In the early years of the Bank's existence, visits were received from various individuals and bodies interested in the work of the BMB and the principle of municipal banking. In the same period, the General Manager and the Chairman (plus other Councillors and Council employees) attended conferences etc. These visits and deputations were recorded in the Bank's Minutes as follows:
February 2nd 1920: A Deputation from Bradford Corporation consisting of 9 members, visited the Bank on Thursday last. They were met by members of the Committee, the Treasurer and the Manager, and supplied with various information.
June 7th 1920: Mr Alderman Davis [London County Council] recently visited the Bank, and was met by the Chairman and Manager, who gave him an opportunity of investigating the work of the Bank and furnished him with particulars he desired.
The Treasurer of Middlesbrough has also visited the Bank and was shown over the Branches by the Manager.
July 20th 1920 (report to the City Council): Numerous enquiries have been made by other Local Authorities as to the Bank and its progress, and information has also been sought by numerous Foreign and Colonial bodies. Deputations from several towns have visited Birmingham, and have expressed themselves agreeably surprised at the progress which has taken place, and the real use which is being made of the Bank. Particular mention may be made of visits of Members of the Council or Officers from Bradford, Manchester, London County Council, Ashton-under-Lyne, Edinburgh, Middlesbrough, and Bristol.
November 15th 1920: The attention of the Committee was directed to a forthcoming conference of representatives of various bodies in the City to discuss the institution of a Savings Scheme in the City on similar lines to that adopted during the War. The question of the appointment of representatives of this Committee was considered.
December 20th 1920: Recently influential deputations have been received from Bristol and Northampton, and your Chairman has met such deputations and discussed matters with them. Every opportunity has been afforded to enable the deputations to become conversant with the Bank.
May 3rd 1921 (report to the City Council): During the year several deputations from other Local Authorities have visited Birmingham to enquire into the working of the Bank, and to see for themselves what is being accomplished. Your Committee have afforded every facility to such deputations and have reason to believe that the visits will result in due course in similar Banks being set up in other parts of the country. Numerous enquiries have been received from Local Authorities and persons interested in the movement, to all of whom full particulars and information have been supplied.
May 30th 1922 (report to the City Council): During the year much interest has been manifested by several Local Authorities in the subject of Municipal Banks, and many deputations have visited the City to enquire into the matter. Prominent amongst the deputations have been those from Manchester, Bristol, Stoke-on-Trent, Glasgow, Northampton, Newport and Ilford. Every facility has been afforded to the deputations to become conversant with the working of the Bank, and the numerous enquiries from other Authorities and private individuals have also received attention of the Management.
Efforts have been made by certain Local Authorities to serve the necessary Parliamentary Powers to establish Banks, and others contemplate such action; but up to the present sanction has been withheld. Your Committee feel, however, that the foresight of the City Council in establishing the Bank, and the success the Bank has achieved, will keep the subject to the front still more prominently; and they look forward to an extension of the movement.
June 5th 1923:
As in previous years numerous deputations from other towns have visited Birmingham, and many enquiries have been made relative to the working of the Bank. To all, the fullest information permissible has been given, and opportunities have been afforded of inspecting and examining the work at the Branches.
[This paragraph became a standard insert in the Bank's annual report to the City Council.]
October 10th 1925: The following communication from the Town Clerk of Warrington, with reference to the establishment of Municipal Banks by all County and Borough Councils was received.
I beg to forward you a copy of a resolution (below) passed by the Town Council at a meeting held on the 29th September and to ask that you will be good enough to bring same to the notice of your Council with a view to their support being given.
(a) That in the opinion of this Council the time has arrived for authority to be given to all County and Borough Councils to establish Municipal Banks within their respective areas.
(b) That a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Ministry of Health and the Member for the Borough.
(c) That the Association of Municipal Corporations and other Local Authorities be invited to support the above resolution.
A T HALLAWAY
RESOLVED:- That the Town Clerk of Warrington be informed that this Committee are in sympathy with the opinion expressed by the Council of that Borough, and hope to be able to give their support to the attainment of the desired object at a favourable opportunity.
