Bank of New South Wales

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Bank of New South Wales
Industry Financial services
Successors Westpac Banking Corporation
Founded 8 April 1817 in Sydney, New South Wales
Defunct 1982
Headquarters Martin Place
Area served
New South Wales

The Bank of New South Wales (BNSW), also known commonly as The Wales, was the first bank in Australia, being established in Sydney in 1817 and situated on Broadway. During the 19th and early 20th century, the Bank opened branches first throughout Australia and Oceania. It merged with many other financial institutions, finally merging with the Commercial Bank of Australia in 1982 to form the Westpac Banking Corporation.


Bank of New South Wales branch in Port Douglas, Queensland circa 1890
Former Bank of New South Wales, Broadway, Sydney, designed by Varney Parkes

Established in Sydney in 1817, the Bank of New South Wales (BNSW) was the first bank in Australia, under the economic regime of Governor Lachlan Macquarie (responsible for transitioning the penal settlement of Sydney into a capitalist economy). At the time, the colony of Sydney had not been supplied with currency, instead barter and promissory notes was the payment method of choice. Governor Macquarie himself used cattle and rum as payment for the construction of Sydney Hospital and the road from Sydney to Liverpool. The suggestion of establishing a bank was raised in March 1810; but it wasn't until November 1816 that a meeting was held to discuss the real possibility of such a proposal. In February 1817 seven directors of the bank were elected: D'Arcy Wentworth, John Harris, Robert Jenkins,[1] Thomas Wylde,[nb 1] Alexander Riley, William Redfern and John Thomas Campbell. Campbell was elected the bank's first president[2] and Edward Smith Hall as its first cashier and secretary.[3] During the 19th and early 20th century, the Bank opened branches throughout Australia and Oceania. This included at Moreton Bay (Brisbane) in 1850, then in Victoria (1851), New Zealand (1861), South Australia (1877), Western Australia (1883), Fiji (1901), Papua (now part of Papua New Guinea) (1910) and Tasmania (1910).

Besides expanding its branch network, the bank also expanded by acquiring other banks:

  • 1927: BNSW acquired the Western Australian Bank,[4] which had been established in 1841 or 1842.
  • 1931: BNSW acquired the Australian Bank of Commerce, which had branches in both New South Wales and Queensland.[5]
  • 1942: BNSW suspended operations in Papua after the Japanese Army captured many of the towns in which it had branches and agencies, and bombed Port Moresby. It resumed operations in 1946.
  • 1957: BNSW buys 40% of finance company Australian Guarantee Corporation and over the years progressively increased its interest to a majority stake of 76% and then acquired all remaining shares in 1988.
  • 1968: BNSW joins Databank Systems Limited consortium in New Zealand to provide joint data processing services. Around this time the bank started going 'on line' with the use of their computer nicknamed 'Fabicus' the letters standing for First Australian Banking Institution Computer Used in Sydney. Fabicus had been in use since 1958 in the processing of some records. With advanced programming, The use of this computer changed the whole concept of banking as it had been done in years previously with its combination of hand-written and machined records. Branches slowly became attached to the data processing centre and other banks slowly joined the ranks of computer generated reports, records and expansion.
  • 1970: BNSW established a branch on Tarawa in Kiribati (ex-Gilbert Islands), which also took over the government savings bank. Also, the company first became listed on 18 July 1970.
  • 1971: Branch established in the New Hebrides.
  • 1973: BNSW became the corporate sponsor of the Rescue Helicopter service started by Surf Life Saving Australia. The service is known today as the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service
  • 1974: it participated in a joint venture to establish the Bank of Tonga.
  • 1975: BNSW incorporated its local business in Papua New Guinea as Bank of New South Wales (PNG).
  • 1977: BNSW formed Pacific Commercial Bank in Samoa as a joint venture with Bank of Hawaii, buying into Pacific Savings and Loan Company (est. 1969), in which Bank of Hawaii had had an ownership interest since 1971.
  • 1982: BNSW merged with the Commercial Bank of Australia to form Westpac Banking Corporation ending the use of the Bank of New South Wales name. The new Westpac brand-name incorporated the "W" which had been the logo of the Bank of New South Wales (popularly known as "the Wales").

Coat of arms[edit]

In 1931 the bank was granted a coat of arms from the College of Arms, and symbolised the bank's 1927 acquisition of the Western Australian Bank. The arms featured an Emu and a Black swan (which is symbolic of Western Australia) rampant supporting a shield surmounted by a kangaroo and the emblem of the rising sun. On the shield are shown a ship, two sheaves of wheat, a sheep, a cow, and a crossed pick and spade, representing the principal industries of Australia at the time: pastoral, agricultural, mining and shipping. The motto included was "Sic fortis Etruria crevit", variously translated as "Thus strong Etruria prospered", a line taken from Virgil's Second Georgic and an early motto of the Colony of New South Wales.[6]

These arms replaced the original arms known as the "Advance Australia Arms" which was similar to the first Coat of arms of Australia used until 1910, using the same kangaroo and emu supporters and the motto "Advance Australia". The shield in these arms was retained in the 1931 arms.[7]

Heritage-listed buildings[edit]

The Bank of New South Wales built many bank buildings in Australia, some of which survive and some are heritage-listed. However, very few are still used as banks. Surviving buildings with heritage listing include:

New South Wales[edit]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holder, R. F. "Jenkins, Robert (1777–1822)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Holder, Reginald Frank; Bank of New South Wales (1970), Bank of New South Wales : a history, 1 (1817-1893), Angus and Robertson, ISBN 978-0-207-95362-0 
  3. ^ M. J. B. Kenny. "Biography – Edward Smith Hall – Australian Dictionary of Biography". Retrieved 2012-12-25. 
  4. ^ "Diay of Events". Western Mail. XLII (2151). Western Australia. 21 April 1927. p. 32. Retrieved 16 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  5. ^ Australian eHeritage Portal: Australian Bank Of Commerce (former)
  6. ^ "A BANK'S NEW EMBLEM". The West Australian. XLVII (9075). Western Australia. 27 July 1931. p. 12. Retrieved 23 June 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  7. ^ "Bank of NSW – Advance Australia Arms on a Bank of NSW building". Office of Environment and Heritage. NSW Government. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  8. ^ "Westpac Bank, 341 George Street, Sydney". NSW State Heritage Register. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. 12 September 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
  9. ^ "Bank of NSW, 107-109 Bathurst Street, Sydney". NSW State Heritage Register. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
  10. ^ "Bank". NSW State Heritage Register. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2017. 
  11. ^ "Westpac Bank". Parramatta Heritage Register. Retrieved 31 October 2017. 
  12. ^ "Bank of New South Wales, 368-374 Collins Street, Melbourne". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 


  1. ^ Thomas Wylde / Wilde retired founder of London's solicitors Wilde Sapte

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