The oldest bank in the world is the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which was founded in 1472. It has continued to operate across the centuries, and is still open today. As a financial institution, banks have become almost central to the formation of cities and businesses.
Some banks have even outlived the countries they were founded in, continuing to provide financial services to people generations on from those who first required assistance.
Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (otherwise known as BMPS) is the oldest bank in the world that still operates today. Founded in 1472 by the order of Magistrature of the Republic of Siena, this Italian bank existed before the unification of Italy itself.
It expanded across the region during the 17th and 18th century, and nowadays is the fourth-largest commercial bank in Italy. In 1472, when this bank was created, Leonardo da Vinci was listed as a Master in the Florence Company of Artists. It would be another 30 years before he went on to paint the Mona Lisa.
Founded over a century later, the Berenberg Bank is the second-oldest bank still operational, and the oldest merchant bank. The Berenberg Bank was founded by brothers Hans and Paul Berenberg in Hamburg, 1590. The bank grew with the rise of the city, and is part-owned today by descendants of the original owners.
The third-oldest bank in the world is the Sveriges Riksbank, founded in 1668. Commonly known as the Riksbanken, this is the oldest central bank still in operation today. This bank was founded under control of the Riksdag of Estates, which was at the time the second-highest authority in Sweden.
The only higher authority, the king, was prevented from gaining control of the bank. The previous bank, the Stockholm Banco, had recently been ruined under his authority. The king had allowed the issue of too many notes without collateral.
The fourth-oldest bank that is still operational is C. Hoare & Co. This bank was founded in 1672 by Richard Hoare, and is the oldest bank still in use in the United Kingdom. Among the bank’s famous clientele are Lord Byron and Jane Austen.
Following just two years later, the Bankhaus Metzler was established in 1674 by Benjamin Metzler. Originally founded as a cloth trading business, it transitioned fully into a bank in around 1760. It’s still operating in Frankfurt today, and partly controlled by descendants of Benjamin Metzler.
The Bank of Venice is considered to be the first national bank established in Europe. This operated between the years of 1157 and 1797. The Taula de Canvi, created in 1401 but no longer operational, is considered the world’s first central bank.
Established in 1407, The Bank of Saint George in the Republic of Genoa operated until 1805. It’s considered one of the oldest chartered banks in the world.
Despite the massive cultural and financial changes seen in the world since Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena opened in 1472, banks are still a major part of the economy. Valued for both private and professional support, banking has grown and changed across the years.
Banks, in one way or another, have been around for an incredibly long time. All the way back to 2000 BC, when merchants gave grain loans to travelling farmers.
Some form of money lending can be found in ancient cultures around the world, including Persia and Mesopotamia. The lending of food and animals was also subject to modern ideas of interest.
Before the founding of banks with steel safes, wealthy Romans needed another way to keep their money protected. Traditionally, it was kept in temples, with coins and jewelry stored in the basement.
As well as storing the money, temples would also loan money out. This practice was also adopted by wealthy merchants. While temples handled larger loans, the merchants would deal with the rest.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the idea of European banking faded with it. It only began to rise again with the establishment of merchant banks in medieval times. The Bank of Venice is thought to be the first national bank to be founded within Europe.
This was established in Venice in 1157, and continued to operate until it was forced to close during the French invasion in 1797. From this initial establishment, banks continued to grow across Europe. Italian banking families gained power, including the famous house of Medici, who founded their bank in 1327. It was in operation until 1494.
While banking as we know it didn’t arise until the end of the 17th century, banking is an incredibly ancient practice. Evidence of historical banking has been found almost worldwide, with lenders and interest being a fairly common part of many ancient lives.