Africa's Standard Bearer

By Giorgio, Emmannualle Moors de | African Business, April 1999 | Go to article overview

Africa's Standard Bearer


Giorgio, Emmannualle Moors de, African Business


Despite the fact that its network in Africa was renamed Stanbic several years ago, the South African banking and financial services group Standard Bank Investment Corporation is still sometimes confused with the UK's Standard Chartered Bank. This is all the more understandable if one considers that their history is intertwined. To clarify the situation once and for all, here is a brief account of the history of the birth and separation of the Standard Bank siblings.

In 1862, the Standard Bank of British South Africa, incorporated in England and established in Port Elizabeth, began its expansion by internal and external growth. In 1883 the bank became The Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd to take advantage of recent gold discoveries in the Transvaal.

Following the 1890 depression, the bank consolidated its position as the leading bank in southern Africa by opening branches in neighbouring territories. It was, in fact, the first bank in both Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1892 and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) in 1906. Other countries brought into its sphere of activities included the then Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) in 1894, Bechuanaland (Botswana) in 1897, Basutoland (Lesotho) and Nyasaland (Malawi) in 1901, East Africa (Kenya and part of Tanzania), Belgian Congo (Zaire, then DRC) and Zanzibar in 1911, Uganda in 1912, South West Africa (Namibia) in 1915 and Tanganyika (part of Tanzania) in 1916.

In 1920, the bank bought another imperial bank, the African Banking Corporation, established in 1890. Its administrative office was moved to Cape Town in 1885, to Pretoria in 1954 and finally to Johannesburg in 1959.

By 1961, the bank operated over 200 branches and agencies outside South Africa and South West Africa. The first parting of ways occurred in 1962 when the Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd was renamed The Standard Bank Ltd, and transferred its South African business to a locally incorporated subsidiary which retained the former name.

In 1965, The Standard Bank Ltd acquired the Bank of West Africa Limited (founded in 1894), with over 60 branches in Nigeria, nearly 30 in Ghana and others in Sierra Leone and the Gambia. In 1967, the Standard Bank of South Africa made an initial public offering of shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

Severing of links

In 1969, links were further loosen between the London and South African siblings with two major events. First, The Standard Bank Investment Corporation was formed to serve as a holding company for the Standard Bank of South Africa and its affiliates. …

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