For many years I’ve enjoyed talking about the origins of banking with the Medici’s in the Renaissance era. Amazingly, one bank has survived since then and I use them to talk about the oldest bank in the world. Do you know which bank that is?
Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS)
Established in 1472, Leonardo da Vinci was just a teenager (his 20th birthday was two months after the bank opened), and painting his first masterpieces. America was yet to be discovered (some believe), and most of the world was yet to be navigated. At the time the world was flat and the Sun went round the Earth.
This bank made it through the first wars, when Europeans were fighting over the slave trade routes between Europe, Asia and the Americas. Martin Luther was arguing against the Catholic Church and the Reformation began, along with Henry VIII wanting to remarry and so he left the Catholic Church.
The bank saw the French Revolution, possibly whilst eating cake and wondered what would happen as Napoleon rode his horse past the banks’ head office. The bank saw progress from the first railways to nuclear bombs to landing on the moon and building a globally connected network.
I could go on and on – I get boring when you get me on history – but why am I writing this?
Because today [or very soon] is the day the old bank died.
From The Financial Times:
The fate of MPS — which began life as a charitable pawnbroker in 1472 and collapsed into a €5.4bn government bailout four years ago — is being decided in the corridors of power in Milan and Rome.
UniCredit, Italy’s only global systemically important financial institution, is poised to snap up the best bits of MPS from the state, which owns 64 per cent. In doing so it could also set off the long-awaited consolidation of the country’s banking sector.
Just an fyi, the five oldest banks in the world:
- Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Italy, 1492
- Berenberg Bank, Germany, 1590
- Sveriges Riksbank, Sweden, 1668
- C. Hoare & Co, UK, 1672
- Bankhaus Meltzer, Germany, 1694
Anyways, in the spirit of Don MacLean, I would sing a song:
A long, long time ago
In old Siena, near Milano
There was a bank that I knew
That lasted more than a year or two
It made business and people rich
Whilst leaving some, in the ditch
Because loans can make you shiver
With every paper the bank delivers
Bad news on the doorstep
Some couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his mergered bribe
Something touched me deep inside
The day the old bank died
So, bye-bye, Daddy Monte bank
Drove my Chevy to the bank branch, but the branch was dry
And them good ol’ boys were sharing bits and bytes
Singin’, “This’ll be the day that it dies
This’ll be the day that it dies”