February 15th 1926: Representatives of the Postal Authorities of Berne, Switzerland, who had been authorised to visit Savings Institutions in various countries with a view to improving the system in operation in Switzerland, recently visited the Municipal Bank. Arrangements were made for enabling the visitors to see certain Branches of the Bank, and the deputation were much impressed by the system in Birmingham, and stated that the information collected would be of great use in compiling their report.
March 21st 1927: The General Manager stated that a visit had been made to the Bank by Miss Mitchell an Inspector of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank. She was one of the delegates to the International Thrift Congress held last year in Philadelphia and had been investigating Savings Bank work in Canada, America and this country. She was proceeding to the continent to conduct further investigations, and on her return would take charge of the Publicity Department. Miss Mitchell stated that the New South Wales Government were spending a million pounds on the erection of New Head Offices for their Savings Bank.
March 21st 1927: Your Sub-Committee have given consideration to an important report by the General Manager on the subject of German Municipal Banks. The German Embassy have supplied information which clearly indicates that these Banks play an important part in the national life of Germany and that they have been remarkably successful. There are 3,000 banks in existence with 9,000 branches and 32,000,000 open accounts, which indicates that practically every second German has an account. The deposits have increased from 19 million marks in 1924 to 1357 million marks in 1926. An attempt which was made in 1885 to establish Post Office savings banks failed owing to numerous municipal banks and their popularity.
These banks appear to have much wider powers than are possessed by the Birmingham Municipal Bank, and are enabled to deal with various kinds of business peculiar to their clients, the only restriction being that their transactions must not be such as will jeopardise the safety of the deposits. 35% of the deposits may be lent to the municipality which guarantees the bank; 25% to other municipalities, and 15% must be kept in liquid securities.
Other investments may be made in trustee securities, etc. A reserve fund must be built up out of profit until it reaches 10% of the deposits, and further surplus being available for public purposes.
The International Thrift Institution have also supplied such information, but point out that however much printed or written information is supplied it will not convey an adequate impression to the minds of those interested of the scope and activities of the German Municipal Banks, and their usefulness to the people. The Secretary to the German Embassy strongly recommended a visit being made to Germany to study the system as he was of opinion that much useful information of a more detailed character could be obtained, and he further stated that it would give him pleasure to make any arrangements that may be desired.
Your Sub-Committee are much impressed with the importance of this matter and feel that if Germany, with an experience of over a century, finds that municipal banks can safely provide greater services to their depositors, the Birmingham Municipal Bank should be fully informed and in a position to give a lead to other municipalities. They have accordingly requested the Chairman (Alderman Sir Percival Bower) to give the matter his deliberate consideration, and should he be of opinion that an investigation would be useful and valuable to the Bank, it is proposed that he, together with one other member of the Committee, and the General Manager, should visit Germany and conduct such investigations as may be deemed advisable.
April 9th 1927 (Percival Bower): The full Committee, at their last Meeting, requested that I should give careful consideration to the question of German Municipal Banks, and that if I thought a visit to Germany in this connection would be beneficial to the Bank, such visit was to be arranged, the deputation to consist of myself and one other Member of the Committee, with the General Manager.
I have given the matter my serious attention, and am of opinion that such a visit would be well worth while. The General Manager has again seen the Secretary of the German Embassy, who repeats that it is advisable to see the German Municipal Banks in working rather than attempt to obtain what is required by correspondence, and offers his services in making any necessary arrangements.
I have invited Alderman Lovsey, who is the senior Member of the Committee, to form one of the deputation.
July 15th 1927: Since the last meeting of the Committee, a visit has been paid to the Municipal Banks in Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Frankfort and Cologne, the arrangements for which were made by the Germany Embassy in London.
The deputation was afforded every facility for conducting investigations at each of these places, and was very courteously received by the Officers of the Banks and also by the Oberburgermeisters of the different towns.
The deputation received much printed matter, and as a result of this information and the questionnaire which had been addressed to the different Banks, the deputation will be in a position to furnish a full report on the matter after the vacation. Certain information has yet to be furnished by several Banks, and this is expected very shortly.
