History - overview

Established in 1930, the Bank for International Settlements is the oldest international financial institution. From its inception to the present day, the BIS has played a number of key roles in the global economy, from settling reparation payments imposed on Germany following the First World War, to serving central banks in their pursuit of monetary and financial stability.

On 17 May 2020, the BIS marked 90 years since it first opened its doors for business. The book Promoting global monetary and financial stability: the Bank for International Settlements after Bretton Woods, 1973-2020 (Cambridge University Press), reviews the Bank's role and contributions over the past 50 years.

The timeline below outlines the BIS's history.

BIS foundation and crisis (1930-39)

The BIS  was created in 1930 at the Hague Conference. A convention respecting the establishment of the BIS was signed between Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom on the one hand and Switzerland on the other.

The BIS during the Second World War (1939-48)

In the late 1930s, international cooperation became difficult due to growing political and military tensions. During this period, the BIS was instrumental in shipping gold from Europe to the safety of New York, mostly on behalf of European central banks.

The BIS as a forum for European monetary cooperation (1947-93)

In the aftermath of World War II, Europe's priority was stabilising the different national currencies before trade and foreign exchange restrictions could be gradually lifted. The European countries turned to the BIS to act as the technical agent for creating a European Payments Union. 

The BIS going global (1961- )

The success of the European Payments Union in restoring currency convertibility in Europe in 1958 meant that the Bretton Woods system was finally operational throughout the western world. A good deal of international cooperation was required to keep this system running smoothly. 

The BIS in the new financial architecture (1997- )

The 1997 Asian crisis and 1998 Russian crisis prompted further rethinking of the global financial architecture. In February 1999, the Financial Stability Forum was created - which became the Financial Stability Board in 2009 - to coordinate the work of national financial authorities and international standard-setting bodies.

The following also details the history of the BIS: