Glasgow branch daybook, 1783

NatWest Group History 100 object 22: first daybook of the Royal Bank's Glasgow agency, beginning 1783.

This book records in chronological order each transaction at the Royal Bank of Scotland's Glasgow branch. It was begun on 15 September 1783, the day the office first opened its doors. The new venture had autonomy to make decisions locally, meaning that for the first time, the bank's Glasgow customers knew that decisions affecting them were being made locally, in their own community.

Before the agency opened, the Royal Bank already had customers in Glasgow, but there were considerable challenges for both bank and customer in doing business 40 miles apart. Transactions were slow and difficult, requiring long hours travelling or complicated exchanges of letters. Furthermore, Edinburgh and Glasgow were two very different cities. Their citizens read different newspapers from each other, and experienced different fashions and entertainments. They marked different public holidays and their shops sold goods at different prices. All this made it hard for the bank in Edinburgh to base its decisions on good, current information about their customers' lives and circumstances in Glasgow.

An enterprise run by and for Glasgow citizens

Determined to change this situation, the bank appointed two men to run a new agency in Glasgow; David Dale and Robert Scott Moncrieff. Dale was already well known and respected in Glasgow as a successful businessman and pillar of the community. The branch traded from a corner of his linen shop, and this connection firmly identified it as an enterprise run by and for Glasgow citizens. Dale knew Glasgow, its people and its businesses, equipping him to make well-informed decisions on behalf of the bank. Robert Scott Moncrieff, meanwhile, moved to Glasgow to take up his new role. He stayed there for the next 20 years, running the bank's Glasgow office and becoming involved in countless charitable and community matters in the city. When he retired in 1803 he wanted to stay in Glasgow, but eventually deferred to his wife's wish to return to Edinburgh.

Together, Dale and Scott Moncrieff formed a bridge between the bank's head office in Edinburgh and its customers in Glasgow. They knew which businesses were strong and which were riskier; they often heard before Edinburgh about significant shipwrecks and influential international affairs; and, on a more simple level, they knew their customers. This was invaluable, for example in April 1803, when the bank's cashier wrote to Glasgow because he had heard worrying gossip suggesting that James Paterson, one of the bank's Glasgow customers, had gone bankrupt. Scott Moncrieff was immediately able to set him straight before the bank took any action: 'There are 3 James Patersons', he wrote, 'our James of the East Sugar House who is very good, James grocer in the Gallowgate does not deal with us but I am told is in good credit and James grocer in New Street, who has stopped.'