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Knowledge bank – eight fascinating financial facts

Research for our recent blog pieces on the UK banking industry, open banking and microservices led us down some interesting rabbit holes. We thought it would be fun to collate some of the more surprising financial and fintech facts that we discovered below. Read on for some highly bankable pub quiz knowledge!

The history of UK banking is the bedrock of modern Britain.

1. The world’s oldest surviving bank is in Italy. Founded in 1472, Banca Monte Dei Paschi di Siena opened with the intention of offering loans to “poor, miserable or needy” people.

2. Another Italian bank, Credito Emiliano, is known for accepting some rather unusual loan collateral – giant wheels of young Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The bank stores the cheese in special climate-controlled warehouses while it matures and increases in value.  

3. Our next fact takes us from the big cheese to the huge keys – those used by the UK’s central bank, the Bank of England, to access its vaults. As official custodian of the UK’s wealth, the Bank reportedly still uses 3ft long keys as one of the security devices that help protect the reserves.

4. Staying with the “bigger is better” theme – do you know the value of the UK’s biggest banknote? We’ll give you a clue, it’s not £100, as per the notes still issued by some Scottish banks. The notes are connected with the currency issued by individual banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland, however. Known as “titans’, they are worth a cool £100 million each. They represent the pounds sterling that Scottish and Northern Irish banks must lodge with the Bank of England to back the value of the notes they have in circulation.

The word piggy bank has an interesting history

5. Turning to the safekeeping of somewhat smaller sums, the idea of using a “piggy bank” stems from a 15th-century pun. Back then, English people would store their money in pots made from a type of clay called “pygg”. Pygg would originally have been pronounced as something like “pug”, but as the English language changed over time, the word began to sound more like “pig”. Potters began to make porcine-shaped money pots and the trend has continued ever since. That’s why we still store our pennies in piggy banks today.

6. Online banking hasn’t been around for quite as long as piggy banks, but you might be surprised to discover that it has been happening for nearly 40 years in the UK. In 1982, a joint venture between the Bank of Scotland and British Telecom allowed customers to bank at home. By linking their TV sets to their telephones, account holders could transfer money and pay bills.

7. Since then, online banking services have grown exponentially. Open banking and developments in fintech and microservice providers are partly behind the change. Research from Finder, the financial comparison site, shows that more than a quarter (27%) of adults in the UK have opened current accounts with digital-only banking services.

8. That may be just as well, as according to the Millennial Disruption Index, 71% of those born between 1981 and 2000 would rather go to the dentist than visit their bank!