Westpac Cel­e­brat­ing 200 Years – Big­gest Cel­e­bra­tion Ever

On Satur­day 8th April 2017, the Westpac Group cel­e­brates 200 years of busi­ness.

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As Aus­tralia’s first bank and its old­est com­pany, Westpac Group - which started life as the Bank of New South Wales in 1817 - rep­re­sents a cen­tral un­bro­ken thread in our re­gion’s his­tory. The bank has sur­vived and thrived be­cause it has been guided by the same pur­pose over its first 200 years: to pro­vide sta­bil­ity, to sup­port cus­tomers and com­mu­ni­ties, and to help grow the econ­omy in Aus­tralia and all coun­ties in which it op­er­ates.

Westpac’s His­tory

1817 - Es­tab­lish­ment of the Bank of New South Wales

In 1817 Gov­er­nor Lach­lan Mac­quarie signed his name on the char­ter of in­cor­po­ra­tion to es­tab­lish the Bank of New South Wales. He knew that a sta­ble for­mal cur­rency and the fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity of a bank could help the busi­nesses of the early colony of Aus­tralia flour­ish.

The Bank of New South Wales first opened for busi­ness on 8 April 1817 in a build­ing owned by busi­ness woman and for­mer con­vict Mary Reibey and its first em­ploy­ees were ‘chief cashier’ Ed­ward Smith-Hall and ‘porter and ser­vant’ Joseph Potts.

1850s - Ex­pan­sion and the Gold Rush

As the colony of Aus­tralia grew and de­vel­oped, so too did the Bank of New South Wales. The rush for gold and ex­pan­sion of set­tle­ments saw strong de­mand for the Bank’s ser­vices, but it was a time not with­out chal­lenges. While bushrangers, in­clud­ing Ned Kelly who robbed the Bank of New South Wales Jer­ilderie, branch were an ev­ery­day threat, a more se­vere test lay ahead with the eco­nomic crash of the 1890s. Few banks would sur­vive. It would be thanks to the pru­dent de­ci­sions of the Bank’s man­age­ment that the com­pany was able to nav­i­gate its way safely and con­tinue to sup­port its cus­tomers through such dif­fi­cult times.

1900s - Serv­ing the na­tion through World Wars and the Great De­pres­sion and ex­pan­sion into the Pa­cific

While the Bank of New South Wales had been grow­ing steadily, two world wars and the Great De­pres­sion tested the strength and sta­bil­ity of the com­pany and in­deed economies across the world. As the na­tion faced some of its most chal­leng­ing times, the Bank played a key role in keep­ing the econ­omy run­ning even though many of its men were serv­ing on the bat­tle­fields. The dif­fi­cul­ties of such dark times brought the com­pany to­gether and saw the Bank’s fam­ily grow, with women be­gin­ning to play an in­creased role in of­fice life. Dur­ing this time, the com­pany’s com­mit­ment to serv­ing the needs to the com­mu­nity was clear. Under Gen­eral Man­ager Al­fred David­son, the Bank of New South Wales took bold steps to as­sist Aus­tralia’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery, de­valu­ing the Aus­tralian pound against the Bri­tish ster­ling.

Reach­ing out to the Pa­cific

The Bank of New South Wales be­gan op­er­at­ing in the Pa­cific through reg­is­tered of­fices and agen­cies in the 1850’s, how­ever by the turn of the cen­tury de­mand for the Bank’s ser­vices had grown to the stage where it was ready to open its own branches in Fiji and New Guinea.

Westpac Suva Branch

Gen­eral Man­ager, John French au­tho­rised the leas­ing of premises and the Bank opened its first branch in Suva, Fiji on 12 Au­gust 1901. Busi­ness fo­cussed on for­eign ex­change and fi­nanc­ing Fiji’s ex­port of sugar and co­pra.

