Wriston

Wriston

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Zweig, Phillilp L. Crown Business , 1996
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In terms of intellectual and industry leadership and innovation, Walter Wriston deserves very high marks. While A. P. Giannini (Bank of America) and J. P. Morgan are in a league of their own for having started great banking institutions from scratch, no banker and no institution did more to free the financial services industry and the U.S. economy from the regulatory gridlock of the 1930s than did Wriston and Citibank. In the latter half of the 20th century, Wriston was the preeminent mold-breaker. His abiding faith in free-market principles, as well as his eclectic mix of conservative and egalitarian views, drove him to expand Citibank globally, to clear the way for banks to operate across state lines, to invent the negotiable CD, and to invest millions in new technologies such as the ATM. His foresight and initiative transformed banking from a conservative WASP public utility into a real business that is both globalized and high-tech.Yet, there were some major flaws in his intellectual leadership of the banking industry-his unwavering faith in lending to Third-World countries, his stubborn insistence that Citi could grow at 15 percent annually without capital, and his handling of the choice of a successor-all contributed to the near collapse of the institution in the early 1990s.Wriston is a critical appraisal of Wriston¿s career and the world-renowned institution he led for 17 years. But more than the study of a man and his institution, Wriston is also an illuminating tutorial on American dollar diplomacy during the past 50 years and the promulgation of free-market principles in Washington and around the world.To study the success and failures of Wriston and Citibank, as they are chronicled in Wriston, is in many ways to study the successes and failures of post-World War II banking, business, and management. Zweig¿s account is both absorbing and compelling. This book is essential reading for anyone in banking, financial services, and public policy.