During the first years of its independent statehood, Greece had no banking institution. The result was an inability to control, manage and activate capital necessary for the country's development. As a matter of course interest rates on loans contracted from private individuals were fairly high. In view of all this, the founding of a bank in Athens was deemed crucial. After negotiations and agreements with foreign financial institutions the National Bank (Ethniki Trapeza) was established on 30th March 1841 by a royal decree, which was amended on 16th August the same year. In January 1842, the National Bank commenced operations.

According to its statutes the shareholder capital of Ethniki would be 5,000,000 drachmas, to be issued in 5,000 shares at 1,000 drachmas each. The Greek state was under an obligation to buy 1,000 shares. Eventually, the initial capital of Ethniki barely reached 1,468,000 drashmas. The first shareholders were the Greek state with 600 shares, the Eynard banking house with 300, the Zosimades brothers with 250, King Louis II with 220 and K. Vranis with 150 shares.

In addition to other financial operations Ethniki acquired the right to issue bank notes to the bearer, in other words paper money, which were not to exceed two-fifths of the value of its capital. The management of the bank was exercised by a committee elected by the general assembly of shareholders. The state appointed a royal trustee, who controlled the operations of the institution. Georgios Stavrou was the man appointed as the bank's first governor.