Largest Banks in the World BankAmerica Corporation Part 1

About one of the largest banks in the world BankAmerica Corporation, history and founding, size and growth.


BankAmerica Corporation

Birth and Growth: On Oct. 17, 1904, Amadeo Peter Giannini opened the doors to the Bank of Italy in San Francisco. On that first day 28 accounts were opened--for a total of $8,780. In 1909, after the state of California passed a law permitting branch banking outside a bank's home city, Giannini began buying other banks. By 1918 the Bank of Italy had 24 branches throughout the state. In 1919 the Bank of Italy joined the Federal Reserve System. Two years later the Federal Reserve Board ruled that no member bank could open up new branches outside of its home-office city or acquire other banks without the board's approval. To get around these unfavorable rulings, Giannini resigned as president of Bank of Italy but retained effective control through stock holdings. He then bought the Bank of America of Los Angeles, which eventually became part of the Bank of America of California.

In November, 1930, the Bank of Italy merged with Giannini's Bank of America of California to form the Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association.

In 1928 Giannini set up a holding company, called Transamerica Corporation, to own his bank's stock. He used Transamerica to acquire other banks and investments outside of California. By 1948 Transamerica owned business services, finance companies, insurance companies, and real estate companies, as well as 645 bank offices in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

By 1952 Transamerica had sold all of its Bank of America stock, despite an appellate court ruling that these holdings did not constitute a monopoly threat. It is now one of the largest diversified financial companies in the U.S.

In May, 1966, the Bank of America decided to develop its bank credit card--BankAmericard--into a national all-purpose credit card. On Mar. 1, 1977, the bank and other issuers of the BankAmericard adopted the name VISA for their credit cards. Since BankAmerica owns the BankAmericard name, the bank, its subsidiaries, and its affiliates continue to use the name BankAmericard together with the name VISA, while other issuers of the VISA card must use their own name as the issuing bank.

By 1976 there were 4.5 million card holders in California. In November, 1976, the bank was permitted by the Interbank Card Association to begin issuing Master Charge credit cards, the chief rival to BankAmericards. It is now possible to get a Bank of America Master Charge.

On Oct. 7, 1968, the BankAmerica Corporation was organized as a holding company to acquire the stock of Bank of America. A merger agreement was signed on Dec. 3, 1968, and on Mar. 31, 1969, the banks' shares were exchanged for the holding company's shares, making the Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association a wholly owned subsidiary of the BankAmerica Corporation.

On Jan. 1, 1974, the BankAmerica Corporation purchased GAC Finance, Inc., for around $80 million. GAC Finance, Inc., consisted of the finance, insurance, and loan business of the former GAC Corporation.

In August, 1974, GAC Finance, Inc., was renamed FinanceAmerica Corporation.

Size Today: BankAmerica is the largest commercial banking company in the world. The bank makes more loans to agriculture than any other private lender in the world. Its retail banking operations, centered in California, employ over half its workers and account for almost 40% of its profits. The bank has 8 million deposit accounts in California.

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