City National Bank: One of America’s First Global Banks

By Phineas Upham

National City Bank made headlines when it opened a branch in Buenos Aires. This was 1914, and the Federal Reserve Act had just given allowances for banks looking to expand into the global market. This was not the first time the bank had made major moves in its industry, but this was an important first step towards success.

City Bank began opening branches all over the world, many of which are still standing today. Offices in London and Calcutta have construction dates that go all the way back to 1901. These chapters were each opened by the International Banking Corporation (IBC), which was chartered for the purpose of banks doing business outside the US. City Bank became so successful internationally that it absorbed IBC in 1918.

In 1919, the bank had $1 billion in assets. The first bank in US History to achieve such a feat.

Charles Mitchell served as president in 1921, and was singlehandedly responsible for the Great Depression according to Senator Carter Glass in a comment he made during a Senate committee meeting. Mitchell was later arrested for tax evasion, and he did pursue policies that fueled speculation leading up to the crash, but there were multiple factors at play leading up to the Great Depression. Certainly Mitchell could not have controlled Britain’s decision to switch to the gold standard.

James Stillman Rockefeller took over in 1952, and it was then that Chase and City Bank became fierce rivals. Rockefeller’s cousin, David Rockefeller, became president of Chase Manhattan. A sibling rivalry of sorts led to two of the biggest banking giants duking it out.

Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Facebook page.