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Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank:
Coupons
(continued)
The subsequent financial reports of the City Treasurer, regarding the sale of coupons etc, covered the period November 25th 1916 to January 6th 1917. These reports were more detailed than those presented previously, and contained a summary of the cumulative position to date. The summary of the position at January 6th 1917 was as follows:
By this date, the value of coupons sold amounted to 25,243. 11s. 0d. Of this amount, almost 27% was sold at the Bank's Head Office, ie direct sales to depositors rather than the basic method via deduction from wages. Further deposits by this method are shown under 'Sundry Receipts' and include substantial sums transferred from two independent works' schemes: Aston Chain & Hook Company and Birmingham Tame & Rea District Drainage Board. The Bank's rules required that All deposits at the bank shall be made in Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank coupons, so it was deemed necessary for the Bank's staff to affix coupons to cards (and then cancel them) for cash deposits - although how this was accomplished for amounts that were not exact multiples of 1/- (eg the Drainage Board's 403. 1s. 7d.) is not clear.
 
The Treasurer's reports only give an indication of the total balance standing to the credit of depositors: Sales + some Sundry Receipts - Sundry Payments = 25,312. 16s 9d. A more accurate figure may be 25,340. 15s. 4d., being the balance held by the Joint Stock Banks (3,440. 5s. 4d) plus the amount invested with the National Debt Commissioners (21,900. 0s. 0d.). The report is therefore a Receipts & Payments Account that includes Sundry Income, such as the Sale of Rules, and Sundry Payments that presumably includes withdrawals of deposits.
 
A clearer picture of the Bank's progress in the sale of coupons/amount of deposits that emerged when a formal Balance Sheet was produced by the Auditors (Messrs Agar, Bates, Neal & Co) as at March 31st 1917. This Balance Sheet shows that the "Amount Standing to Credit of Depositors' Accounts" was 61,753. 8s. 11d. and "Coupons Sold but not yet Presented" was 12,302. 14s. 0d. These figures indicate total sales of about 74,056 - a considerable increase on the 25,300 reported at January 6th.
 
The Auditors' Report is dated November 27th 1917, indicating that problems were encountered delaying the outcome. This is hinted at in an accompanying letter that states that "we cannot report entirely satisfactorily on the bookkeeping". The Auditors included in their work a check on the stock of coupons received from the War Savings Association, but not yet sold. They reported that they had "gone very closely into the question of the coupon stock and have worked up figures from somewhat different sources from those employed by the Bank Manager, and yet have reached exactly the same figure for the stock of coupons which should be in hand not yet brought into liability. It is more than probable that this figure, which amounts to 46,053. 6s. 0d., apart from the stock in the hands of the local Joint Stock Banks, is not strictly accurate, but with a view to testing its accuracy we are asking the Bank Officials to prepare for a definite count of the coupon stock at the 31st March next, when we propose to attend and check the coupons ourselves".
 
The Auditors were assisted in their work by the staff of the City Treasurer's Department who spent 1,600 hours in writing up the books etc. The work also involved the extraction and analysis of the "balance of 17,000 Depositors, contained in 17 ledgers .... so as to be able to balance each ledger separately".
 
Early in 1917, an imprest for the sum of 500 (later increased to 1,000, then 2,000) was placed at Lloyds Bank in order to facilitate the payment of withdrawals. The Manager was able to draw on this money as required, and then subsequently reimbursed the account on a weekly basis by cheques drawn on the Joint Stock Bank balances.
 
Also at this time, it was decided to ask the War Savings Committee to supply coupons of a value of 2/-. Notwithstanding that the Bank's Rules stated that coupons shall be of a value of 1s. or a multiple of 1s., the following reply was received in a letter dated June 27th 1917:
 
Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank - Essay for 2/6 Coupon.
 
We beg to enclose herewith for the consideration of your Committee three pairs of essays - one pair in each of three colours: red, blue and brown - which have been submitted to us for this Coupon.
 
Its dimensions are, as you will see, the same as those of your 1 Coupon, and of our own Coupons of values higher than sixpence. But in view of the fact that where the 2/6 Coupons are used in lieu of 1/- Coupons their use will represent an appreciable saving of card area, we take it that this difference of dimensions (which makes for economy in production) from those of your 1/- and 5/- Coupons will not be regarded as a disadvantage?
 
Our own view in regard to the essay now submitted is that its appearance would be improved if (a) The colour of the upper portion of the Coupons were deepened, (b) if the Birmingham Coat of Arms were set out somewhat more prominently, (c) if the 2/6 were somewhat less prominent than it is now, and, perhaps, (d) if the Letter-press which is printed on white paper were to appear in a lighter tint of the colour of its upper part.
 

An alternative suggestion which you might think worth consideration is that the Coat of Arms might stand by itself (properly harmonised with the dimensions of the design) at the top of the Coupons, and the remaining features of the design be placed underneath it.

 

Any alternative design which you may wish to consider we shall be pleased to have prepared for you.

 

We shall be obliged if when replying you would favour us with a few specimens of the Cards to which your Coupons are affixed.

