History of the Bank

The Imperial Ottoman Bank operated for a long time as a state bank and a public treasurer. Apart from the financing of several investments related to the infrastructure within the Ottoman Empire, it established itself as a commercial bank developing its relationships with the market thanks to its widespread network of branches. Acting as a bank of issue, it became the principal actor of the daily life through its banking activities: deposit, security, credits, discount...

Advertisement of the Imperial Ottoman Bank in the oriental directory dated 1914

The birth of the Imperial Ottoman Bank was the outcome of a contract dated 4th February 1863. The contract, concluded by the shareholders of the Ottoman Bank founded in 1856 with the British capital, the French partners recently incorporated and the Ottoman Government, was immediately ratified by the Sultan Abdulaziz, who expected to improve the economy in a state of financial crisis after the Crimean War. When it came into being on 4 February 1863, the Bank had to assume its responsibilities in the domain of banking.

The re-establishement of the currency and the foundation of the Ottoman Bank were the principal renovations of Tanzimat in the financial field. The Bank would provide the Treasury with the necessary advances, play an intermediary role during the public debt and act as a bank of issue, principal function of state banks. The 18th February 1875 marked a turning point in the life of the Imperial Ottoman Bank. The Convention signed then which was redrafted by an imperial firman gave the Bank the ability to control the budget and the expenditures and incomes of the state, to ensure reform and control the precarious ottoman financial situation. The Convention also extended the Bank's right of issue for 20 years and conferred on its role of Treasurer of the Empire. Thus the character of the Ottoman Bank as a state bank was fully reaffirmed.

After the Balkan wars period in which the Bank did not cease to help the Ottoman state through providing it several credits, the Bank became member of the Council of the Public Debt, and therefore assumed the tobacco monopoly in a limited company under the name of Régie Cointéréssée des Tabacs de l'Empire ottoman.

Around the years 1886, the placing of Turkish loans abroad became possible when the credit standing of the Empire was re-established. The reduction of commitments towards the Treasury around 1890, following the improvement of public finances, allowed the Ottoman Bank to undertake a double activity of financing the Turkish economy and promoting other business. In its merchant banking activities, the Ottoman Bank was mainly involved with public works and railways so as : the Beirut Port Company in partnership with Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (1988), the railway line Beirut-Damas (1892) later extended to Homs, Hamah and Aleppo.

The Bank also gave a financial support to other various railway enterprises including the line Constantinople-Salonica and Smyrna-Kasaba (1892) and the Baghdad Railway Company (1903).

The Bank played a major role in the creation in 1896 of the coal mining company Société des Charbonnages d'Héraclée.

The First World War had a negative impact on the activities of the Bank. As it was operating in conformity with the Ottoman legislation, the French and British Governments considered the Bank as an "enemy institution". On the other hand, it lost its credibility in front of the Ottoman Empire because of its French and British shareholders. At that time, French and British directors of the Bank abandoned their position and the privilege of issuing banknotes was abolished. But the Bank continued its other activities.

After the Independence War, the relations with the young Turkish Republic were regulated by a new Convention dated 10th March 1924, and the Bank kept its role as state bank. The name of the Bank was amended and from then on the Imperial Ottoman Bank was known as Ottoman Bank.

The position as state bank had only been extended on a temporary basis as the Turkish Government wished to create its own bank of issue. Thus in 1931 the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey has been created.

With the new Convention of 1933, the Bank became from then on a commercial bank. The last Convention of 1952 settled once and for all the framework of the Ottoman Bank's activities as a private institution.

Continually the Bank opened new branches all around the Empire. In 1914, on the eve of the war, the eastern network consisted of no less than 80 branches of which 16 were in European Turkey, 37 in Middle-East and Anatolia (Persia, Irak, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordania), 11 in Syria, 5 in Egypt, others in Cyprus and even in Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and Rumania. The circumstances obliged the Bank to close the most part of its branches during the post-war period. On the other hand, new branches, quickly established in the Near East in 1920-30, were functioning according to the instructions of the British shareholders. In 1956, the unfortunate Suez expedition and the nationalisation of the Suez Channel brought about the nationalisation of all the branch network in Egypt. In 1958 the Bank following the policy of the British shareholders enlarged its action in some East African countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). In the same area of the globe, the Ottoman Bank had the foresight to set up in Qatar in 1956, then in Abu-Dhabi in 1962 and finally in Muscat in 1969.

