The army agency of Cox’s & King’s dates back to 1758. In this year Lord Ligonier, Colonel of the 1st Foot Guards, appointed his secretary, Richard Cox, as regimental agent. As such Cox was responsible for the payment of officers and men, and also the provision of clothing and the marketing of officer commissions. He operated the business with the help of two clerks at his house in Albemarle Street, London.
Richard Cox died in 1803. However, the firm, under Cox’s son and Charles Greenwood, went from strength to strength. It took on a series of new partners. By 1815, it had become agent to the entire Household Brigade, most of the cavalry and infantry regiments, the Royal Artillery, and the Royal Wagon Train (later known as the Royal Army Service Corps).
Richard Cox’s first office had been in Albermarle Street, but he moved to Craig’s Court in Whitehall, in 1765. Here the company remained until 1888. By this point Craig’s Court was no longer large enough to accommodate the staff, which had increased to 150. So, the firm moved to bigger premises at 16-18 Charing Cross.
Between 1905 and 1911, Cox & Co. expanded further, setting up five branches in India. These primarily served the British garrisons who were stationed there. Branches were later opened in Alexandria, Egypt (1919) and Rangoon, Burma (1921).
The business expanded dramatically with the outbreak of the First World War. Its staff numbers rocketed from 180 in 1914, to 4,500 in 1918. With a third of the original work force having joined up, the firm had to recruit women for the first time. The Charing Cross office was open all day every day during the War, cashing cheques around the clock for officers departing for and returning from the Front. The branch had around 250,000 men on its books. At the height of the conflict 50,000 cheques a day were cleared.
However, the firm did not just issue pay and manage officers’ bank accounts. Its Insurance Department could arrange to insure the officer’s kit; the Income Tax Department could deal with his tax returns; and the Standing Order Department would ensure that his tailor was paid regularly. Cox’s also sent a cashier with a supply of money to every hospital ship as it arrived, to enable wounded officers to cash cheques.
Cox & Co. took over the firm of Henry S. King in October 1922, and the bank was renamed Cox’s & King’s. Henry S. King, based in the City of London, had been established in 1816. It had strong connections with India, and acted as London agent to many Indian-based merchants.
Despite the merger with Henry S. King, Cox & Co. was in serious trouble. It was unable to sustain the large expansion undertaken during the First World War. By 1923, the bank was recording losses of more than £1 million a year, against a capital and reserve of roughly the same amount. After receiving assurances from the Bank of England, Lloyds Bank was persuaded to step in and take over the firm. The acquisition meant that, for the first time, Lloyds had branches in India, Egypt and Burma.