October 17th 1927:The delegation appointed by the Committee, consisting of Alderman Sir Percival Bower, MBE, JP, Alderman Lovsey, JP, and the General Manager, visited Germany in accordance with a programme arranged by the German Embassy in London. During the course of the preparatory arrangements it was intimated that the German Municipal Banks were a very important organisation in a national sense, and were particularly identified with the city or town finances, and that during the course of the investigations the delegation would be brought into contact with the City or Town Treasurers. This being so, the delegates were of opinion that it would be in the best interests of the Bank that the City Treasurer (Mr J R Johnson), who is also Treasurer to the Bank, should be asked to accompany them, a course to which the Chairman of the Finance Committee (Alderman Williams) assented.
The journey commenced on the 20th June 1927, the delegates crossing to the Hook of Holland by the night boat. Soon after arrival at the Hotel in Berlin, a representative from the Deutsche Giro-Zentrale (Herr Friedrich Unverzagt) called and explained the arrangements made for the visit, and the following morning the delegation was received by the Oberburgermeister, who extended a very cordial welcome and later introduced the delegates to leading members of an important national conference on sports then taking place in the Ratthaus. Leaving the conference, the delegates were taken to the offices of the Deutsche Giro-Zentrale, the head clearing house of the German Municipal Banks. The delegates were received by Herr Hermann Schneider and Herr Otto Schoele, two of the Directors, who extended a warm welcome and explained the system. Subsequently, the Directors conducted the delegates to the Berlin Municipal Bank, where Herr Franz Schmitt, the Manager, received them along with his assistant, Herr Friedrich Dynow, and a Director of the Bank, Herr Oskar Bokel. After receiving information and inspecting the working and premises, the delegates visited two of the branches - a small one in the inner ring of the City and a large one at Charlottenburg. The delegates were entertained to lunch and supper, and taken by steamer to Potsdam, and later to the Scala Theatre. A reciprocal dinner was given to the German gentlemen, who throughout did everything they could to make the visit instructive, valuable and pleasant. An instance of their considerateness was afforded when leaving Berlin. Herr Schneider, fearing we might experience some difficulty with the language in Dresden, placed Herr Unverzagt at our disposal for the visit to that City. His services proved very acceptable.
At Dresden we were most enthusiastically received by Dr Hermann Krumbiegel, the Chairman of the Dresden Municipal Bank; by Dr Von Loeben, Dr Schaarschmidt and Herr C Hoymann, Directors of the Giro-Zentrale Sachsen. The Dresden Municipal Bank and the offices of the Giro-Zentrale were inspected and the investigations conducted in a similar manner to that followed at Berlin. Hospitality was extended to the delegates in a very warm manner, and a visit was paid to Saxony-Switzerland - a noted place for scenery. The Dresden officials were particularly agreeable, and made our visit a very happy one.
The next place visited was Munich, which was not in the itinerary, but at the request of Herr Schneider of Berlin we visited the Bavarian Giro-Zentrale and the Munich Municipal Bank. To their amazement, the delegates found themselves in a magnificent banking hall with fountains playing in the centre! They were received in a very friendly manner by the Oberburgermeister (Herr Karl Scharnagl) and Dr Karl Fischer, Herr Franz Fiedler, and Herr Aloya Zick, Directors of the Bank, and conversation was rendered easier by the attendance of Professor J B Bauer, who could speak English well. Time did not permit of close examination of methods at Munich, but they appeared very much in line with those followed at Berlin and Dresden.
At Frankfort, on arrival at the Hotel, Dr Weishart, Director of the Deutsche Giro-Zentrale, Dr Lammors, General Director, and Herr Carl Ulbricht, Director of the Hassauischen Landesbank, waited upon us and explained the arrangements for our visit. The following day the delegates called upon the Oberburgermeister, who had made the arrangements, and were introduced to several of the officials of the City, and subsequently conducted over the Frankfort Municipal Bank and the Giro-Zentrale for Hesse-Cassel. Later, a visit was paid to the Landesbank at Wiesbaden, which differs slightly from other similar institutions. The delegates were entertained to lunch at the Ratthaus, and a reciprocal dinner was given to the Frankfort gentlemen. This visit was made very enjoyable by the Directors, who were particularly fluent in English. An incident worth mentioning occurred on the morning of departure. Dr Weishart placed his car at the disposal of the delegates to convey them to Rubesheim (some 60 miles away) to join the steamer, instead of travelling back by train to Bayonce.
