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New home for historic bank
Bankwest Managing Director Rob de Luca at the new Bankwest Place site on Murray St. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

It started in 1895 as a two-man operation that spent most of its time on the road. But fast-forward 117 years to today and you find a staff of 2700.

Though founded by the WA government to lend money to farmers, Bankwest had a humble birth as the Agricultural Bank of WA.

And by all accounts, this simple affair shifted from farm to farm.

But last night Premier Colin Barnett welcomed the bank to its modern new home in the Raine Square complex in Murray Street, to be known as Bankwest Place.

Its 31,220sqm across 14 floors comes after 23 years at the Bankwest Tower on St Georges Terrace.

Records show that by 1923, the bank had grown to eight district offices and in 1945 became a trading bank known as the Rural and Industries Bank of WA.

The change to Bankwest preceded privatisation in 1995 and it is now part of the Commonwealth Bank group.

Along the way the bank had many firsts, including WA's first drive-in branch - a concept later scrapped. It was also the first bank with an after-hours cash dispenser and had the first women tellers.

Managing director Rob De Luca said the new home continued the rich history of having the bank's headquarters in central Perth.

This history includes controversy over its headquarters, with the Raine Square project marred by delays, including seven months after Bankwest seized the tower and other assets held by its developer Luke Saraceni.

The matter is before the courts.

The bank as pictured at the Perth Royal Show in 1961

In the 1980s, protests ensued over businessman Alan Bond's plans to build what would become the Bankwest tower amid a campaign to keep the Palace Hotel in front.

Mr De Luca said the bank was delighted to move, despite the delays.

Exterior of the R & I Bank in Hay Street.

Mr Barnett said the bank showed a commitment to the State as a major employer and supporter of local businesses.

"Bankwest Place is also one of the first buildings to give us a glimpse of how this part of the city will be reactivated by the Perth City Link project," he said.

A feature is a new environment in which staff can move from static work stations depending on needs.