1950s - Aus­tralia’s post war boom era

The post war pe­riod was a time of re­con­struc­tion in Aus­tralia with booms in hous­ing, mi­gra­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing. It was also an era when the Bank of New South Wales was able to rad­i­cally trans­form the ser­vices it of­fered cus­tomers and the way it op­er­ated. The re­ceipt of a sav­ings bank li­cence en­abled the Bank to meet the needs of Aus­tralia’s grow­ing mid­dle class who wanted to own their own home and save for the fu­ture. As new tech­nol­ogy

emerged, the Bank was at the fore­front of th­ese in­no­va­tions, of­fer­ing Aus­tralians greater con­ve­nience in their ev­ery­day bank­ing.

1982 - ‘Westpac’ is formed

In 1982, ‘Westpac’ was formed through the merger of the Bank of New South Wales and the Com­mer­cial Bank of Aus­tralia. The Bank ex­panded rapidly in the 1980s. How­ever, as a re­sult of the eco­nomic down­turn at the end of the decade, Westpac de­clared a loss for the first time of $1.6 bil­lion for the fi­nan­cial year ended 30 Septem­ber 1992.

Be­tween 1993 and 1999,

Westpac un­der­went a sub­stan­tial re­ju­ve­na­tion and ac­qui­si­tion pro­gram which ex­panded its re­tail foot­print, bring­ing WA’s Chal­lenge Bank Limited, NZ’s Trust Bank and Bank of Mel­bourne into the fold.

The 2000s - Adapt­ing

Westpac be­gan the new cen­tury as a prin­ci­pal spon­sor of the Syd­ney 2000 Olympic Games. It was also a time that the or­gan­i­sa­tion be­gan its strong fo­cus on sus­tain­abil­ity. The Bank fo­cused on re­con­nect­ing with its core prin­ci­ples of help­ing and sup­port­ing its cus­tomers, peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties. It took a bold lead­er­ship po­si­tion as the first bank, and only one of 10 com­pa­nies glob­ally to sign the Equa­tor Prin­ci­ples. This ap­proach and the firm fo­cus on sus­tain­abil­ity re­mains deeply em­bed­ded in the com­pany to­day.

In 2008

Westpac merged with St.Ge­orge Bank Limited (which in­cluded BankSA), re­sult­ing in a much larger multi-brand Group. In March 2010, the Westpac Group be­gan op­er­at­ing as a sin­gle au­tho­rised de­posit-tak­ing in­sti­tu­tion (ADI), and St.Ge­orge Bank be­came one of Westpac Group’s op­er­at­ing di­vi­sions. Then in July 2011, Westpac Group re-launched the Bank of Mel­bourne through its St.Ge­orge busi­ness. As the Westpac Group ex­panded through ac­qui­si­tions, and di­ver­si­fied its busi­ness to adapt and re­spond to chang­ing cus­tomer needs, its fo­cus on pro­vid­ing ex­cep­tional ser­vice grew stronger.

As Westpac en­ters its third cen­tury, this abil­ity to con­stantly adapt in an ever chang­ing world will help en­able the com­pany to de­liver its vi­sion to be­come one of the world’s great ser­vice com­pa­nies help­ing its cus­tomers, com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple to pros­per and grow.

Sto­ries from Westpac his­tory

Life on the gold­fields was just as tough for the Bank’s staff and agents as it was for the dig­gers. In some cases, it was more dan­ger­ous-not from the risk of ac­ci­dents or in­jury, but from the threat of rob­bery. The first chal­lenge for an en­ter­pris­ing and pi­o­neer­ing young bank staff was to ac­tu­ally get to the dig­gings; this of­ten meant a long, dif­fi­cult ride by horse­back. One such staff was Ge­orge Pre­shaw, who in 1860 was posted to the gold­fields in the town of Kian­dra, in the Snowy Moun­tains. He spent six hard days trav­el­ling across 240 kilo­me­tres of in­hos­pitable and un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, later writ­ing, ‘I knew as much about a horse as a horse did about me.’

