In October, 1924, the First International Thrift Congress was held in Milan, advantage being taken of the opportunity afforded for such a congress by the centenary gatherings in connection with the Lombardy Savings Banks. The Lombardy Savings Banks intended at first to hold a congress of a national character, and to invite representatives from foreign countries to participate, but the response to the invitations met with such approval that it was decided to make the gathering international in character.
The Congress was held under the high patronage of His Majesty the King of Italy, and important Ministers of State of the Italian Government. Representatives of many foreign Governments attended the Congress, and 354 Savings Bank delegates were present from Argentine, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Yugoslavia, Lettonia, Luxemburg, Poland, Roumania, Spain, America, Sweden, Switzerland, and Uruguay.
The object of the Congress was to study the institutions and proceedings for collecting, receiving and protecting savings, and the problems connected therewith.
Commissions were set up to deal with the various sections of the work of the Congress as follows: Legislation, Propaganda, Emigrants' Savings, and Savings and other Banks.
The report of the proceedings, which is compiled in a large volume, is a most interesting record, and reflects great credit on Professor Filippo Ravizza, who acted as the organising secretary. The speeches made at the Congress by the various delegates, and the historical review given in the volume referred to, are valuable contributions to all who are interested in thrift, and it is not to be wondered at that the result of the Congress was the setting up of an International Thrift Institute, which appears destined to have far-reaching effects on thrift generally.
The value of such an international gathering on a subject of such importance cannot be assessed, but from the subsequent reports issued by the institute it is clear that considerable progress has been made since the Congress in 1924.
In 1926 a second Congress took place in Philadelphia (U.S.A.), coinciding with an important assembly of savings Banks, promoted by the National Association of Mutual Savings Banks, and there was a large gathering of interested persons from all parts of the world.
These gatherings have given a prominence to thrift which is to be welcomed. The subject has not, in past years, received that serious attention on the part of individual governments which it deserves. There appears to have been, at least in certain countries, a disposition to impose restrictive conditions and limitations which hamper the development of thrift, with the result that enthusiasm has been stifled, and those who were enthusiasts have become indifferent. Anything which will revive interest in this important matter is worth supporting enthusiastically, and judging from the reports the International Thrift Institute is receiving that support. No doubt the influence of this institute will be felt in the future, and we may look forward to a broader recognition of the valuable services rendered by thrift organisations.
Britain's First Municipal Savings Bank
Part Three: Chapter 3