Bank of Otago

Banknote (AM 605796-4).jpg
Oamaru branch building. Opened in the winter of 1871 and later bought by the since defunct National Bank.

The Bank of Otago was a bank which operated in southern New Zealand in the 1860s and 1870s.

The Bank of Otago Limited was incorporated in London in 1863. The sale of its shares was promoted by its board of directors, including Alexander Lang Elder, referring to the Otago goldfields and the spectacular growth in the amount of gold exported from Otago.[1][2] The shares were listed on the London Stock Exchange and special enabling legislation enacted in New Zealand, (the) Bank of Otago Limited Act, 1863.[3]

From the main office in Dunedin, twelve branches were established within Otago's sphere of influence. The bank managed to survive rather than prosper. The gold rushes ended. It was sold on 1 July 1873 to form the core of the new National Bank of New Zealand.


The Head Office was to be in London and the chief branch in Dunedin. Other branches or agencies were to be established at such settlements as the directors would determine. The many advertisements announced: "The Bank will receive money on deposit in London and New Zealand, repayable at long and short dates, open drawing accounts in the colony, issue Notes, discount Bills, conduct exchange operations, receive dividends, interest, &c, for customers, effect purchases and sales in funds, stock, &c, for them, and transact all other legitimate banking business."[4]

Open for business

54-year-old John Bathgate was sent by the London board to be colonial manager (chief executive in New Zealand). He arrived in Dunedin on 23 November 1863.[5][6] He was a Scottish solicitor with banking experience. His practice in Peebles — then a centre of the Scottish woollen industry — had extended to his taking on the Peebles agency for the Union Bank of Scotland.[7] [8]

Bathgate resigned his Bank of Otago post in 1867 after two of his accounts proved to be unsatisfactory investments of bank funds.[9] He was replaced by 34-year-old Australian-born William Larnach, who was appointed from London and arrived in Dunedin in September 1867 to be chief colonial manager of the bank.[10] Larnach had joined the Bank of New South Wales about 1863 and risen to manager of their Geelong branch at a time when poor communications placed heavy responsibility on branch managers. Larnach was well-connected: his uncle, Donald Larnach, was later chairman of the London board of the Bank of New South Wales. William Larnach was also a family friend of W. J. T. Clarke, said at that time to be the richest man in Australasia. After the Bank of Otago merged with the National Bank Larnach remained with them a further twelve months.[11]


The National Bank of New Zealand was incorporated in London in 1872 by a different group of people including a number of former high profile New Zealand residents, among them former Governor Thomas Gore Browne, former Speaker Charles Clifford and former Wellington Provincial Superintendent Isaac Featherston.[12]

The negotiation of the terms on which The National Bank of New Zealand would absorb The Bank of Otago were completed on 17 April 1873.[13][14] The bank's business was handed over by William Larnach on 1 July 1873.[15] Larnach remained manager of the new bank into 1874.[16]

The twelve branches of Bank of Otago taken over by the National Bank were (with managers):[15]


  1. ^ Money-Market & City Intelligence. The Times, Saturday, April 25, 1863, Issue 24542, p.13.
  2. ^ Classified advertisements, The Times, 29 April 1863, page 1
  3. ^ "New Zealand Acts as Enacted"
  4. ^ The Bank of Otago Limited," Otago Daily Times, 10 October 1863, p. 4.
  5. ^ "The Money Market," Otago Daily Times, 17 September 1863, p. 4.
  6. ^ "Shipping Intelligence," Otago Daily Times, 24 November 1863, p. 4.
  7. ^ Scholefield, G. H., "Bathgate, John", A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Wellington: 1940. p. 48.
  8. ^ The Bank of Otago," Otago Daily Times, 11 November 1863. p. 10.
  9. ^ "Public Notices," Otago Daily Times, 10 September 1867 p. 3.
  10. ^ "Public Notices," Otago Daily Times, 12 September 1867. p. 3.
  11. ^ Scholefield, G. H., "Larnach, William James Mudie", A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Wellington: 1940. p. 485.
  12. ^ Classified advertisements, The Times, 16 August 1872. p. 1.
  13. ^ "Dunedin", The Evening Post, 17 April 1873. p. 2.
  14. ^ Social," Otago Daily Times, 14 May 1873. p. 2.
  15. ^ a b "Notice," Otago Daily Times, 21 June 1873. p. 2.
  16. ^ The Arrow Observer and Lakes District Chronicle", Lake County Press, 16 January 1874. p. 2.

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