Bank of America expands globally

Beginning in the 1930s and through the postwar period, Bank of America expanded internationally to help bring financial services across the globe.

Advances in transportation and communication technologies that began as early as the 1930s enabled the emergence of a more global economy. Recognizing this, Bank of America began to expand internationally.
The first foreign branch of Bank of America opened in 1931 in London, the financial capital of Europe, with thirteen employees. 

The reopening of trade after World War II was one of the most comprehensive undertakings in the history of mankind. In 1946, President Truman appointed Bank of America CEO Mario Giannini to the Committee for Financing Foreign Trade. The task of the committee of 12 industrialists and bankers was to survey foreign trade potential and to make recommendations for financing international reconstruction.

Mario Giannini pronounced the bank’s commitment to continued international expansion at a director’s meeting in 1946: “We expect to build the position of Bank of America in the international field to a point where it will be comparable to the bank’s position in the domestic field. We feel we owe it to the country, to our state, to our customers and to the shareholders.” The next year, the bank opened its first Asian office in the Philippines where loans were given to help rebuild the sugar industry that had been destroyed during the war. 

The busiest postwar branch in Asia was in Japan. Bank of America opened its first office in Tokyo in 1947. The Tokyo branch worked with the Export-Import Bank of the United States to provide the capital necessary to help revitalize Japan. Within seven years, Bank of America had opened seven financial centers throughout Asia. 

In 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall declared that the United States should help any nation that earnestly tried to help itself to make its people self-sustaining. The “Marshall Plan” went into effect in 1948. 

Mario Giannini promptly responded, “The Plan must be made to succeed. We will make it a good world if we are intelligent, energetic and resolute.” Bank of America then began expansion into Europe.

Bank of America loaned more money than any other American bank to help Italy’s postwar recovery efforts. Harry McClelland, one of Bank of America’s farm experts, became the United States Economic Cooperative Administration chief for Italy and helped change the agricultural pattern of the country. More than five million acres were drained, irrigated or improved and steel plows and tractors replaced wooden plows and oxen. Bank of America was a partner in all of these efforts.

The bank’s global impact in the mid twentieth century was not limited to Asia and Europe. It also made loans to foreign governments in the Americas, especially in Mexico.

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