The Banco di Napoli traces its origins to the charitable banchi pubblici (public banks) created in Naples and active between the 15th and the 18th century.
The birth of the Banco di Napoli is traditionally considered to be the same date as the establishment of the Monte della Pietà in 1539, but some studies, carried out by Prof. Domenico De Marco, who is an expert in the Economic and Academic History of the Lincean Academy, and by Eduardo Nappi, who for many years has studied and worked at the Historical Archives – have found documents regarding the depositary bank of the Casa Santa dell’Annunziata which would place the date of its founding further back to 1463.
Among the documents found by these two scholars, but also from other work carried out in previous centuries, it can be said that the origins of the activities by the Neapolitan public banks were the “depositary banks” of the holy houses, such as the most ancient, Casa Santa dell’Annunziata. Other religious institutions, such as the Conservatorio di Sant’Eligio and the Ospedale degli Incurabili, carried out banking operations before they became real banks.
In the 1500s, the institutions became a fundamental part of the history of southern Italy and beyond, as shown in the section entitled “vita dei banchi”. In 1647, Masaniello led a revolt against the Spanish Viceroy. The banks were attacked and their reserves were stolen.
In 1734, with the arrival of Charles of Bourbon, the economic conditions of Naples became vigorous once again (The Royal Palace of Portici, and the project for the Royal Palace of Caserta, and the San Carlo Theatre were undertaken during this period).
An agreement between the crown and the illuminated bourgeoisie was broken because of the French Revolution. Some European States formed an anti-French coalition which King Ferdinand joined, giving rise to an arms race which exhausted the reserves. In 1806 Giuseppe Bonaparte established himself in Naples; later, Gioacchino Murat united all of the surviving public banks and founded the “Banco delle Due Sicilie“.
The advent of industrialization increased the importance of the banks and the Banco delle Due Sicilie instituted the Cassa di Sconto (1818) and opened branches in Sicily, Messina, Palermo, and later in Bari. The Cassa di Sconto supported the economy of the South by contributing substantial amounts of financing and in three years its patrimony doubled.
In 1861, with the unification of Italy, the lire began to circulate in the entire kingdom and the Banco delle Due Sicilie changed its name to the “Banco di Napoli“. The Banco began to produce banknotes and developed the activities of the Credito Fondiario ed Agrario nel Mezzogiorno. The bank’s policy of expansion started with branches in Rome, Florence, Venice Milan, and Turin, and this played a key role in the transformation of Italy.
The well-known crisis at the end of the 19th century provoked a reduction in lending institutions, while the Banca d’Italia, the Banco di Napoli and the Banco di Sicilia survived. The Banco di Napoli, in particular, survived the crisis thanks to a policy of austerity instituted by Nicola Miraglia who took over as the General Director in 1896.
After the conquest of the African territories in Eritrea (1890) and in Libya (1912), the Bank opened a branch in Tripoli and one in Bengasi. After the great Italian emigration to America at the beginning of 1900, the Bank opened its New York Branch in 1906, then the ones in Chicago and Buenos Aires, becoming the first Italian bank with branches abroad.
In that same year, Naples was damaged by an eruption of Vesuvius and the Banco intervened to help the people affected, just as it did in 1908 to help the cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria which had been destroyed by an earthquake.
During the first world war the Bank financed the granaries, participated in national loans to support the industries that contributed to the war effort and distributed large sums in favor of the refugees, in addition to the establishment of the Pausilipon Hospital for abandoned children.
Durante la prima guerra mondiale il Banco finanziò gli enti granari, partecipò ai prestiti nazionali per sostenere le industrie che contribuirono allo sforzo bellico ed erogò ingenti somme a favore dei profughi, oltre ad istituire a Napoli l’Ospedale Pausilipon per i bambini abbandonati.
In 1926, the League of Nations, to gain control of the monetary chaos after the war, obligated the European Nations to establish the Central Banks. The distribution of funds thus became the exclusive prerogative of the Banca d’Italia and the Banco lost the authorization to issue banknotes.
In those years, the architect, Piacentini, managed the reconstruction of the façade of the Banco di Napoli in Via Toledo, which was inaugurated in 1939.
In 1935, Italy occupied East Africa and the Banco opened three other branches in the occupied territories, so that from the 75 branches in 1926 the number reached 200 in 1940. Both the North American branches and the African ones were lost after the great tragedy of the second world war (1940-1945).
The slow work of reconstruction began, and in the 1960s, the Banco financed a massive building initiative. Among other things, it participated in the birth of Alfa Sud in Pomigliano d’Arco and financed the San Carlo Theatre, the Mercadante Theatre and the Scarlatti Orchestra. The Banco resumed its expansion in the North or Italy with the opening of new branches, until they reached, in the 1980s, a total of 500 branches in Italy. At that time, the Banco started to expand with branches in Europe and around the world.
In 1988, the Banco had branches in Buenos Aires, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, and Madrid; as well as offices in Brussels, Los Angeles, Zurich, Sofia, Moscow and branches such as the Banco di Napoli International in Luxembourg. After the division of Banco di Napoli S.p.A. and the Istituto, in 1994 a new banking crisis began, and after a series of events, it ended with the incorporation of the Banco with the Sanpaolo IMI group in December, 2002.