Shortly before the Second World War, the Bank's General Manager (J P Hilton) instituted, and chaired, a series of meetings that involved the Assistant General Manager (Frank Ellison), other Head Office staff, and the Branch Managers. The following notes were made of the subjects discussed at what were known as Staff Conferences - the author of the notes is unknown.
[Explanatory Notes - not part of the original notes - are given in square brackets]
At each conference, a member of staff was asked to give a talk on various aspects of banking and the Bank. These subjects included:
- Deceased Accounts;
- House Purchase;
- Cheques from Depositors;
- Staff Welfare;
- Publicity; and
- Giving a public lecture regarding the Bank.
At the first meeting, the General Manager stated that the policy of moving Branch Managers from one branch to another at the expiration of three years, or earlier, had been under review and a greater degree of stability could now be envisaged. This, it was mentioned, would help to create a closer contact between the depositors of the branch and the Manager. Two Internal Audit Clerks had been appointed to release the Auditors from certain duties, enabling them to make greater examination of pass books.
[The previous policy of ensuring a Manager was not at a Branch for more than three years seems to have been a precautionary measure to discourage defalcations, such as occurred at Duddeston Branch in 1924. The appointment of Internal Audit Clerks (later known as Branch Inspectors) provided an alternative anti-fraud measure. The Bank's external Auditors were required by the Regulations to compare at least 10% of passbooks with the ledger - an almost impossible task that was never achieved.]
Several points were raised concerning branch administration, such as:
1. Provision of typewriters for the larger branches. (Mr. Ling)
2. Provision of circular letters or slips for acknowledgement of communications.
3. Supply of Branch Manager's compliment cards. (Mr. Davis)
4. Arrangements for Managers to issue cheques to meet withdrawals (Mr. Sutherland )
5. Provision of a House Purchase leaflet setting out tables of repayments, etc.
The General Manager stated that he would issue a draft form of letter for answering status enquiries.
At the second meeting it was stated that six typewriters had been purchased and distributed to the larger branches. Further to a matter mentioned by Mr. Raftery, namely the publicity activities of the Midland Bank, the General Manager said that consideration was taking place as to whether to revive the practice of addressing meetings in clubs, works, etc. Mr. Duff mentioned that the Midland Bank had recently issued leaflets to factories in the Hockley district.
Annual holidays were mentioned, and the General Manager explained that branches with a staff of four or more would have to carry the holiday period without relief. Branches with three staff would sometimes - if they could be spared - have a member of staff taken from them. Only branches with two staff would have to be found relief staff, and in this connection it was hoped to
have the assistance of former members of staff, as in past years.
At the third meeting (the meetings now being held monthly) it was stated that several slides were available, and a scheme existed for the interchange of slides with the TSBs, and asked for suitable ideas for slides to be produced by the Bank. It was stated that the acknowledgement forms and compliment cards requested at the first meeting would be provided.
The fourth meeting drew attention to the possible amalgamation of the Staff Committee and Club Committee, both of which seemed to overlap in certain points.
The errors in interest and other errors on the Lists of Balances submitted to Head Office was mentioned.
[The List of Balances was the listing of individual accounts produced at the Annual Balance on March 31st.]
Any member of staff wishing to serve in the Fire Brigade or other sections of the Air Raid Precautions Scheme could do so as long as it did not interfere with his duties at the Bank.
[The voluntary Raid Wardens' Service was set up in 1937 and the Auxiliary Fire Service in 1938.]
The monthly meetings were changed to bi-monthly for the period of summer holidays.
The fifth meeting was told by the General Manager that withdrawals by cheque was, unfortunately, not admissible to the City Treasurer.
[It is not clear what the objection of the City Treasurer was - the ability of a Depositor to have a withdrawal in the form of a cheque was introduced shortly afterwards.]
The requested House Purchase leaflet was still not available as the Building Societies Association were still reviewing their code.
