Bank of America: Serving agriculture for more than a century
Bank of America dates back to 1904. It was started by an immigrant and the son of an agricultural family, A.P. Giannini, as the Bank of Italy. The bank catered to immigrant grocers, bakers, fish merchants and dockworkers, some of whom could not speak English. Many had never used a bank before.
Giannini’s roots in agriculture began as a child, after his father, Luigi, operated a boarding house in San Jose and prospered enough to buy a 40-acre farm in Alviso, Calif., in 1872. The family grew fruits and vegetables selling them to commission houses in San Francisco. When A.P. was 13, he started getting offers from farmers to sell their produce, whereby he wrote letters to dozens of new farmers promising “honest prices on the barrelhead and great service.” This was A.P.’s first successful business venture.
Early in the Bank of Italy’s operations, Giannini focused on small farmers. One Merced branch manager recalled, “The branch grew because A.P. insisted we take care of the little farmer.” By 1919, more than half of the bank’s business went to the agriculture industry and the bank became the largest lender to farmers and ranchers – even during the Dustbowl and Great Depression.
In 1930, to reflect its diverse customer base and appeal to an even wider range of people, Giannini changed the bank’s name to Bank of America; the Bank of Italy name was retired. By October of 1945, Bank of America was the largest bank in the world, and today the bank wouldn’t be as successful as it is without its deep roots in agriculture.
“Locally, in the Central Valley, our team specializes in various types of agricultural and general industries financing, for businesses of all sizes,” said Mark A. Riley, market president and credit manager for the Fresno/Visalia area. “We connect with and get to know the local growers, processors, wholesalers and marketers. We seek to provide financing solutions in the business segments where they operate, including crop and dairy farmers, cattle ranchers and feedlots, farm product processors (meat/dairy/produce), grain merchandisers, packaged foods, poultry and pork, as well as vintners.”
Bank of America offers experienced relationship managers and a knowledgeable agribusiness team. “Our comprehensive capabilities and capital strength can help local businesses succeed,” said Riley. “As of Dec. 30, 2015, Bank of America had a $36 billion portfolio with the agriculture business industry.”
The commercial banking team covers the Central Valley, from Bakersfield in the South, to the Oregon border in the North and over to the Central Coast. Additionally, Bank of America offers employment for approximately 600 individuals throughout the region; there are 44 financial centers, 158 ATM’s, three Merrill Lynch offices and one U.S. trust office.
“As the world's population grows, agricultural businesses are looking for ways to keep pace with an increasing demand for food,” said Riley. “Our local team of bankers and advisors are committed to helping our local businesses expand and capitalize on new opportunities, both globally and right here in our local community.”
The Agribusiness Group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch is unique because it delivers end-to-end banking and finance needs of local business in the community. Many of the company’s industry specialists live in the Central Valley and are part of the communities. World class resources and expertise are delivered to the doorstep of local businesses, providing winning solutions to clients, while helping the community grow and thrive.
The Bank of America team is committed to supporting agribusiness in the Central Valley by collectively working to make financial lives better, by investing in employees, clients and communities. Employees invest in themselves through developing expertise so that they can be the best at what they do, as well as investing in local communities and with customers.
“It is a natural fit to support all of the good work that the Fresno County Farm Bureau does for our local farming community,” said Riley. “Bank of America is fully committed to supporting agribusiness in the Central Valley. Connecting with and supporting our local Farm Bureau is a very sensible action step toward providing support to our farming partners. We don’t win unless we all win, grow and prosper,” said Riley.
To learn more about Bank of America, visit www.bankofamerica.com.
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