Purpose of the paper: This paper exposes the gap between rationalist banking theory and actual practice within the Agricultural Lending Division of the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) by focusing on the inter-relationship between power and knowledge. Design/methodology/approach: Data for this qualitative research project was gathered from archived documents, interviews, observation and reflection. A Foucauldian theoretical framework was used, which acknowledged the impact of social, economic and political factors within the bank’s historical context. Findings: In practice non-rationalist factors play a vital role in decision making and the development of mechanisms of accountability within the FDB. The bank’s policies and procedures have ultimately had to strike a delicate balance between the Fijian government’s development goals, profitability requirements and the formal rationalities of new public management, and the cultural realities of agricultural lending in Fiji’s traditional community-oriented society. Research implications: This study refutes a merely technocratic approach to banking research, opening up possibilities for further studies which focus on power within a socio-historic context. Practical implications: The findings of this study challenge banks to acknowledge the subjectivity of their lending processes and to improve the accountability of lending officers. Original/value of the paper: This paper demonstrates the credibility and usefulness of a theoretically driven qualitative research study in making visible issues that would otherwise be hidden.