My career with the Bank began in February 1959, when I started as a Junior Clerk at Northfield branch. Later that year, I was transferred to the Broad Street Head Office to work in the Clearing Department.
The manager of the department at that time was Mr T H (Tommy) Mallett, and the other staff were Miss Agnes Powell, Mrs Edith Cherry, and Val Dawes. In addition, at least one recently recruited male junior was attached to the department for a short spell to assist with the mail, before going into the branch network – at this time, these ‘post boys’ included Michael Frost, David Parkes, Michael Taylor, and Donald Coton.
At that time, Clearing Department was located on the ground floor of Broad Street, at the northeast corner of the building. When the Broad Street Head Office was opened in 1933 there was no provision for a Clearing Department on the plans drawn up for the building’s construction, as the work of handling 'Deposits by way of Credit Advices' was dealt with by the Savings Bank Department (ie the Head Office branch in the Banking Hall). The credit advices were generated in three ways: (1) schedules from businesses; (2) deposits made at one branch for an account at another branch; (3) Direct Transfers from sources connected to the National Savings Movement. By 1942, a tremendous increase in these types of transactions had resulted in an overloading of the work in the Savings Bank Department - a situation exacerbated by the fact that many advices lacked the depositor's account number. At this time, typical monthly deposits numbered 3,956 amounting to £47,124.
In order to more efficiently handle the Credit Advices, a Clearing Department was established in 1943. This new department was located in the southeast corner of the ground floor, in an office marked ‘Controller’ on the original 1933 plans for the building (see left). On those plans, an area of the building was marked for the use of the Bank’s Inspectors [see (A) left], but at some time during the 1950s, the large office had been split into two, with the larger part allocated to the clearing function. Access to the new office was through a door near the Northeast Stairs. The clerical work of the department was done manually until 1956 - a Head Office circular issued to branches stated that 'on and from the 16th November 1956, certain of the work in the Clearing department will be mechanised, and credits other than inter-Branch credits [will be] machine listed and attached to a new form of credit advice MB281A.'
The first manager of the Clearing Department was Mr J W Raftery, who held the joint positions of Bank Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the Clearing Department. He held those positions for six months, until he was appointed a Branch Inspector in November 1943. The joint positions of Bank Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of Clearing Department were then taken up by Mr H Carver. Both Mr Carver (1946) and Mr Raftery (1964) were later to become the Bank's General Manager. Mr D W S Woodcock had control of the department from 1945, at which time he took over responsibility for National Savings Certificates, Defence Bonds, and BMB Coupons.
By 1959, the two main aspects of the clearing function were the handling of the Direct Transfer Scheme (DTS) and the administration of deposits taken at one branch for the crediting of an account at another branch. As noted above, 'schedules from businesses' were in existence in 1943. However, the first reference in the Bank's Annual Report to formal schemes was in 1946: employees have authorised deductions from their wages for credit direct to their private accounts in the Bank. By 1954, over £900,000 per annum was being deposited by this method. By 1976, the amount had grown to almost £19½-million. By this latter date, the credits would have included depositors' total salaries or wages (and not just a savings deduction from it), as the payment of such, direct to bank accounts became more widespread. And, in the 1970s, more and more employers were submitting the data in a computerised form. Computerisation of the Bank's accounting systems in the 1970s resulted in the demise of the Clearing Department.
Inter-branch deposits were probably in existence from an early date - a ‘Cash Difference’ report to the General Manager in 1921, regarding a deposit taken at the Bingley Hall Exhibition branch, for the credit of an account at Ward End branch, referred to a ‘Credit Note’ system for handling such transactions. However, the comparatively low number of inter-branch transactions would not have justified the setting up of a department dedicated to handling them, and as described above, they were dealt with by the Savings Bank Department.
The DTS scheme was a very popular method of saving by deduction from wages and salaries. At the date of the introduction of the scheme, the payment of wages in factories was still largely by cash on a weekly basis. The DTS scheme allowed an employee to authorise his or her employer to deduct a fixed sum each week, and this amount was accumulated, and then remitted to the Bank each month. The Bank's Chairman (Councillor C T Appleby) had predicted the direct crediting of wages, when in 1924, he said in a speech at the opening of Handsworth branch that he saw no reason why every wage earner in the city, should not have a banking account, and he wanted to see the time when they could say to their respective employers: "Instead of paying my money on a Friday night, pay to my credit at the Bank." If that could be brought about, there would result in a great social movement, far reaching in its effect upon the lives of the humblest worker.
Employers operating a DTS scheme brought a list of the deductions made from their employees (details of the deductions were listed in branch order) into Clearing Department, with a cheque equal to the total amount of savings. Our job in Clearing Department was to break these listings down into totals for each branch, and then agree the total of branch amounts to the covering cheque. This was done by cutting the listings into separate pieces for each branch, which were then machine-listed to produce a total amount.
Each of the branch listings were then sorted into a wooden tray that contained sections for each of the branches. Repeating the exercise for each scheme brought into Clearing Department on a particular day, produced a number of listings for each branch. Towards the end of the day, these were again machine-listed, using a carbon-duplicating paper roll, to produce a total for each branch, and an overall total of the day’s credits. This total was then balanced against the total of cheques received from the various DTS schemes for that day.
Similarly, the inter-branch deposit slips were also sorted using the wooden tray. These deposit slips were submitted by branches summarising them on a ‘Credit Advice to Clearing Department’ (MB12) form. After completion of the sorting exercise, the slips were then machine-listed to produce totals for each recipient branch, and those totals agreed to the total of the MB12s.
All the processed deposits, both DTS and inter-branch, were finally placed into a series of pigeonholes placed against the rear wall of the department – approximately 70 pigeonholes being individually labelled for each of the Bank’s branches. Earlier in the day, the post boys would have obtained large, pre-addressed envelopes for each branch, from the Stationery Department, and placed them in each of the pigeonholes. During the day, all of the various Head Office departments placed their outgoing mail for branches into these pigeonholes, and the envelopes were stuffed with all the items at the day’s end.
The post boys kept a record of all outgoing post in a book, and used a set of postal scales and a franking machine to apply the correct postage, then balancing the franking machine’s meter against the record book. Their other duties included opening the incoming mail at the start of the day – this was done in the Secretarial Department on the First Floor, where the General Manager’s Secretary (at that time, Miss L F Lewis) allocated the incoming items into trays for the various recipients. The post boys then distributed the trays to the various senior officers and departments.
Other tasks done by the post boys consisted of collecting and delivering items within the city centre – this involved them visiting other banks (including the Bank of England); the stockbrokers, Chambers & Remington; and the Post Office. They occasionally also helped with miscellaneous jobs, such as assisting in the Stationery Department to number new passbooks.