Friday, March 25, 2011

Bank Founding

The Commercial Bank of Scotland was founded on March 25, 1810.  The Commercial Bank changed banking in Scotland, which at that time was controlled by private banking firms.  Bank historian Andrew Kerr ("History of Banking in Scotland") contrasts Commercial Bank's approach to the status quo:

'The connection between the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank on the one hand, and their respective sets of banking customers on the other hand, became more and more intimate, until partners of private banking firms not only got seats on the bank boards, but actually to a large extent controlled the proceedings of the latter. Business men then began to find it irksome to have to pass their business through the strait gate of the private bank, where toll had to be paid, as the only practical way of obtaining the benefit of the public banks' accommodation; for they believed, rightly or wrongly, that the private banker would refuse at the board meeting to approve of paper which he would readily discount in his own office. It was one great feature of the Commercial Bank to counteract this state of matters; and accordingly it was made a rule of their constitution that no private banker could hold the office of director. This was practically the death-blow to private banking in Edinburgh; for, although many firms continued to exist for years afterwards, the system was ever on the wane. The new establishment was very popular, but it was also very discreet; for while it studied the best interests of the public, it imitated the wisest provisions of the old banks' practice. In short, the founders of the Commercial Bank evinced an amount of true wisdom, which, while it produced great advantage to themselves, was at the same time largely beneficial to the general community. It must not be supposed, however, that the new bank at once sprang into the position of a compeer of the old banks. It commenced on a scale much inferior to their resources, and although it had public favour, it was destitute of the prestige and influence, and accumulated wealth, which placed the old banks in those days on a distinctly elevated platform...'

Founders of the Commercial Bank (through mergers now part of RBS) included John Pitcairn and Henry Cockburn.  Cockburn and Walter Scott were both at one point in their lives members of The Speculative Society.  Cockburn published in the Edinburgh Review, and late in life authored a biography of Francis Jeffrey and "Memorials of his Time".

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