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Australia’s first banks were established early in the 19th century, either as private companies or as partnerships.


Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary


The Beginnings

Australia’s first banks were established early in the 19th century, either as private companies or as partnerships. Government banks, created and guaranteed by colonial (later state) governments, were established to promote land settlement and rural development, and to accept savings deposits. It was in this tradition that, in 1911 (a decade after the Australian Colonies federated), Andrew Fisher’s Labor Government decided to establish a government bank for the newly formed nation. In the succeeding decades, many State Government banks established in the 19th century were amalgamated into the Commonwealth Bank, most recently the State Bank of Victoria (1990) and, via the Colonial merger in 2000, the Rural Bank successor to the (Government) Savings Bank of NSW.

Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary


Foundation The Commonwealth Bank of Australia

customer base expanded after mergers with State Banks in Tasmania (1912)

was founded under the Commonwealth

and Queensland (1920). In 1916, the Commonwealth Bank’s headquarters

Bank Act 1911. The organisation

moved from Melbourne to newly-built premises on the corner of Pitt Street

was empowered to conduct both

and Martin Place, Sydney, a building which was used in the design of our

savings and general (trading) bank

moneyboxes for many years. In 1990, the Commonwealth Bank’s headquarters

business, with the security of a Federal

relocated to 48 Martin Place, Sydney.

Government guarantee. At that time no other institution in Australia was involved in both of these traditionally separate areas of banking, nor did any other bank have a Federal Government guarantee. The first Governor, Mr (later Sir) Denison Miller, headed a staff of twelve when the Commonwealth Bank



opened for business on 15 July 1912. Savings bank facilities were offered at its solitary branch, 317 Collins Street, Melbourne (Modern Chambers), and through 489 agencies located in post offices throughout Victoria. During the following year, capital city branches and postal agencies were established across Australia. The infrastructure and


Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary

Australia’s first banks were established early in the 19th century, either as private companies or as partnerships.

Development as a Central Bank


Denison Miller died in office in 1923. The following year, a newly established Commonwealth Bank Board assumed overall control of the organisation. In 1920, responsibility for Note Issue had been transferred from the Commonwealth Treasury. The next two decades saw the Commonwealth Bank’s responsibilities expand to encompass those of a central bank. These powers were codified by emergency legislation enacted during the early days of World War II. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Commonwealth Bank was considerably enlarged by amalgamations with the State Bank of Western Australia

Australia’s first banks were established early in the 19th century.

(1931) and State Bank of New South Wales (1931). Together with earlier amalgamations in Tasmania and Queensland,

Board, returning control over the organisation’s affairs

this resulted in an expansion of retail operations into banking

briefly (1945-1951) to the position of Governor. A general

chambers and a proportionately less through post office

bank division was established and special facilities created


to provide finance for post-war activities such as housing

In World War II, the Commonwealth Bank was actively

construction and industrial development. Home loans,

involved in the war effort both as an agent ofcthe Federal

originally called ‘Credit Foncier’ loans, were first offered in

Government and as banker for numerous scattered Australian


and allied service personnel. As in the previous world

After World War II, hundreds of new branches and

conflict, many employees served with distinction. The war

agencies were opened to cater for an immense increase and

itself came to the organisation when some Northern Territory

spread of population. Continuing war-time restrictions and

branches were evacuated due to enemy action. Post-war

a shortage of building materials meant many prefabricated

legislation abolished the Commonwealth Bank.

structures were used. The Commonwealth Bank made

Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary


During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Commonwealth Bank was considerably enlarged by amalgamations with the State Bank of Western Australia and State Bank of New South Wales (1931). special efforts to assist migrants with the establishment

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of a Migrant Information Service. By the end of the 1950s,

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controversy over the organisation’s dual functions as a

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central bank on the one hand, and a trading/savings bank on

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the other, came to a head. Legislative changes in the form

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of the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959 and the Reserve

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Bank Act 1959 formally divided the two operations. The Reserve Bank of Australia was established on 14 January

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1960 as the successor in law of the Commonwealth Bank,

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assuming control of all central banking activities. The

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remaining functions (trading/savings bank activities), together

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with the newly constituted Commonwealth Development

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Bank, became the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.