However, in some of the countries where the Bank was established, a trend could be seen for the transfer of foreign-owned banking business to local ownership. It was in this context that in 1969 the Ottoman Bank sold its branches in London, Cyprus, Sudan, Jordania, East Africa, the Emirates and Rhodesia to National and Grindlays Bank which later became Grindlays Bank. The branches in France and Geneva were regrouped in a separate company called Banque ottomane whose ownership was subsequently transferred to Grindlays Bank and took the name of Grindlays Bank- France. In June 1996, the Paribas Group, its main shareholder, sold its share and through the Garanti Bankasi and the Clover Investment, the Ottoman Bank was sold to the Dogus Group. From this date, the commercial banking activity of the Ottoman Bank was mainly centred on Turkey. On 31st July 2001, the Ottoman Bank merged with Körfez Bankasi. On 21st December 2001, it was incorporated in its principal shareholder, Garanti Bank.

Sayfa Basi

Chronological List of the Imperial Ottoman Bank Branches

(La Banque impériale ottomane, A. Autheman, Comité pour l´Histoire économique et financière de la France, pp. 274-275)

Branches of the Imperial Ottoman Bank, 1909

1856 London, Istanbul-Galata, Izmir, Galatz (closed in 1866), Beyrouth (closed in 1921)
1861 Bucarest (closed in 1866)
1862 Salonika, Aydin, Afyon Carahissar (closed in 1880), Manisa, Larnaca
1865 Isparta
1866 Alexandria
1868 Paris
1869 Antalya
1872 Port-Said
1875 Ruscuk (closed in 1880), Edirne, Bursa, Damascus (closed in 1921)
1878 Plovdiv (closed in 1899)
1879 Nicosia, Limassol
1880 Varna (closed in 1882)
1881 Nazilli (closed in 1898)
1886 Istanbul-Yeni Cami
1889 Adana, Konya
1890 Sofia (closed in 1899), Denizli, Mugla
1891 Istanbul-Pera, Balikesir, Usak, Samsun, Trabzon
1892 Ruscuk (reopened and closed in 1899), Mersin, Baghdad, Bassorah
1893 Ankara, Aleppo (closed in 1921)
1898 Mytilini (closed in 1921)
1899 Kastamonu, Sivas
1903 Monastir (closed in 1914), Skopje (closed in 1914)
1904 Alexandropoulis (closed in 1914), Kavala, Eskisehir, Aksehir, Tripoli, Syria (closed in 1921), Jerusalem.
1905 Nazilli (reopened), Bandirma, Bilecik, Jaffa.
1906 Xanthi (closed in 1914), Erzurum, Giresun, Kutahya, Gaziantep, ilifke (closed in 1907), Famagusta, Haifa, Tripoli (Lybia) (closed in 1912)
1907 Adapazari, Mossoul, Minieh
1908 Tarsus, Homs (closed in 1921)
1909 Komotini (closed in 1914), Tekirdag
1910 Sufli, Drama (closed in 1921), Serres (closed in 1921), Ionnina (closed in 1921), Kayseri, Inebolu, Ordu, Geyve, Boldavin, Mansureh
1911 Manchester, Scutari of Albania (closed in 1914), Rhodes (closed in 1921), Diyarbekir, Elazig, Bitlis, Van, Ceyhan, Saida (closed in 1921), Hodeida (closed in 1921), Benghazi (closed in 1912).
1912 Bolu, Urfa, Sandikli, Soke, Djeddah (closed in 1916)
1913 Iskenderun (closed in 1921)
1914 Canakkale, Zahleh (closed in 1921)
1916 Marseille
1919 Hamah (closed in 1921)
1920 Kirkuk, Ashar, Tunis, Kermanshah
1921 Paphos, Troodos
1922 Béthlehem, Ramallah, Nabulus, Hamadan, Tehran

Sayfa Basi


Autheman, André; La Banque impériale ottomane, Paris: Comité pour l'Histoire économique et financière de la France, 1996.

Histoire de la Banque ottomane, Istanbul, 1988.

Billiotti, Adrien, La Banque impériale ottomane, Paris, 1909.

Clay, Christopher, "The Imperial Ottoman Bank in the Later Nineteenth Century: A Multinational "National" Bank", in G. Jones (derl.), Banks as Multinationals, Londra, 1990.

Eldem, Edhem, A 135-Year-Old Treasure. Glimpses from the Past in the Ottoman Bank Archives, Istanbul, 1997.

Thobie, Jacques, Intérêts et impérialisme français dans l'Empire ottoman (1895-1914), Publication de la Sorbonne, Paris,1997.