APS Bank was established in 1910 as one of the projects set up by l’Unione Cattolica San Giuseppe. It was intended mainly to motivate savings habits amongst the working classes. Since then its role has developed and evolved and the Bank has managed to position itself as a cost efficient financial institution, whilst retaining personal banking as its major strength.
The history of APS Bank is undoubtedly not only one of general interest but has also to date remained of constant relevance to the Bank. Circumstances and events over the past hundred years have influenced and eventually shaped the role, responsibilities and social obligations of the Bank.
Appostolato della Preghiera
The Appostolato della Preghiera (Apostleship of Prayer) was set up on the initiative of a group of people led by the Jesuit Fr. Michael Vella. They were motivated by the desire to instill among the working classes of the population a consciousness of the social teaching of the Catholic Church and to put it into practice. The association, which was later called l’Unione Cattolica di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph Catholic Union), was founded towards the end of 1909 whilst the first committee was selected on the 6th of May 1910.
Activities and Projects
The first venture and definitely the most significant was the establishment of a Savings Bank, the Cassa di Risparmio dello Apostolato della Preghiera, in October 1910, which was intended mainly to inculcate savings habits amongst the working classes of the population.
Another milestone was the funding of various projects of a social nature and these were subsidized by the Savings Bank. These long term projects included the setting up of l’Unione Cattolica di Mutuo Soccorso Artistica ed Operaia San Giuseppe, a mutual benefit scheme and the establishment of a printing press, which was known as the Empire Press (forerunner of the Media Centre), a recreational club, an emigration bureau to aid Maltese citizens settling in overseas territories. Various schemes to help the poor including the distribution of free meals and medicines and the provision of free medical care as well as an evening school and classes for craftsmen.
The Savings Bank
A savings bank in Lyons and another in Italy were contacted and these assisted the Committee to form the Savings Bank’s initial regulations which were later approved. Deposits from the public were first accepted on the 7th December 1910, and these consisted of one deposit of a pound and four deposits of one shilling each. Throughout the same month subcommittees were set up in various parishes which enabled the Bank to reach out the general public outside Valletta.
World War II
As the years went by the volume of work started to increase. However during the second world war period (1939 – 1945) the Bank’s progress was seriously hampered and the Parish Committees ceased to function.
The Archdiocese of Malta
In November 1947 the St. Joseph Catholic Union together with all its branches including the Savings Bank, which had retained the original name of the Apostleship of Prayer Savings Bank, was transferred to the Archdiocese of Malta. The Archbishop appointed a Committee of Administration which was also entrusted with the running of the Bank.
A Private Limited Liability Company
Following the setting up of the Central Bank in 1967 and subsequent legislation involving the Banking sector, a private limited liability company was incorporated and registered on 1st June 1970. By that time, the company took over the responsibility for the running of the Savings Bank.
In March 1977, the then Minister of Finance, Customs and People’s Financial Investments issued a Banking Licence to the Bank in terms of the Banking Act 1970.
The New Premises
Late in 1985 the Bank purchased premises in St. Paul Street, Valletta. The building was completely renovated and opened for public use on the 2nd July 1988.
During 1985 a decision was taken to introduce computerisation. However, in view of lengthy procedures that ensued, it was only in late 1990 that this project was initiated.
APS Bank Ltd.
During the year 1990 a thorough study of the Bank’s future potential was carried out. With the Shareholders’ approval, the name of the Bank was changed to APS Bank Ltd and an application was submitted to the Central Bank of Malta for a licence to operate as a Commercial Bank. This licence was issued by the Minister of Finance in November of that same year. Commercial banking operations commenced in September 1991.
The Bank continued to tap new avenues for further expansion. Amongst the most significant one must mention:
A stand alone Foreign Currency Exchanger and a Deposit Machine at St. Julians, were installed and became operational in 1993;
The branch in Republic Street Valletta which was opened in 1993;
Gozo Branch opened in 1994;
Floriana, which now houses the Head Office, and another branch opened in 1995;
Attard branch started operating in 1997;
Mosta branch was opened in 2003;
Paola branch in 2004;
Rabat branch in 2011;
A new image … same ideals
On 23rd June 2003, after a heavy investment made by the Bank, a new corporate image was launched with a new logo and uniforms to reflect the direction the bank has chosen to follow. The Bank to date still considers itself as an ever-caring and important central column of the community.
New Subsidiaries, Memberships and Services (2006 - 2008)
The Bank’s close contact with various economic sectors indicated the need for an institution to accelerate the restructuring process to face tougher competition from abroad. In response, the Bank set up APS Consult Ltd in 2006 to achieve this end. Through education and support networking this subsidiary strives to enhance the resources in agriculture, welfare services and sports, thereby expanding in a concrete manner the significance of the term ‘personal and institutional empowerment’.
One of the highlights of APS Bank’s community involvement spread over so many decades has been its admittance, in November 2006, as a member of a growing international organisation, The Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks (FEBEA). This federation, which is based in Brussels, is made up of financial institutions which aim at supporting, through co-operation and the creation of refinancing tools, a global economy that places major emphasis on the joint-principles of ‘subsidiarity and solidarity’.
In 2007, the Bank launched its 365 Online Internet Banking service with innovative features for the local market. In fact, users are able to access such a service online through both mobile and token authentication methods.
In addition, the Bank set up APS Funds Sicav plc in 2008 both to diversify services and also to introduce the selling of ethical funds in the Maltese Islands. Ethical funds are subject to demand that is based on the inherent values of respective social groups. Their sale has to be preceded by the education of potential subscribers, whereby the specific differences between one such fund and another are clearly examined and explained.
A Centenary of Service in 2010
In 2010 the Bank celebrated one hundred years of community banking, a first for a maltese financial institution. APS Bank remains one organisation in a diversified array engaged in meeting human needs. It follows the tenet that while professional competence is a primary, fundamental requirement, it is not of itself sufficient. We are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. Approaching clients with humanity is therefore not a marketing device but a fundamental belief that goes hand in hand with striving to use resources optimally in the interest of all.
APS Bank's Centenary Logo
APS Bank has been expanding its branch and services networks in the past few years. It has recently relocated its main operational centre to Swatar from where it seeks to enhance and extend the range of services it offers both in the Maltese islands and abroad.