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Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary

Commonwealth Banking Corporation 1961-1991 Many significant banking developments occurred

the customer’s own without making prior arrangements.

throughout the 1960s. The Commonwealth Bank cel-

Computers started to change the way internal processes,

ebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1962, Saturday morning

telling facilities and routine operations were conducted. Our

trading ceased, employment of part-time staff began

online computer network was complete on 15 July 1985

and improved career opportunities for women became

when the Norfolk Island branch joined in. Plastic credit and

available. Decimal currency, Christmas Club Accounts,

debit cards began to be used as the basis for transactions,

personal loans and variations on traditional savings ac-

starting with the launch of Bankcard in 1974, then Keycard

counts were introduced.

in 1981. The Commonwealth Bank affiliated with Visa

Diversification During the 1970’s, our operations expanded into the fields of home insurance and travel (1974) and we formed our own finance company, Commonwealth Bank Finance Corporation Ltd (CBFC), the following year. During 1988, the Commonwealth Bank entered the managed investment and life insurance arena with the establishment of wholly-owned

International and Interbank Card Association (Master Charge) in 1979. Automatic telling machines (ATMs) began with Autobank, launched in 1981. EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) commenced in 1984. and electronic home and office banking became available in 1985.

Overseas activities and dealings Whilst the island branch network was being handed over

subsidiaries Commonwealth Life Ltd and Commonwealth

to established local banking institutions – in Papua New

Management Services Ltd.

Guinea (1974) and Solomon Islands (1981) – important points

Computerisation and changing face of banking Mechanisation had gradually replaced traditional hand posting methods in use since the Commonwealth Bank’s foundation. In December 1969, we introduced the ‘Black Light’ Signature System, which recorded ‘invisible’ signatures in passbooks enabling withdrawals at branches other than

of representation were opened in New York, Tokyo and Singapore. We widened our foreign exchange dealings and provision of services for customers engaged in business overseas. During February 1989, the Commonwealth Bank acquired a 75 per cent share in the New Zealand-based ASB Bank Ltd (expanded to 100 per cent in 2000).

Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary



Deregulation of the banking industry Deregulation of the banking industry and the

subsequent entry of foreign banks into Australia in the mid-1980s posed significant challenges. These were met initially with restructuring of the Commonwealth Bank’s internal organisation. New products and services were developed, targeted to meet the requirements of groups outside our traditional customer base. This process culminated in the organisation’s conversion from a government-owned entity into a publiccompany.

Merger with State Bank of Victoria Australia’s first banks were established early in the 19th century, either as private companies or as partnerships.

Deregulation of the banking industry Deregulation of the banking industry and the subsequent


On 26 August 1990, the Commonwealth Bank entered into an agreement with the Treasurer of Victoria for a merger with the State Bank of Victoria (SBV). The Commonwealth Bank became the successor in law to SBV on 1 January 1991, creating Australia’s

entry of foreign banks into Australia in the mid-1980s

largest domestic bank and further strengthening the

posed significant challenges. These were met initially

Commonwealth Bank’s leadership in retail branch banking.

with restructuring of the Commonwealth Bank’s internal

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organisation. New products and services were developed,

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targeted to meet the requirements of groups outside our

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traditional customer base. This process culminated in the

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organisation’s conversion from a government-owned entity

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into a publiccompany. Ovid et aliquia quaersp icabore sint.

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Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary

Privatisation & Subsequent Developments 1992 The Commonwealth Banks Restructuring Act of 1990 converted the Commonwealth Bank from a statutory authority to a public company with conventional share capital and part-Government ownership. On 17 April 1991, the organisation became a public company with a share capital governed by the Corporations Law but subject to certain overriding provisions of the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959. The Commonwealth Bank was fully privatised in three stages from 1991 until July 1996.

Program was introduced which provided a personalised and dedicated level of service through Relationship Managers to the Bank’s High Value Clients (HVC). The Which New Bank (2003) program aimed at “great customer service, engagement of people and simplified process”. In September 2005, customer service was made a strategic priority by new Chief Executive Officer, Ralph Norris. A new business unit, Group Sales and Service Support, established in April 2006, had the purpose of imbedding a service and sales culture across the Group. New information technologies also impacted our interaction with customers. A computerised customer

Focus on customer service Beginning in September 1993, the centralising of back-

service program, ASSIST, was initiated in May 1992. CommSee, the Commonwealth Bank’s new customer

office processing from branches, led to the establishment

service system, began by supporting our premium

of Central Processing sites in all States. This restructuring

customers and has developed as a relationship management

of the Branch network gave staff the opportunity to focus

service model aimed at providing a single view of dealings

exclusively on retail customer service. Business Banking

with individual customers, accessible from any branch

Centres were established in 1994 and Customer Service

across the network. In December 2003, a decision was

Centres were opened Australia-wide in capital cities in

made to implement CommSee across the organisation with

1993-1994. The Customer Relationship Model (CRM) was

the national rollout completed in December 2005. The Core

introduced into branches from August, 1994. This featured

Banking Modernisation (CBM) program, due for completion

uniform branch interior design and new ways of interacting

in 2012, is modernising the Group’s core banking systems

with customers. In 1997 the Relationship Management

and processes and introducing a world class technology.

Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary


Automated banking The Maestro and Cirrrus services were introduced in April 1993, enabling worldwide EFTPOS, keycard and credit card transactions. The Commonwealth Bank’s internet site was launched on 29 September 1995 and, on 28 February 1997, NetBank was launched as a totally online service, offering 24hour internet transaction banking services. Commonwealth

through a relationship manager and the delivery of total capital services (TCS) to institutional clients.   

Colonial merger and development as a Financial Institution In June 2000, the Commonwealth Bank acquired the

Securities Limited (CommSec), a new stockbroking company,

Colonial Group of companies which provided us with a well-

was established on 25 July, 1995, initially as low-cost

established asset management capability, strong distribution

telephone based and by 2008 had won the AFR Smart

breadth, a pre-eminent wealth brand, and a leading life

Investor Ribbon Award for ‘Online Broker of the Year – Fully

insurance and property position in the market. A new


Investment & Insurance Services division was established in

Strengthening the customer base Institutional Banking was established in 1990 and drew together the Commonwealth Bank’s various ‘wholesale’ activities under one unit providing a more focused approach to larger organisational and corporate customers. A restructure in 2002 provided niche services for premium and business customers as well as refocusing services for institutional customers. In 2004 Private Client Services became Commonwealth Private Bank, catering to the financial needs of high net worth and high income earning individuals. Since 2006, with the Business Growth Strategy, one of the key priorities for the Bank’s strategic vision is to expand business banking.This is done with local business bankers with specialised staff working in local communities, corporate


and business customers with more complex needs serviced

Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary

2002 to incorporate the Colonial brand of companies which included managed funds, master funds, superannuation and insurance products, as well as the support of third party financial planners. The Investment and Insurance Services division was later renamed Wealth Management to more accurately reflect the nature of the business. The Commonwealth Bank has become a financial services institution in the broadest sense. The Investment and Insurance Services division was later renamed Wealth Management to more accurately reflect the nature of the business. The Commonwealth Bank has become a financial services institution in the broadest sense.

Expansion into Asia In February 2002, International Financial Services was established to unite numerous offshore operations within the one division and to leverage our existing expertise into target global markets. Products also included Asian insurance and New Zealand and the Pacific banking and insurance. By 2005, the Commonwealth Bank’s regional expansion strategy was focused on the Asia-Pacific, particularly China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam, where the demand for financial services was experiencing particularly rapid growth. This expansion was illustrated in 2005 by joint ventures with two

Australia’s first banks were established early in the 19th century,

Chinese banks, the Jinan City Commercial Bank (now Qilu Bank)

either as private companies or as partnerships.

and Bank of Hangzhou (HZB). A branch was opened in Shanghai, China, in March 2010 and the Bank’s North Asia office is relocating to Shanghai at the end of 2010. In August, 2010, a branch opened in Mumbai, India, as a step towards creating a commercial banking business there. In 2007 the Group’s first merger in Asia was completed with the acquisition of the Bank Arta Niaga Kencana (Bank ANK) which doubled the staff and retail branch network of PT Bank Commonwealth, Indonesia, and continues to grow. A branch opened in Ho Chi Minh City in August, 2008 and in September, 2010 the CBA Group and Vietnam International Bank (VIB) completed arrangements for a joint partnership.Ta cum ex exeresequi dellorum non con pratinventia nument vollatiis naturibus inimolu ptatio quid quo tem hilitae. Itatur se et voloruptate pel evelesequam ea quamet ab inum fuga. Nequi del iusa quam, voloria

Australia’s first banks were established early in the 19th century,

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either as private companies or as partnerships.

Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary


Australia’s first banks were established early in the 19th century, either as private companies or as partnerships.

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Commonwealth Bank 100th Anniversary


Commonwealth Bank  

100th Anniversary Book

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