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It’s all ‘foreign’ to us…

The provision of international services in branch banking has come full circle. At Martins Bank it begins with a select few offices whose work seems almost secretive to those who do not work in them (see “Foreign to You “article below).  The service rolls out to all branches through the provision of currency and travellers’ cheques, and in the twenty-first century it has largely disappeared, with currency shops widely found on high streets and in supermarkets.  To say that the Bank operates “OVERSEAS BRANCHES” is perhaps a little misleading, as it implies some kind of network of offices abroad. 



What it actually refers to, is three key branches in England that process international payments, stocks and shares and securities, Martins’ Cross-Channel Branch, which operates on the Dover to Calais sailings, and an office in Paris which gathers statistical information on European and World trade and reports directly to the Bank’s Information Department at Head Office in Liverpool.  From 1966 Martinplanning is rolled out as the way to save and plan for that trip of a lifetime. Alongside the specialist provision of international trade and travel services in Liverpool Manchester and London, every one of Martins Bank’s Branches and sub-Branches is able to deal with the issue of foreign currency and travellers’ cheques to holidaymakers and business travellers, and forty-one of them are designated “SPECIAL FOREIGN BRANCHES” including the somewhat unlikely yet exotic sounding “BRADFORD OVERSEAS”! Originally Martins Bank’s three overseas offices were known as “Foreign” branches. Whilst they do much more than simply handling travellers’ cheques, it is worth noting that the payment of these cheques is the first and only part of Martins clearings to be fully automated and handled by computer.  The work of the Overseas Branches is complex, varied and integral to projecting and maintaining a good image of the Bank around the World…


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For many branches the provision of travel facilities is their main contact with Overseas work. Under the overall direction of the Chief Overseas Manager, three Overseas branches in London, Liverpool and Manchester, together with the foreign departments of 41 'special' branches placed strategically throughout the country, deal each day with a variety of overseas business which may be FOREIGN TO YOU…


But it's quite simple; when I found I had signed it wrongly I tore it up.' Though not quite the normal treatment to accord a Travellers' Cheque this was, in fact, one of the many explanations offered last year in support of a refund application. Over five million pounds worth of Travellers' Cheques were issued in 1965, to say nothing of currency notes, but this formed only a small part of the Bank's total overseas business, some of which could hardly be termed 'banking'.  We heard, for example, of the appeal from a very worried customer whose daughter, living in New York, had just advised her family that she was getting married in a few days' time. Naturally they were anxious to know something of the prospective bridegroom, and who better to turn to than the Bank ? Their fears were soon dispelled by a cable from one of our banking friends in New York showing the groom to be a 'good catch'. One of the most important functions of the Overseas management is to foster close personal connections with our foreign correspondents and to keep up to date with the ever changing political and economic conditions throughout the world, thus providing current informa­tion for the use of customers and important data when considering facilities for overseas correspondents. Clearly it would be folly to grant excessive facilities to a bank in a country whose economy is weak or whose government is unstable, or to maintain large balances in, or stocks of notes of, a country whose currency is likely to be devalued. Both situations call for appropriate protective measures.


Keeping in touch


The Overseas management make regular visits abroad and when visiting European countries are accompanied by M. Francois Garelli, our Continental Representative, whose office is in Paris and who keeps them in constant touch with happenings on the Continent. To most of us the word 'work' may seem inappropriate when talking of visits to such places as New York, Hong Kong, Bermuda or Mexico City, but after seeing some of the itineraries and the number of calls made we conceded that it might be justified. Before the trip starts there is a lot of careful planning to be done: they do not launch themselves Bond-like into the blue. Hotel reservations must be made; rail and plane bookings, often entailing uncomfortable overnight travel, fixed; appointments arranged; statistics and reciprocity figures studied. These trips tend to follow a pattern averaging six or seven banking calls each day in addition to other engage­ments. Discussions range over local conditions, the political and economic climate, possible banking changes, local banking practice, and our business relationship with the bank being visited. At the end of the day reports on each of the visits must be completed for mailing back home—that night if possible. Then there is the diary to be written up and, thanks to the advent of 'drip-dry', the laundry to be done. Mention of 'Exchange Dealers' conjures up a vision of flashing lights, ringing phones, clattering Telex machines and whirring calculators. We found this picture of the dealers' room real enough and made more confusing by a continual patter containing such un­intelligible phrases as 'How would you swop 10th August against 14th December in dollars?', 'We're looking for the bid for a few six months cross', 'How do you deal in Paris over the weekend ?', and I’ll make you ten to par in marks over the turn'. We asked for the translations and hope these  will make everything clear.


1.          A request for a dealing rate in U.S. dollars against sterling, purchasing or selling the early date against a counter deal in the longer date.


2.          An indication that the dealers are potential sellers of Canadian dollars for delivery in six months' time against U.S. dollars and would welcome a firm bid.


