FirstRand Group History
First National Bank can trace its origins back to the Eastern Province Bank, which was formed in Grahamstown, South Africa in 1838. By 1874, the bank had four branches – Grahamstown, Middelburg, Cradock and Queenstown.
Due to a recession, the bank was bought out in 1874 by the Oriental Bank Corporation (OBC). However, as a result of financial difficulties being experienced in India, the OBC decided to withdraw from South Africa. The Bank of Africa was subsequently formed in 1879 to take over OBC’s business in South Africa.
During the same period, the government of the Republic of the Transvaal wanted to create a local commercial bank to deal with the financial demands created by the discovery of gold in Barberton and the Witwatersrand. The government thus created a bank with the task of focussing primarily on financial agricultural development through a concession agreement. The Nationale Bank der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek Beperk (National Bank of the South African Republic Limited) was registered in Pretoria in 1891 and opened its doors for business on 5 April of the same year. After the Anglo-Boer War in 1902, the name of this bank was changed to the National Bank of South Africa Limited.
Due to another recession, the Bank of Africa was bought out by the National Bank in 1912. Another bank, the National Bank of the Orange River Colony, had already been bought out by the same group in 1910. The Natal Bank, which was founded in 1854 to fund the Natal Colony’s sugar industry, also suffered financial difficulties and was added to the list of banks acquired by the National Bank, in 1914. The National Bank was now one of the strongest banks in South Africa.
In 1925 the National Bank merged with the Anglo-Egyptian Bank and the Colonial Bank to form Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas). In 1971 Barclays restructured its operation and its South African operation was renamed Barclays National Bank Limited.
As a result of a disinvestment campaign against South Africa due to its apartheid policies, Barclays was forced to reduce its shareholding and sold its remaining shareholding in the bank in 1986. The bank was renamed “First National Bank of Southern Africa Limited” in 1987 and became a wholly South African owned and controlled entity.