Banking hall of National Bank of Scotland's Glasgow branch, 1870s

In 1864 The Royal Bank of Scotland made its first acquisition, buying Dundee Banking Co. A decade later it made its first move into London, increasingly a key centre of international business and finance. Its first office there opened in 1874.

The bank also began expanding its branch network more enthusiastically, catching up with other Scottish banks that had always aspired to large, widespread branch networks. By 1890, the Royal Bank had 134 branches across Scotland. In many locations, banks built smart, imposing premises which were often among the most striking buildings on the high street; bricks-and-mortar statements of permanence and prosperity. Today, many of these buildings remain precious parts of our shared built heritage.

In the mid-Victorian era, Scottish bankers developed a worldwide reputation for hard work, diligence and excellent knowledge of banking practices. Men with this background were in demand in banks in America, Canada, Australasia and across the English-speaking world, and many of the young men who left Scottish banks to go overseas ended up rising to the very top of their profession. Most of the Scottish banks developed a habit of training many more young bankers than they needed for their own business, knowing that these young men would find work elsewhere. As a result, banking all over the globe developed a distinctly Scottish accent; in Canada, for example, two thirds of all employees of Canadian banks in 1912 were Scottish-born.