[The Building Societies Association produced a Code of Ethics in 1936]
The staff had made a poor response for volunteers for the Pageant of Birmingham. The General Manager thought the staff ought to regard it as a duty to support the Lord Mayor in his aim at making the Pageant a success.
[The Pageant of Birmingham was held in July 1938.]
The sixth meeting raised three important points for Managers. Firstly, a large number of faulty receipts for withdrawals had been found, indicating slackness on the part of the officials concerned. Secondly, some Managers had used their personal accounts to correct some mistake which had been made. Whilst the intention may be genuine, it created suspicion and must cease. Thirdly, a case had arisen that day where two beneficiaries who were minors and unable to give a signature, but had been allowed to make a withdrawal.
At the eighth meeting the General Manager mentioned that he had been unable to get in touch with several branches at 2:45pm. Considering the hours worked in relation to TSBs or the Corporation, he felt that a reasonable time be fixed for leaving premises - to avoid criticism from outside.
[At this time, branches closed at 2:30pm on Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the staff would have departed the branch as soon as possible after that time - particularly on Mondays and Fridays when the branch opened again at 6pm.]
Concerning competition, efforts must be made to counter publicity and activities of other institutions if the bank was to thrive. Although accounts could be opened for paying rates or making periodic payments, the General Manager did not want this facility stressed. An enormous growth had taken place with these outside transactions and there was the danger that unfair advantage might be taken of the facility. Unless it was required for charities, annual subscriptions, etc., it was not to be stressed.
[The popularity of Periodic Payments (later called Standing Orders) grew in the 1930s as the hire purchase system for items such as radios became popular.]
The Midland Bank had been giving lectures to firms, issuing home safes, crediting 2% interest and stressing withdrawals from any branch.
The ninth meeting started with the issue of compliment cards - although mentioned as being in hand, had now been scrapped for the time being.
Special cardboard boxes were now available in case of the need for transferring records to another branch in the event of National Emergency. Mr. S.F. Jones stated he had heard that Joint Stock Banks had been notified that no details except the number of their notes need now be recorded, the number being sufficient for recording purposes.
[In February 1939, the Bank's Committee of Management had agreed that branch staff should duplicate certain records and that these should be stored in a different branch.]
The General Manager explained that owing to enrolments in various National Service Units, the rota arrangements for annual holidays would be upset.
A scheme for limited Saturday leave was mentioned at the tenth meeting, with efforts being made to tag the Saturday onto the annual fortnight.
[The annual fortnight's holiday commenced on a Monday, leave not normally being allowed on Saturdays.]
All Managers were asked to see that respective staffs received practice in what they would be expected to do in the event of an air raid.
The date for the eleventh Staff Conference was set at September 12th 1939. The meeting did not take place due to the outbreak of war and the new date for the eleventh meeting was 14th January 1947.
The General Manager welcomed back those members of staff who had served in H.M. Forces and referred to the three officers who had made the supreme sacrifice.
[A Memorial Plaque was placed in Head Office in 1951]
Managers were reminded that certain accounts were forwarded during the war to the Custodian of Enemy Property. Any depositor now wishing to withdraw such monies must be referred to the Custodian.
[This is a reference to the 'Trading with the Enemy Act 1939']
The twelfth meeting mentioned the fuel shortage and the restriction of no lighting whatsoever between the hours 9am - 12 noon and 2pm - 4pm.
The fourteenth meeting stressed the difficulties that some teachers had in respect of school savings schemes. The bank had now come to a joint decision with the Education Committee and Teachers' Organisations for the introduction of a school coupon system.
The fifteenth meeting stressed once more that although a favourable response had been received by schools to the coupon scheme (163 schools), efforts must not be relaxed in striving to get the scheme more generally accepted.
The date for the next (sixteenth) meeting to be January 13th 1948.
[It is not clear whether this or any other future Staff Conferences took place. The retirement of J P Hilton in 1946 may have been a factor in these regular meetings being abandoned. Later, Branch Managers were called into Head Office for meetings as necessary, for example - the introduction of a new product or procedure.]