex on 14 December 1945.
Further reading: Dayer, Roberta Allbert, Finance and Empire, Sir Charles Addis 1861-1945 (Macmillan Press, Hong Kong, 1988)