When he ar­rived in Kian­dra, he dis­cov­ered that the ‘branch’ con­sisted of ‘a calico tent, built on the high side of the street.’ Inside the tent, Pre­shaw found his young as­sis­tant ‘perched on a piece of bark that rested on two logs, a stream of wa­ter run­ning under him . . . caused by the snow, which was a foot or two deep at the back of the tent, thaw­ing.’

Not quite how we pic­ture camp­ing to­day, let alone a day in the of­fice!

First Two Lady Typewrit­ters

Be­ing a pi­o­neer is never easy, es­pe­cially for the first women to en­ter an or­gan­i­sa­tion that had been the sole pre­serve of men since its found­ing. This was the sit­u­a­tion in which 40-year-old Edith Lamb and 16-year-old Ten­nyson Beatrice Miller found them­selves on 4 Oc­to­ber 1898, when they were em­ployed as the Bank of New South Wales’ first two ‘lady type­writ­ers’.

When Miller and Lamb first ar­rived at head of­fice to start work­ing they were shown into a private of­fice that was sep­a­rated from the rest of the premises. They were not to be seen or heard, due to con­cerns about hav­ing women in the work­force. The only male bank of­fi­cers al­lowed into their of­fice were those au­tho­rised to give and col­lect their work.

Miller and Lamb were ini­tially placed on 12 months pro­ba­tion, on salaries of £80 a year, work­ing daily be­tween 9.30 am and 4 pm. But such was the qual­ity of their work - pro­duc­ing all of the cor­re­spon­dence for head of­fice, doc­u­ments for the board, and the print­ing of cir­cu­lars sent out from Syd­ney - that they were soon made per­ma­nent.

Six decades later, in a 1958 in­ter­view with the Syd­ney Morn­ing Herald, Miller re­called: ‘The reg­u­la­tion was that Miss Lamb and I were to leave be­fore the men be­cause they didn’t want the pub­lic to think they had been so weak as to take women on staff. But we of­ten had so much to do that we couldn’t fin­ish in time. So we left by the main door at the re­quired time and came back into the of­fice by the Wyn­yard Street en­trance to get on with our work’.

The women were bold and stood up for each other in show­cas­ing the high stan­dards they had set them­selves. Lamb later be­came a pub­lished poet, writ­ing under the name E Beau­fils Lamb, while Miller stayed with the Bank for 41 years un­til she re­tired in 1939. Miller sup­ported, and then led, a cam­paign by fe­male em­ploy­ees to es­tab­lish a Women’s Fi­delity Guar­an­tee and Prov­i­dent Fund to match that set up for re­tir­ing male staff in 1863. In 1938, the cam­paign was suc­cess­ful.

The first fe­male teller - 1961

To­day no­body would blink an eye. But more than a half a cen­tury ago the ap­point­ment of a woman as a full-time bank teller raised more than an eye­brow. In fact, it gave rise to head­lines all around Aus­tralia. Judy Mil­lar found her­self in the cen­tre of a me­dia storm in Oc­to­ber 1961 when she took up her po­si­tion at the front counter of the Bank of New South Wales branch in Wyn­yard in Syd­ney’s cen­tral busi­ness district.

Aged just 25, Mil­lar was part of a new gen­er­a­tion of women who would even­tu­ally trans­form both the Bank’s and so­ci­ety’s ap­proach to gen­der. Her first day in the job was cov­ered ex­ten­sively in news­pa­pers across the coun­try but not ev­ery­one was happy about it. The Bris­bane Tele­graph head­lined its story ‘Women bank tell­ers not likely here’ re­port­ing “time will tell whether Miss Teller con­tin­ues to pay out or is de­posited back in a be­hind-the-scenes job. What is the po­si­tion in Bris­bane? Short of chain­ing your­self to a teller’s rail­ing in the Pankhurst style of suf­fragette days, I’d say your ap­pli­ca­tion would have as much hope of get­ting by as a dud cheque.”

