Wednesday, June 8, 2022


      The reach and power of Giannini's branch banking empire in California was extraordinary, beyond the comprehension of people living outside the state.  "I still can't realize that in forty years a man has built something out here that compels the awe—that's the right word, awe—of all New York," said an East Coast financial writer on his first trip to San Francisco in the late 1940s.  With 504 branches and four million individual customers, Bank of America held the savings deposits of one out of every three Californians, or 40 percent of the state's total bank deposits. . . .

      Giannini always remained the bank's most energetic booster.  He would go to extremes to attract new depositors and to keep them as customers.  He did this partly to reaffirm Bank of America's relentlessly promoted images as a "people's bank" and  partly out of his own fierce competitive urge; there was no such thing as an unimportant customer.  "When you sell people," he was fond of saying, "keep them sold."

      As successful as Giannini was, nothing generated more public comment than his disregard for his own wealth.  He saw no point in accumulating money or in surrounding himself with the signs of material success.  The home in which he lived until the end of his life was the one he had purchased when he was selling fruits and vegetables on the San Francisco waterfront. The wardrobe of the man whom Fortune would include in its Hall of Fame of America's ten greatest businessmen consisted of four off-the-racks suits, three pairs of shoes, and a handful of shirts and ties.  "My hardest job," he said on one occasion, "was to keep from becoming a millionaire."

Felice A. Bonadio, A. P. Giannini: Banker of America

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