In 1968 National Provincial Bank (including its subsidiary District Bank) and Westminster Bank, two of Britain's 'Big Five' banks, agreed to merge as National Westminster Bank. The statutory process of integration was completed in 1969 and National Westminster Bank commenced trading on 1 January 1970, adopting the three-arrowheads symbol as its logo. The new bank immediately embarked on a process of branch rationalisation, closing branches where representation was duplicated and opening offices in areas of new commercial and industrial activity as well as in hospitals and universities. A wider range of services was introduced including Access, the bank's first credit card, in 1972 and computer-linked Servicetills in 1976.
Beyond the domestic market, the newly-created International Banking Division sought to provide international banking services to large companies and to focus on expansion in the USA, the Far East and Europe. A syndicated venture to finance North Sea oil in 1972 led to continuing involvement in energy exploration and major project finance such as the channel tunnel. In Europe National Westminster Bank's representation was supplemented by investments in France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and Switzerland, whilst the purchase in 1979 of the National Bank of North America, with 141 branches in the City and State of New York, marked a move into retail banking in the USA.
Deregulation in the 1980s, culminating in 'Big Bang' in 1986, also encouraged National Westminster to enter the securities business. County Bank, originally District Bank's merchant banking subsidiary, acquired stock-broking and jobbing firms to create NatWest Investment Bank. National Westminster Home Loans was established in 1980, to provide a comprehensive mortgage service, and other initiatives included the formation of the Small Business Unit in 1982 and launch of the first children's account, the 'Piggy Account', alongside a range of other new savings products, in 1983. The 'Action Bank' advertising campaign spearheaded a new marketing-led approach to business development.
Other technological developments followed the computerisation of all the bank's branches by 1970. National Westminster Bank led the growth of on-line cash dispensing machines in the 1970s and in the 1980s further new services were developed such as telephone banking and touch-screen share dealing to assist the government's privatisation programme. In 1988 the Switch debit card extended the electronic transfer of money to point of sale and later developments included the Mondex card, which acted as an 'electronic purse', and interactive cable TV home banking. In the USA National Westminster Bank established National Westminster Bancorp, following the acquisition of First Jersey National Corporation in 1988. Further US acquisitions followed and by 1995 National Westminster Bancorp had a branch network of over 340 branches across two states.
In 1989 a major restructuring programme, aimed at devolving more power to each business sector, commenced. Two years later the Group's international private banking businesses were assimilated under the Coutts & Co name and in 1992 NatWest Markets was formed from the Group's corporate banking and investment arms. These events were accompanied by a wide-ranging review of all operations, which led to the sale of a number of businesses, including National Westminster Bancorp. Significant new ventures were, however, embarked upon, including the launch of a life assurance business, NatWest Life, in 1993.
In 1995 the group was restyled NatWest Group to reflect the positioning of the company as a portfolio of businesses. In March 2000 it was acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group to create the third largest banking group in the UK. The retail bank continued to trade on the high street under the NatWest brand, and in 2020 the Group was renamed NatWest Group.
Branches: The bank had 3,600 branches throughout England and Wales when it was formed by the merger of the three existing branch networks in January 1970.
- R Reed, National Westminster Bank: a Short History (London: privately published by National Westminster Bank, 1983, revised, 1989)
- F MacColl, The Key to our Success: a Brief History of the Growth of NatWest Group (London: privately published by National Westminster Bank, 1996)
Summary of our archive holdings
Our archival records of National Westminster Bank plc have the reference code NWB.
For help understanding words used here, check our glossary of banking record types (PDF 68KB).
- amalgamation notices to customers 1968-9
- management consultant's reports to the board re future strategy 1968-70
- corporate planning files 1968-72
- minute books and papers relating to meetings of the board, regional boards and board committees 1968-(1985)
- memorandum and articles of association 1968, 1981-2
- annual reports 1968-(1985)
- National Westminster Bank Act 1969
- National Westminster Bank Act 1969 (Appointed Day) Order 1969
- chairman's office papers 1969-70
- directors' papers 1969-(1985)
- departmental and divisional papers 1968-(1985)
- company secretary’s papers 1968-(1985)
- annual general meeting proceedings reports 1969-(1985)
- customer magazines 1968-(1985)
- cheques and travellers cheques, specimen cheques and files re the production of cheques 1970s-(1985)
- staff magazines 1968-(1985)
- staff clubs and societies records 1968-(1985)
- pensioners' association newsletters and papers 1968-(1985)
- staff conditions of service 1968
- staff training and information videos 1980-(1985)
- rules of the staff sickness fund 1971-4
- architectural drawings 1970-(1985)
- photographs of branches and other bank buildings 1970s-(1985)
- photographs, presscuttings and correspondence relating to the NatWest Tower 1970-(1985)
- advertisement videos 1969-(1985)
- staff recruitment booklets and advertisements 1969-(1985)
- promotional films 1970-c.80
- press releases 1974-(1985)
- calendars 1985-(1985)
- papers re National Westminster Bank Trophy, including programmes and score cards 1981-(1985)
- National Westminster Bank Quarterly Review, economic magazine 1968-(1985)
- papers re Committee of London Clearing Bankers 1902-83
- minute book of the South Lancashire Centre of the Institute of Bankers 1965-82
- photographs of directors 1968-(1985)
- selected records