The Eastern Bank Limited

The Eastern Bank Limited

The Eastern Bank Ltd. was founded in London in 1909 as a new Eastern exchange bank to help finance trade with the East. As well as the Head Office in London, which exercised close day-to-day control, it had two overseas branches established in 1910 in Bombay and Calcutta.

The Eastern Bank expanded into the Ottaman province of Mesopotamia (now Iraq), opening a Baghdad branch in 1912. The branch was closed by Turkey at the start of the First World War. However, as British power increased in the region, the Bank profited greatly from British support and from the banking business of the Indian Government. The Baghdad branch was reopened and further branches in the region were opened at Basra (1915), Amarah (1916), Mosul (1919) and Kirkuk (1926).

After the First World War the Eastern Bank faced stiff competition in India from older-established British banks, and needed to diversify. It thus became the pioneer of modern banking in the small sheikdoms on the Arab side of the Gulf, British protectorates which lacked modern financial institutions. The first such branch opened in Bahrain in 1920.

During the 1930s and 40s, Barclays Bank (DCO) started to acquire a stake in Eastern Bank. By 1957 Barclays held a controlling 65% of the bank’s capital which they sold on to Chartered Bank.

Eastern Bank became a wholly owned subsidiary of Chartered Bank, though from 1957 to 1971 it retained some level of autonomy. In 1969 Chartered Bank merged with Standard Bank forming Standard Chartered.

In 1971 Standard Chartered absorbed Eastern’s operations and the name Eastern Bank slowly disappeared.