We have a rich and colourful history spanning more than 300 years – underpinning our values and making Coutts who we are today.close
In the spring of 1692, a young Scot, John Campbell of Lundie, set up business as a goldsmith-banker at the sign of The Three Crowns in Strand, London. Earliest records show that, in addition to supplying plate and jewellery, Campbell offered a comprehensive banking service – discounting bills, making loans and taking deposits. Many of his customers were his fellow countrymen, including his clan chief, the powerful Duke of Argyll. Royal patronage began when Queen Anne commissioned Campbell to make the collars and badges for the Order of the Thistle. In 1708, he took another Scottish goldsmith, George Middleton, as partner. John Campbell died in 1712, and in the same year Middleton married the founder's daughter, Mary.
George Middleton was heavily involved with the affairs of the French financier, John Law. Combined with the bursting of the South Sea and Mississippi bubbles in 1720, this involvement resulted in the ceasing of Middleton’s payment for three years. In 1727, George Campbell, the founder’s younger son, joined Middleton before welcoming a third partner, David Bruce, to the bank in 1744. The goldsmith practice had declined since the 1720s, so when Middleton died in 1747, the surviving partners called themselves simply 'Bankers of 59 Strand', the bank’s home since 1739.
The name Coutts first appeared in the title of the bank in 1755. James Coutts, a Scottish banker, was taken into partnership by George Campbell upon his marriage to Mary Peagrum, granddaughter of the founder. When Campbell died in 1760, James invited his youngest brother, Thomas, to join him and in January 1761 the bank became known as James & Thomas Coutts.
When James retired in 1775, the bank’s title changed to Thomas Coutts & Company – remaining so until Thomas’s death in 1822. The bank flourished under the lead of Thomas and his partners Edmund Antrobus, Edward Marjoribanks and Coutts Trotter. In the final decade of the 18th century, the premises at 59 Strand were significantly extended and profits rose from £9,700 in 1775 to £72,000 in 1821.
A PERIOD OF
The long reign of George III was a period of major political, social and economic change. Coutts customers were closely involved with such events as the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the opening up of India and the Far East. Thomas’s customers (many of whom were also friends) ranged from the monarch to the Covent Garden cowkeeper.
When Thomas died in 1822, his estate and 50% share in the bank passed to his second wife, Harriot, and the bank assumed the name Coutts & Co. As senior partner, Harriot (later Duchess of St Albans) took an active interest in the business. She decided that the 50% share and Thomas’s fortune should revert to a family member at her death. Consequently, in 1837, Angela Burdett – who at 24 was the youngest of Thomas’s grandchildren – inherited the interest in a trust that included a half-share in the bank. Harriot’s will stipulated that Angela take the Coutts name, but forbade her from marrying a foreigner or interfering in the running of the business.
During the Victorian era, the bank had to face new challenges in a fast-changing world. Developing industries were hungry for investment and the new and successful joint stock banks meant fierce competition for the old-established private banking houses. There can be little doubt that the name, reputation and personal fortune of Thomas Coutts inspired confidence in the bank during his lifetime. As heir to the Coutts name and fortune, Angela Burdett-Coutts was seen as the public face of the bank during the Victorian period. In addition, the service of younger generations of Marjoribanks and Antrobuses, combined with new names in the partnership – Coulthurst, Ryder and Malcolm – sustained the high level of confidence enjoyed by Coutts.
The Baring crisis of 1890 forced a number of banks to re-assess their position, and after much careful consideration, Coutts & Co decided to change its status. In June 1892, the bank dissolved the partnership and became an unlimited liability company. More changes were on the way when in 1904, after 165 years at 59 Strand, the bank moved to its current site at 440 Strand.
Angela Burdett-Coutts died in 1906. In 1914, Coutts acquired the City bankers, Robarts, Lubbock & Co, thereby creating its first branch at 15 Lombard Street and gaining a seat in the Clearing House. By 1919, it became apparent that Coutts could not take full advantage of the post-war market or compete with larger banks, so the decision was made to amalgamate with the National Provincial & Union Bank of England Ltd. Coutts maintained its name, management and style of service. Later, the merger of the Westminster Bank and the National Provincial in January 1969 meant that Coutts came to form part of the larger NatWest Group.
Throughout the 20th century, Coutts opened more branches and significantly extended its regional footprint. The first West End branch outside 440 Strand was opened in 1921 in Park Lane, and in 1961 Coutts moved outside the capital, opening its first out-of-town branch at Eton. Coutts also embraced modern technology, becoming one of the first banks to bring in machine-posted ledgers at the end of the 1920s. In 1963, Coutts became the first British bank to use a fully computerised accounting system.
In 1987, Coutts gained international representation by establishing its operations in Geneva. In October 1990, to strengthen their representation internationally, Coutts and NatWest merged their existing subsidiaries (which included Handelsbank) to create the Coutts Group. The acquisition of the NatWest Group in 2000 established Coutts as the private banking arm of The Royal Bank of Scotland.
Today Coutts maintains its London headquarters and also has a strong regional presence – 23 offices within the UK’s most diverse and vibrant centres. With a significant operation in the Channel Islands, Coutts is a leading choice for wealthy individuals and families seeking exceptional private banking and wealth management in the UK.
In 2015, Coutts announced the sale of its Swiss bank, Coutts & Co. Limited, in line with the bank’s strategic focus on the key markets of importance to our clients. Today, we maintain a strong focus on meeting the needs of international clients with an affinity with the UK.