‘He did not think the banks had yet explored the enormous possibilities of mechanical methods. He thought the counter work at English banks was about as efficient as they could ever get, but he was suspicious as to whether they were as up to date behind the counter. He could see the banks of the future as possessing physical bodies of wonderfully contrived mechanism, almost everything of routine being done by machinery with the brains for the personal convenience of customers, and scientific conditions of control, a great civil service with a high tradition of public service, with opportunities for development and employment of many different talents. On the other hand, it was conceivable they might develop into mere money making machines.’

John Maynard Keynes, ‘The future opportunities of the bank official’; presented at the Cambridge Centre of the Institute of Banking; reported in the Cambridge Daily News, 15 October 1927; and, reprinted as ‘Mr J. M. Keynes on banking services’ in the Journal of the Institute of Banking, November 1927, vol. xlviii, p. 497.

Banks engage in business which is intended to organise the profitable production of financial services and, like other privately-owned firms in a market economy, employ capital and labour to achieve this objective. Furthermore, as in other companies, it is within banks that more efficient combinations of capital and labour generate productivity growth. However, it has to be admitted that among banking historians, though usually not those who have written histories of banks, investigations of business structure, employment patterns, work organisation, labour relations and technological choice are notable usually for their omission. Nevertheless, these features of commercial banks, despite previous neglect, do 31have a wider significance for economists and economic historians and challenge a number of well-established historiographic prejudices.