Amadeo Giannini founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco. The Bank of Italy served the needs of many immigrants settling in the United States at that time, a service denied to them by the existing American banks who were typically discriminatory and often denied service to all but the wealthiest. Giannini was raised by his mother and stepfather Lorenzo Scatena, as his father was fatally shot over a pay dispute with an employee. When the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck, Giannini was able to save all deposits out of the bank building and away from the fires. Because San Francisco’s banks were in smoldering ruins and unable to open their vaults, Giannini was able to use the rescued funds to commence lending within a few days of the disaster. From a makeshift desk consisting of a few planks over two barrels, he lent money to those who wished to rebuild. Later in life, he took great pride in the fact that all of these loans were repaid.
In 1922, Giannini established Bank of America and Italy in Italy by buying Banca dell’Italia Meridionale, the latter established in 1918.
In 1928, Giannini merged his bank with Bank of America, Los Angeles and consolidated it with his other bank holdings to create what would become the largest banking institution in the country. He renamed the Bank of Italy on November 3, 1930, calling it Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association. The resulting company was headed by Giannini with Orra E. Monnette serving as co-Chair