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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Bank of New Zealand

Bank of New Zealand, Head Office, Customhouse Quay, Wellington, with branches and agencies throughout the Colony. The movement out of which the Bank of New Zealand sprang into existence began in Auckland in the year 1861. In those days the banking business of the Colony was practically in the hands of one institution, managed from without, and it was felt by some of the leading spirits in the commercial world in New Zealand that the time was ripe for, and, indeed, demanded, the establishment of a strong local bank, having for its sole aims the interests of the New Zealand public, the encouragement of local industries, and settlement and development of the country—to be, in fact, a bank of and for New Zealand. The outcome of this feeling was the establishment in October, 1891, of the Bank of New Zealand, having its head office in Auckland, with a board of directors comprised of the following gentlemen:
Head Office of the Bank of New Zealand—Customhouse Quay. Wellington.

Head Office of the Bank of New Zealand—Customhouse Quay. Wellington.

page 507 —James Williamson (president), Thomas Henderson, J. L. Campbell, James O'Neill, G. B. Owen, Thomas Russell, and C. F. Taylor. Alexander Kennedy was the first general manager. The new Bank at once found favour with the general public; it from the first received, and to the present day, through all its vicissitudes, has continued to receive from the people of New Zealand a generous measure of confidence and support. The early years of the Bank were years of prosperity and steady progress; they witnessed the expansion of its business from the modest half-million of resources disclosed in its first balance-sheet to a total of upwards of fifteen millions, the doubling of the original capital of £500,000, the building up of a reserve fund of £625,000, and the opening of branches and agencies throughout the length and breadth of New Zealand until there was hardly to be found any centre of importance in which the familiar sign was not exhibited. During those years also the Bank shareholders received dividends, which, commencing at 6 per cent, and rising for a time to 17 per cent., continued for a long period to be paid without interruption at 15 per cent. In 1872 it was considered desirable, in view of the magnitude of the Bank's exchange operations, and for other reasons, to open branches in Australia. In 1876 the business of the Fiji Banking and Commercial Company was acquired, leading to the establishment of a branch at Levuka, the then capital of Fiji. Highwater mark of the Bank's expansion was reached in 1887. The balance-sheet published in October of that year discloses an aggregate of resources of £15,263,255. The Bank's offices in New Zealand numbered 102, beyond New Zealand, seven. It had up to that time paid to its shareholders in the shape of dividends the sum of £2,500,000. The history of the Bank since 1887 has been one of struggle with adverse conditions; in this respect it has shared the experience of many other institutions and persons whose fortunes have been similarly bound up with those of the Colony. The keynote of its policy throughout has been to justify the confidence reposed in it by a scrupulous observance of its obligations to its customers. The year 1890 witnessed the transfer of the control of the Bank from a New Zealand to a London Board, and also and partly as incidental to the transfer, the establishment, with a view to relieve the Bank of the mass of properties which had fallen into its hands, of the Bank of New Zealand Estates Company. It was at that time believed that the transfer to the Estates Company of these assets would enable the Bank to again make headway, and at first circumstances seemed to justify that belief. There quickly followed, however, a decided fall in the values of the products with which the Company had to deal, and at length, and in the absence of any marked indications of a recovery in values, it became apparent that the Bank was in a position of danger. Then, in 1894, followed the intervention of the Government of New Zealand—the issue of two millions of stock guaranteed by the Colony—the transfer of the control of the Bank from the London Board to a Board sitting in Wellington, with a president appointed by the Governor-in-Council. The latest development is the recent legislation by which the Government of New Zealand becomes a shareholder in the Bank, and the bulk of the New Zealand properties of the Estates Company are disposed of to an Assets Realization Board set up for that purpose. Incidental to this is the agreement with the Colonial Bank of New Zealand for the acquisition of its business, which has received the sanction of Parliament, and has been ratified by the shareholders of the Colonial Bank, the business being taken over by the Bank of New Zealand on the 18th of November, 1895. The result of these operations will be the existence of a strong local Bank with sufficient resources at its command to enable it to play its part in the future progress and development of the Colony, and to ensure for it the confidence and support of the people of New Zealand, and there can be no reasonable doubt that a successful future awaits it. When the measures referred to above have taken effect the Bank's capital will stand as follows:—Four per cent, stock guaranteed by Government of New Zealand, £2,000,000; preference shares subscribed by Government of New Zealand, £500,000; capital payable by shareholders, £500,000; total, £3,000,000. The Board is comprised of the following gentlemen:—Messrs. William Watson (president), William Booth, the Hon. Walter Johnston, Martin Kennedy, and T. G. Macarthy. The general manager is Mr. Henry Mackenzie. The auditor appointed by Government is Mr. J. M. Butt.