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1 May 1989

from Stewart Stevenson's archives: The Faraday Lectures 1989/90

Bartering to bullion to electronic banking

'The effect of the discovery of electricity on modem banking has been revolutionary,' says Stewart Stevenson, Bank of Scotland Senior Manager responsible for computer operations. 'The age of hard currency is in decline. Billions of pounds move around the world every day simply as electronic transfers. Bank of Scotland has been one of the most successful banking organisations in its creative use of new technology, and it is therefore entirely appropriate that Bank of Scotland is presenting this year's annual Faraday Lecture.'

The Faraday Lecture series was founded in 1924 by the Institution of Electrical Engineers to commemorate the great pioneering work of Michael Faraday (1791-1867) in the use of electricity. Bank of Scotland, in giving the 1989-90 lEE Faraday Lecture, will be the first Scottish company and also the first financial institution to be so honoured.

The Lecture, entitled 'Electric Currency', will be given in twenty locations around Britain between September 1989 and March 1990 by Bank staff. 'We shall look briefly at the evolution of money,' explains Stewart 'from the bartering of goods to the concept of gold bullion, from the introduction of coins and notes to the early days of electronic banking. Our prime aim is to reshape the public perception of money through our demonstrations of the operation of national and international electronic money transmission services. However, we do emphasise very strongly that banking is still all about service and people - people on both sides of the counter.'

Modem electronic banking has a wide fascination. The protection of invaluable data stores is a common cause for concern. 'Our computer programs have been developed over 20 years and would cost over £200 million to rewrite today. We have to ensure that we don't lose them! The computers in the Bank hold two complete sets of data, and to avoid catastrophe through power failure for whatever reason, we have eight generators on site - producing enough power to supply a village of 1,000 homes. Our equipment detects a power failure even of two hundredths of a second, and while it would take ten seconds to start up alternative power, we have 50 tons of batteries which would step in and support the system in that period. In addition to all of that, we have 73,000 gallons of fuel. All in all, you can consider that your 'Electric Currency' is quite safe with the Bank!'

The Lecture, which gives a practical insight into technical, security and business developments of electronic banking, will be attended by secondary school children from all over the country, who will also have the opportunity of winning £1,500 and an Apple Macintosh Desktop Publisher through a competition to design and market a banking board game. All the evening lectures are open to the public, and an application form for an allocation of free tickets may be obtained from your local branch.
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