Amadeo Giannini life and biography

Amadeo Giannini picture, image, poster

Amadeo Giannini biography

Date of birth : 1870-06-05
Date of death : 1949-03-06
Birthplace : San Jose, California, USA
Nationality : American-Italian
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-04-28
Credited as : banker/inventor of modern banking practices, Bank of America, The Bank of Italy

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Amadeo Pietro Giannini (May 6, 1870 – June 3, 1949), born in San Jose, California, was the Italian American founder of Bank of America.

Known to always cater to the needs of his customers, even if it meant giving loans on a handshake, Amadeo Giannini revolutionized the banking practices of the 19 th and 20 th centuries. A natural businessman who would do anything to make a deal, Giannini built an empire by going after a clientele neglected in the banking world – the hardworking middle-class citizen.


Born to Italian immigrants in California, Amadeo Giannini had to quit school early so he could work with his stepfather selling produce at their store. Since his father had been killed in a brawl before his eyes, Amadeo realized life was too short to not take chances. And, chances he took. In fact, he was made a partner in the business and retired from his store in his early thirties by selling his share to his employees.


Upon his retirement, Giannini was asked if he would be willing to join an advisory board for a bank that catered to Italian-Americans. When he did, he came up with the idea of offering services to the hard-working classes so they could start their own businesses, buy a house, a car, or reach their dreams. When other board members didn’t agree – believing that the business of banking was only for the rich – he left and started his own bank in a converted saloon he purchased. He even hired one of the bartenders to be its first teller.


On the first day, deposits totaled almost nine thousand dollars, an unbelievable amount back in 1904. As his bank grew and word of his honest practices spread through different communities, he gained many loyal customers and would do anything to seal a deal with them. It is also documented that he would do anything to beat his competitors, even if it meant riding a horse, swimming through a pond, and running a long distance just to obtain a signature, which actually happened.


The Bank of Italy soon became the Bank of America in 1928 when Giannini bought the old bank from New York. He brought all his banks under that one name. As his bank grew, he started opening up branches all around California and eventually all over the United States. Surviving the Great Depression and following his same goals, the Bank of America became the most expansive and richest bank in the world. For someone who always followed his dreams and held strong to his convictions, Amadeo Giannini is whom we have to thank for the modern way banks cater to each and every person, no matter their wealth.



The large plaza of the Bank of America Building at California Street and Kearny, in downtown San Francisco, is named for Giannini. A.P. Giannini Middle School, which opened in the Sunset District of San Francisco, in 1954, is named after him, also. Other places and groups named after Giannini include the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural economics and the building that houses the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, at the University of California, Berkeley.

The U.S. Postal Service honored Giannini's contributions to American banking by issuing a postage stamp bearing his portrait, in 1973. A ceremony to mark the occasion was held near his former home, in San Mateo.

TIME magazine named A.P. Giannini one of the "builders and titans" of the 20th century. He was the only banker named to the Time 100, a list of the most important people of that century, as assembled by the magazine.
Walter Huston's bank president in Frank Capra's 1932 film American Madness was based largely on A.P. Giannini.
American Banker magazine recognized him as one of the five most influential bankers of the 20th Century.
In 2004, the Italian government honored Giannini with an exhibition and ceremony in its Parliament, to mark the centennial of his founding of the Bank of Italy. The exhibition was the result of the collaboration of the Ministry of Finance, the Smithsonian Institution, Italian Professor Guido Crapanzano and Peter F. De Nicola, an American collector of "Giannini" memorabilia.

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