Brief history of Commercial Bank of the Near East
Commercial Bank of the Near East was one of the first Greek-owned companies based in London. Its network included branches in Istanbul and Egypt (Alexandria and Cairo). Several items from the photo archive give us a glimpse of the branch buildings.
Photos of Commercial Bank of the Near East branches from 1950-1960.
They show views of the buildings housing the main London branch (photo 1), and the branches in the Egyptian cities of Alexandria (photos 3 and 4) and Cairo (photo 5).
Along with visuals of the branches’ architectural styles, the photos provide useful information about interior design and some evidence on how bank operations were carried out in the 1950s (photos 2, 6 and 7).
A Greek-owned bank in London
In November 1922, the General Manager and founder of Emporiki Bank (Commercial Bank of Greece) Grigorios Empedocles joined a group of asset holders with business activities in London to establish Commercial Bank of the Near East Ltd. The bank had its registered office in London and was supervised by the British authorities.
Developing and expanding the network
One of the most urgent priorities of Commercial Bank of the Near East was to acquire the branch operated by Emporiki Bank in Istanbul. With the Turkish authorities constantly disrupting operations, Emporiki Bank was unable to keep the branch going.
The presence of Commercial Bank of the Near East at the then capital of the Ottoman Empire was necessary to make the most of the opportunities afforded by the bullion market.
In 1923 the shares of Commercial Bank of the Near East were listed for trading on the London stock exchange. The commercial firm J. F. Costopoulos became one of the first shareholders.
A few years later, in 1926, the bank expanded its operations into Egypt with its new branch in Alexandria. The following year the bank’s shares were also listed on the Alexandria stock exchange.
A second Egyptian branch opened in Cairo in 1950.
In the years following WWII, the Commercial Bank of the Near East network was forced to undergo fierce changes.
After the pogrom unleashed against the ethnic Greeks of Istanbul in September 1955, the bank had to suspend the operation of the city’s branch over the following year.
To ensure that their undertakings would not have to suffer the consequences of the Suez Crisis in full, the Emporiki Bank management entered into negotiations with the Egyptian government.
It was decided that the Commercial Bank of the Near East branches in Egypt would become part of the Emporiki Bank network. As a result, they continued to operate without disruption.
Commercial Bank of the Near East still belonged to the Emporiki Bank Group, but now operated only out of the London branch.
The course of the bank in London
In 1964 shipowner Stratis Andreadis acquired the controlling majority previously owned by Emporiki Bank. Therefore, he assumed direct control of Commercial Bank. After his death, the Bank was controlled by his heirs.
In the years that followed, the bank showed significant growth. After a long, successful course, 1990 saw the decision to change the bank’s name to Commercial Bank of London.
Joining the Alpha Bank Group
In November 1994 Alpha Credit Bank acquired Commercial Bank and renamed it Alpha Bank London. At the same time, a new branch in Mayfair was added to the bank’s existing customer service network.
Upon joining the Alpha Credit Bank Group, the bank restructured its array of services, prioritising investment products and real estate financing.
In 1997 Alpha Bank London established Alpha Bank Jersey to carry out banking operations overseas.
The Commercial Bank of the Near East collection of photos
The photos belong to the Commercial Bank of the Near East collection of rare photographic material. They cover the years 1920-1960.
Commercial Bank of the Near East in our publications
You can find more information about Commercial Bank of the Near East in our publications:
- With Wisdom and Vision: ALPHA BANK, 19th – 21st Century, academic advisor: Kostas Kostis. The publication narrates the history of Alpha Bank, from founder J. F. Costopoulos’ first commercial ventures in the 19th century through to the present day. It also includes a wealth of unpublished photographic material, mainly from the Alpha Bank Historical Archives.
Buy the publication With Wisdom and Vision: ALPHA BANK, 19th – 21st Century on the Alpha Bank e-shop.
- Emporiki Bank 1907-2007: Identity Alternations and Corporate Transformations by Margarita Dritsa. Published to mark 100 years of operation, the book examines aspects of Emporiki Bank’s history.
Buy the publication Emporiki Bank 1907-2007: Identity Alternations and Corporate Transformations on the Alpha Bank e-shop.
- Emporiki Bank of Greece: A Chronicle, edited by Vasilis Kremmydas. The publication covers the major milestones in the long history of Emporiki Bank. Only available in Greek.