In the 1860s a group of Adelaide's leading citizens met to discuss the formation of a bank sympathetic to local needs. The first Directors were the Hon (later Sir) Henry Ayres (Chairman), Hon T Magarey, Messrs. T G Waterhouse, R Barr-Smith and G P Harris.
The Bank of Adelaide commenced business in 1865 in Gresham Chambers, and it opened its first branch in 1866, just months later. When the first balance sheet was presented four branches had been opened, the first at Kapunda, followed by Port Adelaide, Gawler and Goolwa.
The Bank's Gresham Chambers premises were only suitable for temporary occupation and, after buying and selling two other properties without building, a corner block extending from King William Street to Currie Street was purchased for 9,500- pounds. Existing buildings were demolished and the design of the new premises was thrown open to public competition. The entrants were told that 'the facades should be boldly treated to be carried out in freestone and not dependent for effect on the elaboration of details'. Entrants were required to provide accommodation in the basement for two strong rooms for coin, books and securities, a voucher room, stationery room and a clerk's cloak room. On the ground floor a public office and clerk's room, a board room, a waiting room to accommodate also two or more clerks and a lift from the basement were required. The first floor was to be the Manager's residence, and was to comprise a drawing room, dining room, morning room and library, together with three bedrooms, two servants rooms, kitchen, scullery and larder. The successful design was to be awarded a premium of 150 pounds. There was little surprise when, from the twenty seven plans submitted, that of Mr E W Wright, a former Mayor of Adelaide and architect of the Town Hall and the GPO, was chosen.The building was soon erected and by the beginning of October 1880 the bank was conducting business from the new building.
In 1886, a local institution, the Commercial Bank of South Australia, failed, and the Bank of Adelaide considerably strengthened its base by taking over many of its branches, premises and staff.
A London Office was opened in 1890, as a direct link with the 'mother country'. Representation in the United Kingdom provided vital links with Europe and provided a service to Australian visitors.
In 1893 an orgy of land speculation caused a crisis that saw every local bank close its doors except the Bank of Adelaide. While commercial and political circles were vainly attempting to stem the tide of a crisis, the Bank of Adelaide was able to conduct normal operations. As a result, the Bank was proclaimed by the Government under the Trustee Act 1893 as a Bank in which trustees could deposit funds without liability to themselves. For many years the Bank was the only bank in South Australia to enjoy that privilege.
After World War I the bank developed its interstate network. Sydney was first in 1919, followed by Melbourne (1920), Perth (1922), and Brisbane (1927). Many years were to elapse before it opened at Dandenong (1963) and Hobart (1970). A highly successful venture in the ACT was a result of opening Canberra City (1968), Woden (1975) and Belconnen (1977). Townsville Branch opened in 1978.
In 1937 the Bank purchased Alfred Chambers for 45,000 pounds, demolished the building and rebuilding on the area to double the size of Head Office by adding five extra bays along Currie Street to merge with the original façade. The King William Street façade remained unaltered except for the widening of the main entrance doors and the removal of iron railings from below the ground floor windows.
The Bank's corporate strength continued to improve. The Savings Bank business, commenced in 1962, expanded solidly, steadily increasing its market share. In 1969, the Bank of Adelaide acquired the whole of the shareholding of Finance Corporation of Australia Ltd. The further evolution of the banking industry saw the formation of Adelaide Group Date Pty Ltd., and the Bank's entry into the computer world.
The Bank of Adelaide was one of only a handful of companies in Australia that paid a dividend to its shareholders since incorporation; two other companies - the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac) and the Colonial Sugar Refining Co Ltd share that distinction.
In 1979 the Bank of Adelaide was purchased by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited in 1979. The Bank of Adelaide (Merger) Act 1980 facilitated this process.
Extracts from 'The Adelaide', 17 December 1969, article by Dean Thomas, quoted on website http://www.picknowl.com.au/homepages/stanbatten/default.historyadelaide.html