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Our history

Westpac has a long and proud history as Australia's first and oldest bank. It was established in 1817 as the Bank of New South Wales under a charter of incorporation provided by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. In October 1982 it changed its name to Westpac Banking Corporation following the acquisition of the Commercial Bank of Australia. When we opened our doors for business the first employee was Joseph Hyde Potts. As a porter and servant, he received a weekly ration from the King's stores and an annual salary of 25 pounds.

The 1800s

This was a challenging time, beginning with a serious loss in 1821 when it was discovered that the Bank of NSW's Chief Cashier had stolen half its subscribed capital, none of which was ever recovered.

The Bank's major expansion began in response to the gold fever in 1851 when it saw an opportunity to set up gold-buying agents in response to the needs of miners and merchants. It had grown from a single office in Sydney to a network of 37 branches by 1861.

The 1900s

The crash of the New York stock market on Black Thursday, 24 October 1929 signalled the start of the depression in the international market. The first significant sign of this in Australia came in January of that year, when Alfred Charles Davidson became general manager.

Davidson advocated a bold initiative to adjust the exchange rate on London downwards from par to £A130 = £100stg in 1931. This helped soften the impact of the depression on Australia and spark the ailing economy into recovery.

Following the acquisition of the Commercial Bank of Australia in 1982, Westpac expanded rapidly in the 1980s. However, as a result of the economic downturn at the end of the decade, Westpac declared a loss of $1.6 billion for the financial year ended 30 September 1992.

From 1993 to 1999, under the leadership of Robert (Bob) Joss, Westpac underwent a substantial rejuvenation program and then instigated a number of acquisitions in Australia and New Zealand to expand its retail footprint in markets where it was underweight, acquiring

  • Challenge Bank Limited, Western Australia in 1995
  • Trust Bank New Zealand in 1996
  • Bank of Melbourne in 1997.

The 2000s

Westpac began the new century as a principal sponsor of the very successful Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

In 2002, the bank began a strategic reshaping commencing with the sale of its longstanding iconic finance company, Australian Guarantee Corporation Limited (AGC) to GE Australia.

In the same year, we began to expand our wealth management business with the acquisition of:

  • Rothschild Australia Asset Management
  • Parts of BT Financial Group
  • 51% of Hastings Funds Management Limited, moving to 100% ownership in 2005.

In 2008 Westpac merged with St.George Bank Limited, resulting in a much larger multi-brand Group. The effective date of the merger was 1 December 2008. On 1 March 2010, The Westpac Group commenced operating as a single authorised deposit-taking institution (ADI), and the legal entity St.George Bank Limited was deregistered. From that date St.George Bank became an operating division within The Westpac Group.

On 25 July 2011, Westpac Group, through its operating division, St.George Banking Group, launched the Bank of Melbourne.

Be inspired by Westpac's history

If you are inspired by Westpac's history and would like some more information, please email us or contact:

The Head of Historical Services
Westpac Group
Unit 2 Building A
16 Mars Road
Lane Cove NSW 2066

Ph: +61 9214 2230