 

We are, dear Sir,

 

Yours faithfully,

 

THE NATIONAL WAR SAVINGS COMMITTEE

(Signed) Theodore J Chambers

Controller.

 
The problem of having a 2/6d value conflicting with the Bank's Rules was solved when (with concurrence of the Registrar of Friendly Societies) the City Council passed a Resolution on July 31st 1917 deleting the words "which shall be of the value of 1/- or a multiple of 1/-" from Rule 8 (b).

 

At the Management Committee meeting on November 29th 1917 it was reported that the City Treasurer and the Manager had decided on the design of the new 2/6d coupon. A specimen of the coupon was submitted to the Committee and approved. At the same meeting the Manager reported that "Coupons of 2/6 and 6d denomination are now to hand. The designs are quite distinct and the way in which the National War Savings Committee have had these coupons made up is much more satisfactory than formerly and is more conducive to accuracy in dealing with them". As a consequence of employer and depositor demand, coupons of five different values were eventually used: 6d (sixpence); 1/- (one shilling); 2/6d (two shillings & sixpence); 5/- (five shillings); and 1.

 

The Manager also reported to the Committee that "The question of what to do with the coupon cards retained is now presenting a difficulty. Every available shelf in the Strong Room is occupied. I do not think it would be wise to have them destroyed, even after Audit, because of differences which may arise between a depositor and the Bank on a particular account".

 

With the Bank now having been operating for over twelve months, the coupon system seemed to have settled down with all the basic components (coupons, coupon cards, and passbooks) available. Additional staff were recruited as the volume of business increased, the number of staff during these initial months gradually increased until there were thirty people  employed by November 1917.

A report giving monthly figures for the period October 1916 to December 1917 gave the totals for the Coupon Account as 'Deposits: 196,205' and 'Withdrawals: 45,502'. This suggests balances due to Depositors of 150,703, although what proportion of this amount is held in passbook accounts and what proportion is coupons sold but not yet presented is unknown. (The amounts at September 30th 1917 were: Depositors' Accounts: 132,583; Coupons sold but not yet presented: 14,584). The report states that transactions totalling 136,343 had been handled:
June 18th 1918:
 
By this date, the number of coupons sold and subsequently converted to bank deposits were considerable, and as noted above the Bank's strongroom was becoming full of coupon cards. A decision was therefore made to dispose of all the old coupon cards received during the year ended September 30th 1917. This decision was encouraged by a national shortage of paper and the Manager was authorised to dispose of the cards on the best terms possible, subject to a guarantee being obtained that they be dealt with in a secure manner.
 

At the same meeting it was brought to the attention of the Management Committee that certain firms had adopted the practice of putting a cancelling stamp on all coupons issued by them to depositors. The Committee gave their approval to this practice.

The competition that the Bank faced for attracting deposits at this stage of the War is illustrated by a report of the Consultative Sub-Committee on September 27th 1918. This report was headed 'Sale of Coupons to Corporation Departments'.

Some little time ago the Manager informed your Committee that in his opinion it would be in the interest of the Bank if arrangements could be made whereby coupons could be sold in the various Corporation Departments. Your Sub-Committee suggested that the City Treasurer and the Manager should confer on this question and the City Treasurer has informed your Sub-Committee that, so far, it has not been possible to make definite arrangements owing to the fact that so many of the employees, who had taken up War Bonds during the Tank Bank and Dreadnought Weeks had not yet paid off all their liabilities. The Manager is of the opinion that it will be possible to get depositors, at any rate from the Gas Department, if his suggestion meets with the approval of the principal officials. Your Sub-Committee are requesting the Gas Committee to afford the Manager facilities for proceeding in the direction suggested.

With the cessation of hostilities following the Armistice of Compiegne on November 11th 1918, it may have been expected that the amount of savings in the Bank would have declined as the demand for munitions fell, and wages fell accordingly. However, in the six-months ended March 31st 1919, the amount standing to the credit of depositors increased by 61,720. The amount that did fall in this period was the value of Coupons sold but not yet deposited.

In the same six-month period Coupons to the value of 120,000 were taken into stock, with 118,408 being received from the printers in the prior half-year. The total taken into stock in the year ended March 31st 1919 was therefore 238,408:

In the same year the stock of Coupons increased from 72,460 to 78,873:

Stock as at: 
 1
 5/-
2/6 
 1/-
 6d
Total 
March 31st 1918 
19,529 - 0 - 0
36,863 - 0 - 0
2,784 - 17 - 6
12,786 - 14 - 0
496 - 8 - 6
72,460 - 0 - 0
March 31st 1919 
33,570 - 0 - 0
23,731 - 0 - 0
1,340 - 12 - 6
19,801 - 6 - 0
429 - 14 - 0
78,872 - 12 - 6
Half-Year Ended: 
 1
 5/-
2/6 
 1/-
 6d
Total 
Sept 30th 1918 

56,450

25,000
-
36,958
-
118,408
March 31st 1919 
80,0000
20,0000
-
20,000
-
120,000
 
136,450
45,0000
-
56,958
-
238,408
Continued ....
 
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Birmingham Corporation
Savings Bank