3.          An enquiry as to how the market deals in French francs against sterling for delivery on Friday against delivery on Monday.


4.          An offer to deal in Deutsche Marks against sterling for delivery on the last day of this month against the first day of next month at a rate of 1/10th Pfennig to par.


Underneath the bustle and the jargon the dealers' smooth transactions total many millions of pounds and play their part in maintaining London's position as the major Foreign Exchange Market in the world. Although Exchange Control is now less rigorous, 'Authorised Banks' are still heavily involved in its administration. As well as authorising the more routine applications the Overseas branches assist customers in preparing and submitting applicators to be considered by the Bank of England. These may be fairly straightforward as, for example, an application dealing with the purchase of a holiday villa in Spain. But they may be more involved, concerned perhaps with the giving of a guarantee in support of borrowing abroad by the foreign subsidiary of a United Kingdom Company.  In addition, the Overseas branches give a considerable amount of advice and guidance to customers and branches on Exchange Control matters in general, sometimes accompanying customers at personal interviews at the Bank of England. Changes in Government policy such as the imposition of sanctions against Rhodesia can directly affect the work of the Overseas branches and departments. Other changes, such as the import surcharge, have an indirect effect through their influence on customers' business. All changes, however, bring their quota of queries and calls for advice.


Advising and guiding customers and branches on all facets of overseas work whether due to a policy change or not, whether in connection with complex financial arrangements involving capital projects abroad, in preventing a ship being arrested in a foreign port or, more simply, how to effect a transfer abroad, have always formed an important part of the Overseas service. To have to arrange the disposal of bursting barrels of apricot pulp; to have hundreds of Pakistani tennis racquets delivered over the counter without warning; to have to find a room with a suitable northern light to facilitate the examination of a valuable emerald, or to be offered a bag of loose diamonds instead of shipping documents were hardly the types of problem we expected to hear of in connection with documentary credits and collections. Of course, these are the exceptions and the majority of the increasing thousands of export and import transactions handled each year are settled without undue difficulty. We heard of instances where documents presented under a credit were so numerous that they had to be delivered in cartons. We have not mentioned the securities work carried out, the thousands of payments made and received, the status reports obtained, or the complex book-keeping systems which are necessary for the many currencies involved. All play their part in providing an efficient service to customers and correspondents but, to us, the most important feature of this highly specialised side of banking was the number of people from managers downward so obviously anxious to help in finding a solution to the problems at the branches. Only a tele­phone call away is someone with the answer to the things that are FOREIGN TO YOU…

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Going Away…

Pocket GuidesDon’t forget to ask for the latest rules and details for foreign exchange. Martins’ handy pocket guides are free, and special editions tailored to your journey are also available from British Eagle Airways.  Martins Bank travellers’ cheques are welcome in a large number of countries around the world, so make sure you order yours in good time for your holiday.  Just pop into any Martins Branch, where the staff will go to extremes to help you plan your holiday!  


Going away couldn’t be easier with Martins Bank!  They have everything to help you, from handy guides to your destination, to those all important travellers cheques to spend when you get there…


Martins Bank’s specialist OVERSEAS BRANCHES at Liverpool, Manchester and London are at your disposal, and the Bank’s INFORMATION DEPARTMENT regularly reviews and reports on business trends in a number of countries.

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“How Martins Bank can help you when travelling either at home or abroad, is described briefly in our leaflet “Money for Travel”.  Any branch will gladly give you a copy, whether you are a customer of Martins Bank or not.”

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Money for Travel…

If you are thinking of travelling, either in this country or abroad, there are many ways in which the financial services provided by Martins Bank can help you. These services are described briefly in the following notes, but any further details which you may require will be gladly supplied at any of our branches. Where travel is outside the Scheduled Territories please be guided by the information given in the paragraph on Exchange Control.


Travellers’ Cheques


This is generally the safest and most convenient way of carrying money. Martins Bank Travellers' Cheques are issued in units of £2, £5, £10, £20 and £50, and if they should be lost or stolen you can obtain a prompt refund of their value, subject only to your signing a simple form of declaration. The cheques can be encashed not only at the branches of all the main banks in the British Isles but also in most places abroad, and are Frequently accepted in payment at hotels and stores and on ships.


Foreign Currency Travellers’ Cheques


Travellers' Cheques expressed in certain foreign currencies and issued by our correspondent banks abroad can be ordered, if required, through any branch of Martins Bank. When travelling in the United States of America, particularly in areas away from the main centres, it is advisable to take at least a part of one's requirements in the form of Travellers' Cheques in dollar denominations.


Circular letters of credit


Circular Letters of Credit are issued by Martins Bank for amounts of up to £2,000, and enable the holder to obtain funds as required from any of our branches and from numerous appointed offices of other banks at home and abroad.


Open Credits


An Open Credit is useful for anyone likely to stay for some time in one place, since it provides for encashment of one's own cheques, up to an agreed limit, at a particular office of Martins Bank or of another bank at home or abroad.


