London: Keep calm and carry on
The BNZ London Office at 1 Queen Victoria Street was opened by Falconer Larkworthy on the 1 October 1862, almost a year after the Bank of New Zealand was established. The London office was vital in giving BNZ an international status. It allowed BNZ to have a physical presence within the commonwealth, facilitating international investment and trade.
In 1890 due to the Long Depression and current poor financial position of the bank it was decided the Head Office should be moved to London where it remained for four years. The General Manager, remained in New Zealand.
During World War II the London office received several near misses but no direct hits during ‘the blitz’ – a period of intensive aerial bombing at the height of World War II. One bomb exploded under a window near the manager’s room, wrecking the inside of the office and smashing all the windows. “For many years the central piece of furniture in the manager’s room had been a large Victorian desk with a superstructure like that of a battleship. This desk was flung into a corner, where its aged joints obligingly gave way”, wrote Arthur Abel, the Bank’s accountant.
Staff were offered temporary premises outside of the city, but they chose to take up residence in nearby offices until the building was repaired. The day after the blitz they turned up to keep watch for fires, and on the Monday they trundled their equipment through the streets, with the heavier pieces loaded onto borrowed fruit trucks. Amazingly, despite all the chaos, they managed to open for business by 11.30am on Monday, and amongst all the upheaval, ledgers were balanced that evening with virtually no interruption to business.
When the war was over London staff members were given a special ‘Victory’ bonus in appreciation of “their splendid services during the difficult and often dangerous years of the war”.
In 1992 BNZ was purchased by the National Bank of Australia (NAB). NAB already had a strong presence in London and the BNZ London Office closed for the last time in 1992. The building on 1 Queen Victoria Street is now a grade 2 listed historic building.Visit this story on the timeline