Dex­ter, our pro­mo­tional ATM, made a run for it -1978

Per­suad­ing cus­tomers to use an ATM in­stead of go­ing into a branch to with­draw money at the counter was no easy task. Such a huge cul­tural change went beyond any slick ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign so the Bank came up with a novel way of show­ing cus­tomers what to do by cre­at­ing WPR1West­pac Pro­mo­tional Ro­bot 1-later named Dex­ter.

Dex­ter was taken out onto the streets by re­gional of­fices to help over­come cus­tomers’ doubts about elec­tronic bank­ing. Dex­ter was bat­tery op­er­ated and could move around. He even ‘spoke’ thanks to a mi­cro­phone con­nected to the ro­bot through which an ac­com­pa­ny­ing bank staff would talk.

Most demon­stra­tions were well re­ceived and un­event­ful un­til one day a fire en­gine go­ing past in­ter­fered with Dex­ter’s com­mand sig­nal fre­quency and he went charg­ing down the street out of con­trol with con­cerned bankers in pur­suit. Luck­ily there was no dam­age done.

First em­ployee of the Bank of New South Wales

It was 200 years ago to­day that Joseph Hyde Potts be­gan work as the first em­ployee of the Bank of New South Wales. Lit­tle would he have known how many of us would come to fol­low in his foot­steps.

Potts was 23 years old and had only been in the colony for six months when he was em­ployed as a ‘porter and ser­vant’ at the Bank of New South Wales. He was paid £25 a year, re­ceived a weekly ra­tion from the govern­ment stores and was re­quired to sleep on the Bank’s premises as part of his role.

Potts was re­spon­si­ble for draw­ing up many of­fi­cial doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing a fi­nan­cial ref­er­ence guide called the ‘Ta­ble of Fac­tors for In­ter­est at 8 and 10 per cent’. In 1826, he de­signed the Bank’s new ster­ling bank notes in £1, £2, £5, £10 and £20 de­nom­i­na­tions.

Over time, Potts’ du­ties in­creased, and he took on the roles of col­lect­ing clerk and ac­coun­tant. He epit­o­mised the con­cept of ser­vice and was lauded for his work ethic and ded­i­ca­tion dur­ing his 22 year ca­reer with the Bank.

When Potts re­tired due to ill health in 1839, the Bank of New South Wales board pre­sented him with a sil­ver tea ser­vice in­scribed with the words, ‘In tes­ti­mony of his long, ef­fi­cient and faith­ful ser­vice’. In 1961 the ser­vice was pre­sented back to the Bank by Potts’ descen­dants and it is now housed in the Westpac Group Ar­chives.

In 1830 Potts payed £505 for 6.5 acres at Wool­loomooloo Hill in Syd­ney, which was then known as Paddy’s Point. He re­named it Potts Point, as it is known to­day.

636 New of­fices on one day!!

Imag­ine open­ing 636 new of­fices on one day?! That’s ex­actly what we did af­ter our sav­ings bank li­cence was re­ceived in 1956. The new li­cence en­abled the Bank to of­fer in­ter­est-pay­ing de­posit ac­counts and be­gin mass lend­ing for home own­er­ship for the first time. This change trans­formed our com­pany, in Aus­tralia and in the Pa­cific.

Once re­ceipt of the li­cence was con­firmed a mil­i­tary-style plan sprang into ac­tion. The Bank sent tele­grams to its branches, putting its de­tailed plan into ac­tion. Tele­grams were dis­patched to launch ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns, in­clud­ing in the next day’s news­pa­pers and ra­dio broad­casts.

By the end of the first day, 1,233 new ac­counts had been opened and within nine months the Bank of New South Wales Sav­ings Bank had 200,000 cus­tomers with £41 million de­posited into those ac­counts.

Through­out our 200 year his­tory, many peo­ple have played an amaz­ing role in help­ing shape the com­pany and we thank our staff and cus­tomers for the role they con­tinue to play in help­ing us sup­port our com­mu­nity in Fiji.

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