Transfers by Air Mail or Cable


The Bank can make arrangements by either air mail or cable for funds to be paid over through a bank abroad to a particular person on application and after identification. This is useful for travellers already abroad who find themselves in urgent need of money.


Foreign Currencies


When you go abroad it is wise to carry some foreign currency with you in addition to any other means of payment which you may have. This will ensure that" you can cover your immediate needs on arrival at your destination, particularly if you are likely to arrive outside banking hours—it should be noted, for example, that banks abroad, and especially in Europe, are often closed on Saturdays. Most foreign currencies are available in this country and can be obtained through any branch of our Bank. When such foreign currency is being obtained, it is advisable to ascertain from the branch con­cerned what restrictions, if any, are in force in respect of the import and export of currency for the countries to be visited.


Exchange Control


If you are going abroad and your destination is within the Sterling Area (technically known as “the Scheduled Territories”), there are no Exchange Control regulations which limit the amount of money you may take, although there is a limit to the total which may be taken in the form or sterling or other bank-notes. This restriction, however, does not apply to the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands or the Irish Republic.  For journeys to countries outside the Sterling Area the amount of monev which you may take with you in any form is governed be Exchange Control regulations. These regulations, of course, also govern the amount of money which may be transferred to you when you are abroad. The total amount of money which anyone is per­mitted to have when abroad will depend on the purpose and duration of the journey concerned, and information about the current regulations will gladly be given to you at any branch of Martins Bank.  You can obtain the official leaflet “Notice to Travellers” at the same time.

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Chief Overseas Branch :

80 Gracechurch Street,

London EC3

Telephone :

Mansion House 6568


Liverpool Overseas Branch :

4 Water Street,

Liverpool 2


Central 5428


Manchester Overseas Branch :

47 Spring Gardens,

Manchester 2

Telephone :

Deansgate 4061/7 and 3585/6

Head Office :

4 Water Street,

Liverpool 2.

Martins Bank Travellers Cheques…

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In 1949, exchange controls are still very strict after the Second World War, and to bring the point home about how much holiday money a person is allowed to take abroad in cash, the British Government commissions a public information film entitled “FIVE POUNDS IN NOTES”. Made by British Pathé with the independent film maker Richard Massingham (pictured), who is responsible for many popular quirky short instructional films, it reminds those about to travel abroad that they must take the bulk of their money in travellers’ cheques, and only five Pounds in Sterling banknotes.  In fact the cash itself is really only meant to be taken with you in order that you will  bring it back again at the end of the holiday to meet any unexpected financial needs at home! Sep 1.jpg

1963: Electronic Book-keeping has arrived…

By 1963, Martins’ programme of computerisation is well under way – Cheques are routinely read and sorted by machine in London District Office. Travellers’ Cheques are seen by many banks as one of the important areas of modern banking that must be given priority when it comes to computers.  Lloyds, Martins AND Barclays all make strong moves towards this in the mid- to late 1960s. 

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In November 1963, the Bank issues this letter (left) to its correspondents abroad, advising them of the changes to its Travellers’  Cheques. There is now MAGNETIC INK encoding, including one of two new SORTING CODES for CHIEF OVERSEAS  Branch: “11-77-20” which replaces the previous National Number “11-2”. 

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There is also space for an account number (the seven digit serial number of the cheque).  A transaction code – 44 – will be used to denote a Travellers’ Cheque. The cheques no longer bear evidence of Stamp Duty paid, and they also become open-dated for the first time. Previously the validity of the Cheques had to expire twelve months from the date of issue.

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A friendly face, wherever you go…

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Thanks to the network of Correspondent Banks abroad that have reciprocal arrangements with Martins Bank, you can be sure that a high standard of service will be offered to you wherever you go! 

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When you tell the Bank your destination, they will provide you with a comprehensive list of banks located in hundreds of towns in your chosen country. Martins go to such extremes, in order to ensure that “Going Away” with Martins Bank Travellers Cheques is an easy and carefree experience! 

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When you purchase your cheques, Martins’ friendly and helpful staff will go to extremes to ensure that you are aware of the rules governing the use of the cheques, and that you know just what to do in the event that cheques are lost or stolen.  So before your journey starts, you should take a moment to remind yourself:

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1.    Your cheques will be issued in an attractive wallet.

2.    Please be sure to keep your unused cheques in the wallet, as it also contains full instructions for use.

3.    Please be sure to read the Cautionary Notice - this is a step by step guide to using and looking after your Travellers Cheques.

4.    Remember: As the cheques themselves are as good as cash, you must treat them like any of your other valuable personal property.

5.    Don’t forget to record the details of the cheques that you use – this will help you keep track of your spending, and is of particular use to the Bank if the other cheques become lost or stolen.

6.            This sheet also provides a reminder of how to call Martins from abroad if such a problem arises.


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