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Our Story

BankSA has been part of the fabric of South Australia since March 11, 1848, when The Savings Bank of South Australia, the forerunner of today's BankSA, began its life as a small one-person outfit.

On that day, John Hector, the bank's sole employee, opened the bank's books and the doors of its single room office, which was provided, free of rent, by the Glen Osmond Union Mining Company, in Gawler Place, Adelaide.

That same day, the historic first deposit marked the Savings Bank as the 'people's bank' for generations to come.

The first customer

The bank's first depositor was an Afghan shepherd, who entrusted his life savings of 29 pounds to the newly formed bank.

The teller recorded his name as Croppo Sing (a phonetic rendering of Singh) and, like so many others in the early days of the colony, Croppo, who was illiterate, signed his name for his bank account with an 'X'.

Singh's deposit was made by his employer, William Fowler of Lake Victoria, and was initially incorrectly recorded in Fowler's name. This error was later corrected, which cemented Croppo Singh's place in the history of the state and the history of South Australia's bank.

'Our Century', the history of The Savings Bank of South Australia published for its centenary in 1948, records that 'twelve other citizens, perhaps with some trepidation, lodged deposits aggregating 172 pounds, six shillings on that first business day'.

The first loans

It was just a month before the fledgling bank made its first loan. The loan, as became typical throughout the bank's history, was for housing and farming. John Colton was advanced 500 pounds for the purchase of two acres of land with a seven-roomed, stone house, a cottage and stables.

Colton was 25 at the time. He had recently started a small wholesale harness and hardware business that later grew into the well-known firm of Colton & Co (still later, Colton, Palmer and Preston). In 1875 Colton was appointed to the bank's Board of Trustees. Like many successful colonial businessmen, he later went into politics, serving as a minister in several governments before leading his own ministry for 16 months in 1876-77. Colton was knighted in 1892.

Prominent early citizenry

In its early years, and throughout its history, many prominent South Australians have been associated with the Savings Bank of South Australia.

South Australia's first premier, B.T. Finniss, was a member of the bank's first Board of Trustees. He was appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, Lt. Colonel F.H. Robe, who held the position of president of the bank at the time.

In 1861, the positions of president and vice president were replaced by an elected chairman and Robert Torrens, who was the creator of the now world-famous Torrens System of land titling and registration, became the inaugural chair.

Another contender for the role of inaugural chair was Henry Ayers, pastoralist, miner and investor. He succeeded Torrens a year later then went on to serve as premier of South Australia several times and later established his own small merchant bank, HL & AE Ayers, which survived until the 1970s.

Both Torrens and Ayers later received a knighthood for their roles in pioneering South Australia.

Evolution of South Australia's bank

From humble beginnings, The Savings Bank of South Australia later merged with the former State Bank of South Australia (which was established in 1896) to form the new State Government-owned State Bank in 1984.

A dark time ensued in 1991, when the State Bank collapsed due to non-performing assets exceeding 30 per cent of its loan book, creating one of the biggest economic disasters in the state's history.

The saleable portion of State Bank was subsequently acquired by Advance Bank, which itself was bought by St.George in 1997.

By this stage, State Bank had been reinvented and was trading as BankSA.

Following Westpac's merger with St.George in 2008, BankSA became a division of Westpac Banking Corporation.

With South Australia's largest network of branches and ATMs, BankSA serves one in four South Australians and continues to serve the people of the state as South Australia's bank.