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The Other side – Promotion Prospects…

The Other Side.jpgWe love to hear the memories and experiences of Martins Colleagues.  These are amongst the most important contributions to our Archive, as they capture the spirit of what working for Martins was actually like for many people.  We are therefore delighted to reproduce below a chapter from a novel written by Rowland Gerard, which includes some ripe language and evokes a cautionary tale of promotion prospects, set against the magnificent backdrop of Martins Bank’s Head Office Building.  Our thanks go also to our friends at Barclays, who have kindly donated to us, a set of original photographs of Head Office – some of which can be seen below. These were commissioned by the Bank in 1952 and used subsequently in many publications and other promotional materials…

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Now he was on his way back to Head Office and Toby was about to experience his first real selection process. He had been warned by colleagues, that he was a candidate for promotion and all the way to Liverpool on the train he had been conjuring up a smart slogan in case he was asked how to increase business. ‘Surreptitious infiltration’ came to mind. He deliberated for quite some time.  Those were the words, surreptitious infiltration. He thought them over and over again. His mind raced. I know what I think it means but what if they ask me, could I explain it? They won’t, but what if they do, what shall I say? He kept saying to himself; don’t use them but what else was there. They will have heard it all before, the masons, golf club, church, knocking on doors! No, I’ll definitely use surreptitious infiltration.

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He was early for the appointment next day and as he sat there on the tan leather settee in the chief officer’s annexe, his mind drifted to that other bank bit of surreptitious infiltration he had read about in a banking journal. Apparently some old guy, who didn’t have a banking account, had won a football pool prize of £25,000, a considerable sum. The pools company did everything to ensure that they did not incur any adverse publicity. They went to great lengths to insure that their client received the best advice and to that end had a direct link to the Bank senior officers.


When a large win occurred, they would phone the manager of a local branch to arrange an appointment. In this particular case, the nearest branch was the Head office of the Bank. On the Tuesday following the win, the pools people and the old guy arrived. As they went through the rotating teak doors a flunky dressed in a red, three-quarter length jacket, black top hat, royal blue trousers and black patent shoes and buckles, ushered them past a large horseshoe-shaped tellers counter.

1952 Rotunda to right of main entrance Original Photo MBA.jpg

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1957 Banking Hall  1 Original Photo MBA.jpg

In a private annexe beyond this, the old man was introduced to the deputy bank manager. There it was explained that the Bank would look after his money and that he could have access to it at any time. The account was duly opened and on the very next Saturday, the old man presented himself and asked to count his money. After much commotion, twenty five thousand pounds was produced and he was taken to an annexe where he counted the money.


He then returned it to the cash desk and made a deposit once again. This procedure continued, like clockwork, every Saturday, although he didn’t always go to the same cashier. For their part the cashiers anticipated his call and each made sure they had the money readily available. One Saturday he collected his money as normal, from one cashier and then a few minutes later went to the other side of the horseshoe and did it again. This time he never returned, just disappeared with all of the cash. Toby chuckled to himself.  Surreptitious infiltration, indeed!

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By now, he was aware that three more colleagues had joined him in the waiting room. It was clear he was not the only one to be interviewed. It was going to be tough, he thought. Nothing was said as he eyed up the opposition. Bloody hell, they all look brighter than me. A secretary appeared, “follow me gentlemen” she said with pompous formality. Inside another beautifully furnished room, a large highly polished table occupied centre position.


The walls were adorned with oil paintings of former Chief General Managers. A card had been placed adjacent to four seats. “Sit at your card and await the chief officers who will be attending”. She left the room and after what seemed to be an eternity, a smaller door at the side opened and out walked four poker faced men. Instantly, Toby recognised the Deputy Chief General Manager, the Chief Superintendent of Branches and the Principal Staff Manager. The other man he did not know.

1952 The Sealing Room MBL Booklet MBA.jpg

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1952 The right arcade in the banking hall Original Photo MBA.jpg

Bollocks! he thought as he remembered a previous incident, when he had exchanged words with the Chief Superintendent of Branches. At the time, Toby was on inspection duties in Gloucester, checking guarantee documents. This big noise was visiting the branch and had talked with all the members of staff. Now his tour finished, he placed one foot on the low desk where Toby was sitting. “What on earth are we going to do with you, Gerard? You are an enigma. It might also seem that you have very little respect for anyone”. Toby stood and looking him straight in the eye, said; “With respect Sir, sometime in the past, I was taught that respect had to be earned, not demanded. I take great pride in my appearance, especially my shirt cuffs. Kindly take your foot from my clean blotting pad”. There was silence. If a pin had been dropped, it would have sounded like a church bell. The man turned on his heel, sucked in his breath and left the area. Victor, his old colleague from junior clerk days, sitting alongside, said, “Toby, you are a flaming idiot; you’ve just cut your own bloody throat”.  Toby felt particularly uncomfortable: Now all the men were introduced, to each candidate in turn. Toby thought there may have been a hint of a smile from the man whom had been put down in Gloucester. At first there was friendly banter. Not wishing to draw to himself too much attention, Toby kept silence. Before long this chatter became serious as questions were thrown at the candidates, across the table. Toby offered nothing to this, preferring to remain silent. In turn the inevitable question of how to increase or create business came up.

1960 Interior View of Horseshoe Area from publicity booklet PA.jpgSep 1.jpg

The other three candidates offered the usual stock answers in the same garrulous manner as previously demonstrated and then came Toby’s turn. “Surreptitious infiltration”, he blurted out. There was silence and then the man whom Toby did not know said “please explain in detail”. Damn, thought Toby.

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As he opened his mouth to speak, the door opened. A ladies bottom appeared followed by a tea trolley laden with buns, biscuits, plates, beverage containers and napkins. “Gentlemen, may I please serve this now”. Toby decided to remain silent and the question was never raised again. A month later he received a letter requesting him to report to his District General Manager. He had been appointed to a new branch to be built on the South Coast, as Clerk in charge, with automatic upgrade to Manager within twelve months.  Surreptitious Infiltration indeed!  


Extract from “The Other Side” by (Anton Rowley)

 a novel by Rowland {Toby} Gerard

Martins/Barclays  1953-1970.

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