This is not the story of the first bank in Melbourne, nor of the (inaccurately named) First Bank of Melbourne. This is the story of the bank that came to pass because the two Johns, Batman and Fawkner, could not get along. The first bank in Melbourne’s premises were north of the Yarra, in the Hoddle Grid of the young township. The second bank in Melbourne’s premises were located in Emerald Hill, south of the Yarra. There was no overlap between the two clientele of the two banks.

The first bank in Melbourne would become the nucleus of the State Bank of Victoria, which was great right up until certain accidents in the early 1990s caused it to abruptly stop existing. The second bank – the south bank – would struggle along for more than a century, missing most of the money from the gold rush years and losing loans made to sailors who never returned to the port. At its greatest extent, it had a half dozen branches, all of them clustered between the Yarra, the beach, St Kilda Road and Barkly Street. By the 1960s, it had shrunk back to a single branch, that owed its existence more to the nearby Allens factory that was its major client than any other factor.

The bank eventually had to shut it doors and declare bankruptcy after a complicated swindle devised by Nazi war criminal Dr Heinrich Lantz and taking advantage of the confusion caused by the switch to decimal currency deprived it of all its remaining funds (monies which were never recovered or even detected again, so thorough and swift was their laundering). Committee members of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union, who claimed – possibly even truthfully – to be dupes of Lantz took the fall for the crime. No one knows what Lantz did with the money, estimated to be about $3.5 million in 1967 dollars. The south bank is today a mere footnote in Melbourne’s financial history, buts its name lives on in the lands occupying and surrounding the headquarters of its eventually victorious adversary, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Suburbs near Southbank:

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