The next visit was to Cologne, where the delegates were met at the landing stage by representatives of the Cologne Municipality and Municipal Bank. The following day the delegates were received by Dr Adonauer, the Oberburgermeister, who had made elaborate arrangements for the investigations and for seeing Cologne. Dr Adenauer was exceptionally desirous that the visit to Cologne should be a memorable one, and invited the British Consul (Dr Bunn) and the Vice Consul (Mr Jopson) to join the party at lunch and supper, and to accompany them to the State Opera House to witness a performance of the Tales of Hoffman. The opera scheduled for the evening was Il Traviata, but thinking the Tales of Hoffman would be more appreciated by the delegates, he had the performance changed. The Director of the Giro-Zentrale for Prussia (Herr Stollberg) was very informative, and afforded every facility for investigating the system, while the services of Herr Wilts Oertal were most valuable in translating the enquiries.
The delegates left Cologne on the 2nd July for Ostend, after a very strenuous time, and arrived back in Birmingham on the 4th July.
Letters of appreciation and thanks have been sent to the various German gentlemen who did so much to make the visit a valuable one, and in particular the warm thanks of the delegates have been tendered to the Secretary of the German Embassy in London (Herr Ruter), who took great pains to arrange matters in advance so that there should be no hitch.
The result of the investigations is contained in a separate report.
Percival Bower, Chairman
W E Lovsey
J P Hilton, General Manager
J R Johnson, Treasurer
March 18th 1929: Your Sub-Committee have arranged for the Chairman (Alderman Sir Percival Bower), and the General Manager to represent the Bank at the International Thrift Congress to be held in London in October next.
June 4th 1929: The Quinquennial Congress in connection with the International Thrift Institute, of which the Bank is a contributory member, is being held in London from the 7th to 11th October, 1929, at the invitation of the Trustee Savings Banks Association and in conjunction with Government Departments interested. Your Committee have appointed the Chairman and General Manager as their representatives to attend the Congress.
June 17th 1929: RESOLVED:- That the Chairman and Councillor Cooper (or in the inability of either of them to so act, Councillor Gelling) with the City Treasurer and the General Manager be authorised to visit the Amsterdam Municipal Bank, with a view to inspecting the system and appliances there in operation, reporting thereon in due course.
June 17th 1929: Authority has been given for an additional contribution of £4 to be made to the International Thrift Institute in respect of extraordinary expenses incurred in the formation of the Institute.
[On August 28th 1929, a visit was made to the Amsterdam Municipal Bank to investigate Mechanical Posting Machines.]
June 3rd 1930: In October last the second International Thrift Congress was held in London, being attended by the Chairman of the Bank Committee and the General Manager. These quinquennial conferences are attended by representatives of savings banks from practically every country in the world. During the five days' Congress 40 papers were submitted on various matters affecting savings banks law and procedure, and discussions followed thereon.
In connection with the Congress a very interesting exhibition of statistics, literature and propaganda material was arranged. The Bank participated in this exhibition by installing a stand, which excited considerable attention from the delegates.
An equally interesting exhibition of mechanical appliances and general office requisites was arranged in another building, and was open for inspection by the delegates during the period of the Congress.
June 3rd 1930: During the last session of Parliament, Bills were promoted by the Cardiff and Birkenhead Corporation containing provisions for the establishment of municipal banks. In the case of Cardiff, the clauses were opposed on the report stage in the House of Commons, but the House ultimately approved the clauses, without a division. During the course of the debate the Right Honourable Neville Chamberlain, MP, testified to the value of the Bank to the citizens of Birmingham, and gave his support to the application made by Cardiff.
In the case of Birkenhead, the Bill was first taken in the House of Lords and approved, but has yet to be considered by the House of Commons.
June 16th 1930: The Lord Mayor mentioned that during his visit to Liverpool he had been approached by members of the Liverpool Council, who had recently approved the principle of promoting a Municipal Bank, on the question of a visit of representatives to Birmingham to inspect the methods of the Birmingham Bank. On behalf of the Bank Committee he had extended a hearty invitation to such a deputation, and informed them that all necessary information and assistance would be placed at their disposal.