Marking Barclays’ 100th birthday on the Isle of Man
As Barclays celebrates its centenary on the Isle of Man, we look at 100 years of history on this global financial hub. This article runs in parallel with a week of celebrations, which will include events for former colleagues, a dinner with clients, and even displays of old uniforms in branches.
It was on 29 May 1922 when we opened our first branch on the Isle of Man, located on at 30 Victoria Street, before being issued with a licence to print banknotes on the island two years later.
Needless to say, when the branch opened, our methods of doing business were practically unrecognisable from today. The main requirement for clerks was to have tidy handwriting and excellent mental arithmetic. If customers wanted to withdraw cash from another Barclays branch, they needed to obtain advance permission.
In the 1970s, Barclays established several trust companies on the island and in 1987, created an International Private Banking office, which became part of the new wealth management division. Fast forward to today, and we now have three branches in Douglas, Ramsay, and Castletown, offering services to personal and premier customers, as well as overseas corporates, fiduciaries, fund administrators, family office, and captives.
Pioneering spirit and history of innovation
Graeme Sullivan is Chief Operating Officer of the Isle of Man platform at Barclays, having taken over the role three months ago. In his view, it’s an exciting place to be: “The Isle of Man is a leading international finance hub, renowned for its innovation and high standards of regulation and professionalism,” he says.
“The people on the island are special and their talent brings unrivalled knowledge across all sectors of the financial services industry, cementing the island’s position as a global trailblazer.”
Despite being a self-governing British crown dependency, the island also has a strong reputation worldwide. “The Isle of Man is known for its pioneering spirit and history of innovation, which is largely the result of the political stability brought about by Tynwald (the longest-running continuous parliament in the world). Its economy is also well-diversified and it has strong positive relationships with other international business centres,” reflects Graeme.
As a testament to this, the island has been awarded an Aa1 sovereign rating from Moody’s1 and been highlighted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a well-regulated offshore Finance Centre of Excellence2.
The Isle of Man has also been at the fore of several key innovations in banking. It was one of the first non-EU countries to share bank information automatically across the EU3, and was among the first jurisdictions to sign the G20 agreement on The Common Reporting Standard4 (an information standard regarding financial accounts between tax authorities on a global level). The island is also an OECD white-list5 jurisdiction for transparency and cooperation with the EU, the IMF, and Financial Action Task Force regulations.
“I’ve seen 42 years of change”
Throughout our 100-year history on the island, our bank has unsurprisingly undergone significant transformations. As the longest-serving employee on the island, life-long resident and Senior Analyst in Credit Operations Alison Harvey, has witnessed many of these first hand.
“When I joined, the computers were the size of your desk and now a mobile phone does more than those computers. We had to feed information into the computer called a TC 500 via a paper tape with punched holes in it to upload and change programmes,” says Alison, who marked her 42nd anniversary with Barclays on 27 May 2022.
Having started in 1980, her original uniform is one of those displayed as part of an exhibition in branches. “My original job title was “Junior”. Everyone who started was “The Junior” until someone else joined the branch and then they became The Junior.”
As well as technical advancements, there have also been far-reaching cultural changes since Alison began her career. “When I joined, the senior staff were called Mr and Mrs. You didn’t call them by their first name and it seemed as though the bank manager was always a man. But now, you have women in really senior positions,” says Alison, who will be missing the colleague party for the centenary to celebrate her 30th wedding anniversary.
For Emily Naish who manages the island’s three branches, its stunning landscape and welcoming culture are also key attractions. “I was born in the UK and moved to the island when I was five,” says Emily. “It’s a safe environment if you want to bring up a family and if you like nature and taking walks, it’s a great place to be and you can always hear the ocean.”
Being a Barclays’ colleague is a family affair for Emily, with her father having had a 40-year career with the bank and her mother being a 39-year veteran. Emily, in fact, took over the role of branch manager from her mother in 2019. “People who work here tend to stay for a long time and I think that says a lot about a company.”
The next 100 years
With the Isle of Man continuing to enhance its position as a financial hub, Barclays has a clear vision for our future in the region. Later this year, we’ll reveal a new campus for our wealth services on the island, which will be a multi-million-pound investment. Likewise, our Eagle Lab innovation hubs will continue to offer support to local and international entrepreneurs in partnership with the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce and the Isle of Man Department for Enterprise.
“The island’s motto says it all,” says Graeme. “‘Quocunque Jeceris Stabit', translates into ‘whithersoever you throw it, it will stand’, and is an extremely powerful and accurate reflection of the mentality that drives success even during times of adversity.”
Historical details relating to the bank were obtained from physical archives held on the Isle of Man.