At the time of the merge of Banco Ambrosiano Veneto into Banca Intesa, it was found that its records were not subjected to any scientific parsing of the material (to be performed with the aim of preserving documentation that recorded operation and organization models, as well as notes, studies and such other traces of the cultural developments occurred within the institution over time). Such analysis, that was deemed a priority and is still going on, has already identified some files or records series having consistent structure, and other documentation generated by the main corporate functions or resulting from the most delicate offices of the bank. The item refers to the statutory books, the records of the legal, human resources and accounting department. Other material has been preserved after some processes of selection that has been discretional and fragmented, resulting from casual and unpredictable circumstances.
In the case of Banco Ambrosiano, in the mid of 1960s a ‘historical archive’ was created in order to build up the precise memory of certain important achievements in the life of the bank. There are over 160 files, duly numbered and itemized with cross references to such peculiar events, mostly in celebration of some corporate success or of relevant top managers; such files represent more of a collection of records rather than a proper archive. Because of this aspect, these files are of interest because in the immediate we see information and images that, if absent or left in the original location, then would be difficult to find and even lost; on the other hand, we have matter to analyse the policy followed by the top management to elaborate the past record of the bank and to construct a future memory in its own interest, for the employees or for the outside communication. However, Banco Ambrosiano paid careful attention to its records, particularly in the minor branches. As of the beginning of the 1950s we found written policies regulating the remit of the branch archive manager, defining the procedures to be followed to access the archive files, and stipulating a retention schedule for the principal types of documentation. The departments of the Head Office enjoyed some flexibility, as we have found no trace so far of written, uniform policies to regulate the matter, such as a classification scheme or retention rules. The only indication originated by the human resources and legal departments is ‘to keep forever’ all their records. As to the physical preservation of Banco Ambrosiano’s records we must mention the consequences of the corporate events, that is the separation between the bank and Nuovo Banco Ambrosiano, the liquidation procedures, the intervention of the courts, the inspections of the investigators: the series have been interrupted, some loss may have occurred.
In Banca Cattolica del Veneto the results of the analysis conducted so far show that the utmost care has been used to preserve the historical documentation of the bank. Here too, like inside Banco Ambrosiano, general secretariat, accounting and human resources originated the best-preserved series. As of now no official record has been traced about retention policies, but it appears that also Banca Cattolica del Veneto has kept local archives whenever the branches had sufficient space for them. In the late 1970s BCV organised a centralised repository at Torri di Quartesolo, in the Head office building of modern construction near Vicenza, to take advantage from economies of scale; for the same purposes, Banco Ambrosiano and Citibank Italia organised central repositories in Cesano Boscone near Milan, and Casandrino near Naples.
The strong growth experienced by Banco Ambrosiano Veneto in the 1990s had a clear impact on its documentation: inflation of the paper records and frequent internal restructuring made difficult the management of the records flows, also considering the increased cost of floor space and the expansion of the banking network. All the same, the quality and the interest of the historical heritage of the group has increased thanks to the availability of several archives coming from the acquired banks in Southern Italy, that mostly had a long tradition preserved in their files.
Having considered the situation, as described, the constitution of the Banco Ambrosiano Veneto Historical Archives has started with a survey of the available material, in order to assess its nature and value. Hierarchical position, in fact, is the guiding principle: priority is given to documents coming from high organs and functions of the banks merged in the group (minutes of Shareholders’ meetings, of the Board of directors, of the Executive Committee, papers and notes of the Chairman’s office, of the managing directors, etc.); then the other functions, the operational departments, the periphery (head office functions, branch network, Italian and foreign subsidiaries, etc.). The necessary flexibility is used when applying this general principle, which can be suspended whenever the material being considered generates a useful light over some historical peculiarity of the matters at hand.