In a Treasury Minute of 24th March 1915 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer recommended to the board:
"that a special branch of the Treasury should be constituted under a Director of Financial Enquiries to collect information upon all subjects of general financial interest and to prepare reports from time to time both on its own initiative and also upon any question which may be specifically referred to it by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Board".
Up to that time statistics of home and foreign trade were collected by the Board of Trade, the Foreign Office, Customs and Excise and statistics of foreign taxation by the Departments of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise, but no organised arrangements existed for collecting information relating to important subjects such as foreign exchange, currency, banking, international movements of capital and the public expenditure and the borrowing and other financial operations of foreign governments. This is why it was considered important to establish in the Treasury a special department for the collection of statistics relating to finance and currency both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
Instructions were given to the Financial Branch to keep in touch with the Foreign Office, Board of Trade, Royal Mint, Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue with a view to the collation of materials collected by these Departments and the co-ordination of Trade and Finance statistics.
They were also told that they should keep a careful record of the course of foreign exchanges and the operations of foreign houses. That enquiries from time to time should be addressed through the Foreign Office to HM Representatives abroad and through the Colonial and India Offices to the Oversea Dominions with a view to obtaining more complete information in regard to financial matters generally.
It was also expected that at the end of the year the Financial Enquiries Branch would present to the Board a full annual report on the financial history of the year and the work of the Branch.
Mr Hartley Withers, formerly financial editor of the "Times" and financial editor of the "Morning Post" was appointed as the first Director of the Financial Enquiries Branch on 1st April 1915. He relinquished the post on 23rd July 1916.
The post of Director was revived in 1919 and Mr R.C. Hawtrey (later Sir Ralph Hawtrey) was appointed to the post of 1st October 1919. The branch continued under his directorship until 1946.