GBS celebrates 140 years of banking excellence

THIS year GBS Mutual Bank celebrates 140 years of banking in the Eastern Cape and continues to thrive and make a significant contribution to the socio-economic welfare of the region.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: At the fundraising dinner after the Sunshine Coast Hospice golf day earlier this year were, from left, GBS managing director Anton Vorster, Trish Gillies of Hospice, cricketing legend Pat Symcox, Zelda Elliott of Hospice and Andrew Marshall of GBS

The bank is well placed in terms of capital, liquidity, reserves and human resources to face the challenges that lie ahead.


When John Wood took office as the first chairman of the board of Grahamstown Building Society in 1877 would he have imagined that it would still be in existence in the city more than 100 years later?

Grahamstown Building Society was converted to a Mutual Bank in 1994, and this year the bank achieves a milestone in celebrating its 140th anniversary, making it one of the oldest banking institutions in South Africa.

The familiar GBS Mutual Bank building with its equally-familiar blue and white signage is located in the shadow of the Cathedral spire which marks the centre of the city’s business district.


Just as John Wood will be remembered as one of the “founding fathers” of the Grahamstown Building Society, later to become GBS Mutual Bank, so too will the three members of the Stone family – Edward, Kyle and Chris – be remembered for their part in the successful leadership of the institution.

Between them, the three Stones were at the helm for an impressive 68 years. Edward Stone was chairman from 1928 to 1934, Kyle Stone from 1946 to 1983, and Chris Stone from 1983 to 2008.

In his term of office, Chris Stone worked closely with five chief executive officers – Joe Keeton, Jim Reynolds, Winston Riddin, Tom Tagg and the current managing director, Anton Vorster.

The current GBS Mutual Bank board of directors comprises Tom Tagg (chairman), Owen Skae (vice-chairman), Peter Clayton, Kerryn Wiblin, Angie Marriner, Kevin Maree, Anton Vorster (managing director), Jonty Fincham (executive director) and Patrick Hornby (company secretary).


From its early abode in Anglo African Street close to the Eastern Star newspaper offices, the bank purchased its existing premises situated at 18/20 Hill Street in 1906, sharing the premises at the time with Plein’s Café, a barber shop and what was to become the Settlers Ladies’ Club.

In terms of new banking legislation, the GBS converted to a mutual bank in 1994. By this time commercial banks had aggressively entered the home loan market, increasing competition and for the GBS making asset growth in their traditional lending market more difficult. The need to expand our presence and product range became vital.

After expanding in Cape Town in the early 1990s a branch in Port Elizabeth was opened in 1996, Port Alfred a year later and asset based finance added to our product range in 1997.

One of the oldest banks in South Africa, GBS Mutual Bank has built its reputation and business on a solid foundation of honesty, integrity and an ethos that places value in its clients and staff above all else.

“The bank continues to pride itself on personal service and doing the right thing,” said Vorster.

GBS Mutual Bank continues to provide its clients with secure investment opportunities and competitive loans, and maintains a liquidity holding well in excess of the statutory requirements.

Vorster added: “Part of the strength of GBS Mutual Bank lies in its conservative approach to its lending activities which are confined mainly to mortgage loans against the security of immovable property and asset-based finance loans.”

On converting to a mutual bank in 1994 the GBS’s assets stood at R167-million, increasing to R500-million in 2006, reaching the R1-billion mark in 2014 and now stands at almost R1.3-billion

As is the case with all banks, GBS Mutual Bank is regulated by the Bank Supervision Department of the South African Reserve Bank. The bank recognises that the application of sound corporate governance practices is integral to its operations and does not consider these practices to be merely a set of rules but a culture that permeates the bank. The bank’s auditors are PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc.


On converting to a mutual bank in 1994 the GBS’s assets stood at R167-million, increasing to R500-million in 2006, reaching the R1-billion mark in 2014 and now stands at almost R1.3-billion.

During this time profits have also risen steadily, albeit not in a straight line, from around R2-million a year to just over R10-million this year.

The 2017 annual report states: “We are proud of our contribution to the economy and the social infrastructure of the regions where we operate. We also celebrate the achievement of another financial milestone being that reserves now exceed R100m.” The Bank remains well capitalised with a Capital Adequacy Ratio of 13,2% at March 2017 against a required ratio of 10%.

An important aspect to note is that the bank is a net investor into the interbank market, so when the market tightened during the 2008/9 banking crisis, the GBS was able to navigate the choppy waters and come through unscathed.

The bank has survived two World Wars, the Boer War and Frontier War, The Great Depression, small-bank crises and the global recession.

GBS Mutual Bank remains well positioned to serve the community and its growing client base.

LOVELY LADIES: Celebrating 140 years of banking in the Eastern Cape are the friendly and helpful team from the Port Alfred branch, from left, Cynthia Gola, manager Bessie Mears, Mary-Jo Kirsten and Carmel Doyle


GBS Mutual Bank is known to avidly and conscientiously support and become actively involved in community causes, services and projects in all their forms, assisting financially in a number of ways.

Through these ongoing donations, annually amounting to hundreds of thousands of rands, GBS Mutual Bank has been able to assist numerous organisations in the Makana and Ndlambe districts, as well as those in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, where the Bank has branches.

The main thrust of the bank’s corporate social investments has been on education and assistance to the needy.

  • Rhodes University Foundation programme since 1993
  • 2003 – R200 000 to Rhodes University on their Centenary
  • 2006 – R400 000, over three years, to the Eluxolweni Shelter for homeless children
  • 2015 – Hospice Stride for Pride R180 000 over three years.
  • 2017 – R420 000 over three years to Gadra Education
  • GBS’s Financial Life Skills Programme.
  • Annual donations to local schools and public benefit organisations.


 GBS Mutual Bank have four people in the branch at Port Alfred.  Heading up the branch is Bessie Mears with Carmel Doyle and Mary-Jo Kirsten in client services and Cynthia Gola in general office.

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