Painted, glazed ceramic piggy bank. 135mm x 140mm x 90mm. Manufactured by Wade Ceramics.
Meet Woody. Perhaps you already know him? Or his big brother Maxwell, sister Annabel, mum Lady Hilary and dad Sir Nathaniel? They were very big in the ’80s …
The piggy family made their first appearance in 1983, with the launch of a special NatWest children’s account that enabled young savers to collect the whole family as their savings grew, beginning with baby Woody and working their way up to Sir Nathaniel.
This was just one of a number of specialised bank accounts which appeared in the 1980s, as banks looked to tailor the services they offered, focussing on the specific needs of such groups as children, young adults, students, professional trainees, and particular kinds of business customers.
Fifty years ago the British clearing banks offered very few accounts tailored to meet the requirements of specific types of customer. The ‘Swinging Sixties’ ushered in an era of social freedom and mobility, increased incomes and new kinds of career aspirations. At the same time the proportion of the UK population with bank accounts grew as new legislation encouraged employers to pay wages direct into bank accounts, rather than through weekly pay packets. These changes dramatically diversified the banks’ customer bases, and led them to recognise that they could serve different kinds of customers better by offering accounts and services more shaped to their particular needs.
Savings and deposit accounts had been available for some time, but banks now began to offer budget accounts to help customers manage bill payment and offshore accounts for investment purposes. Current accounts also evolved in a way that made them helpful to targeted groups of customers, like women, school leavers or students, and to those with special jobs such as merchant seamen.
The National Westminster Piggy Bank Account, launched on 5 December 1983, was a major milestone on this journey. It was the first really popular bank account in Britain aimed exclusively at children and is still fondly remembered by many thirty-somethings. Children could open the account with as little as £3, and would be welcomed with a gift of a ceramic money box in the shape of a baby pig called Woody. As the account balance grew, other pigs in the family would be issued; Woody’s sister Annabel when the account exceeded £25, then Maxwell at £50, Lady Hilary at £75 and Sir Nathaniel at £100.
It was immediately clear that the new account provided an opportunity that customers really appreciated. Some 1,500 piggy accounts were opened on the first day alone and by 1985 a million pigs had been issued. Today the ceramic pigs have become collectable ’80s memorabilia, valued for their retro charm.
For so many of us, opening our very first bank account is a fondly-remembered milestone of growing up. For NatWest, too, the Piggy Account marked a coming of age in the way the bank offered account services to their customers.