Becoming Bank of America

In the first half of the 20th century, A.P. Giannini led Bank of America to become the largest bank in the world. Starting as a San Francisco neighborhood bank in 1904, the Bank of Italy catered to the working and ethnic classes of the Italian North Beach district.

Spurred by the Banking Panic of 1907, Giannini grew the Bank of Italy, later Bank of America, by aggressively pursuing financial center banking in California. The state was one of the few that did not restrict intrastate financial center banking.

A.P. Giannini recognized some unique advantages of financial center banking—a system of bank offices spread out over a geographical area owned by a single bank with a head office in a major city. Financial center banking allowed a bank to take deposits from multiple locations, pool the deposits and make loans where the demand was the greatest.

In 1909, the Bank of Italy opened its first out of town financial center in the then agricultural hub of San Jose. This was followed by a significant move into the booming Los Angeles metropolis in 1913. Growth was a natural outcome and during the early part of the 20th century, the Bank of Italy would open offices in key agricultural centers across the state.

By the 1920s, the Bank of Italy was the only statewide bank in California. Along with offices in New York and Italy, and with a vision to one day have financial centers across the country, the bank changed its name to Bank of America in 1930. By 1945, it became the largest bank in the world.

In the second half of the 20th century, Hugh McColl built the largest bank in the fast growing Southeast. As in California, North Carolina did not have restrictions on intrastate banking, allowing NCNB to become a powerhouse in the state. With a forward-looking vision, McColl and NCNB were at the forefront of interstate financial center banking, changing the face of the modern banking industry.

First expanding into Florida and then driving the Southeast Banking Compact, NCNB became the first bank to expand outside of its geographic region with the purchase of First Republic Bank in Texas. With the acquisition of C&S/Sovran, the bank became the third largest in the nation. To reflect its vast geographic reach, the bank took the new name, NationsBank.

Subsequent mergers with Maryland National Corporation and Boatmen’s Bank of St. Louis extended the bank’s reach making it the second largest in America. In 1998, McColl fulfilled Giannini’s vision to build a nationwide bank with the merger of BankAmerica into NationsBank. It created the first coast-to-coast bank and provided customers with unmatched convenience. As a result, Bank of America became the largest bank in the United States. It operated in an unprecedented 22 states and the District of Columbia.

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