Amadeo Pietro [A. P.] Giannini (1870-1949)
At 14, Giannini left school to help his stepfather run a produce business. Five years later, he was a partner, and at 31, he sold the business to retire. Three years later, he opened the Bank of Italy – based on the concept of lending money to the working class – offering mortgage, automobile, and installment loans. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, he salvaged the bank’s resources and loaned money to help rebuild the city. He provided financial backing to start United Artists and the California wine industry, and to keep Walt Disney’s Snow White from going over budget.
In 1928, he purchased Bank of America with plans for a nationwide banking system, and when he died in 1949, Bank of America was the largest bank in the United States. A. P. Giannini revolutionized banking, establishing the foundation for the modern banking system.
Written by Janice Mancuso
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TIME 100: Builders and Titans