The Executor Trustee and Agency Company of South Australia Limited was the second trust company in Australia and was formed in 1879, a year after the first one was founded in Melbourne. The idea came from South Africa, where similar trusts had operated for many years.
In June 1879 a “Who’s who” of Adelaide – James Fisher, Walter Reynell, E.A. Grant, William Kay, James Smith, E.S. Wigg, F. Baredon MP, Abraham Abraham, H. Giles, A.S. Neil, William Mortlock, W Parkin, J.L. Lloyd and Catherine Helen Spence – met at White’s Arbitration Room, King William Street, to discuss setting up a trustee company. The Trust and Agency Company was formed soon afterwards upon principles very different from those of most business associations, as it would permit no speculation or “stockjobbing”. No person could hold more than one share, and it was made very difficult for anyone whose name did not command public confidence to obtain an interest in the company.
The company was incorporated under the Companies Act on 1 March 1880. Executor Trust Fund deposits rose from £2000in 1880 to £1.3 million in 1882. In 1920 they had swelled to £9.1 million and in 1979 stood at $107.4 million.
The company occupied a series of offices before it decided to build its own premises in 1922. W.H. Bagot and Laybourne Smith were joint architects with C.E.W. Parsons, and F. Fricker was the builder. The new six-storey offices were ready for occupation by Christmas 1923 and named the Trustee building.
The design of this prominently sited building echoes the classic style of architecture. It combines academically correct elements such as paired Roman columns with freely interpreted details typical of the period. It is also of great interest because of its relatively original internal features.