If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times

Wriston, Walter B.


A Simple Matter of Survival


How much of your time is spent in activities outside of Citicorp, such as public relations? Do you think the role of the chief executive officer has changed?

After that, do we get to the tough questions?

The only thing about my job today that's the same as it was ten years ago is the title--fortunately not the pay.

One of my predecessors prided himself on the fact that he never met a senator or congressman. Those days are gone. Today, to make believe that the survival of the corporation isn't part of your job is insane. That's why a group of us founded The Business Roundtable. We're working at survival on a lobbying basis, because the number-one job of a CEO is the survival of his corporation. If interaction with the government is one key to that survival, along with intelligent business management, then that's obviously a top priority for your time. So, you can spend up to--well, Reg Jones[7]  says he spends half his time outside, and I wouldn't doubt it. It's not that much for me, but it's a good 30 percent on broad national issues and developments in my own industry like membership in the Federal Reserve, Regulation Q, interstate banking--that sort of thing.


[7] Reginald H. Jones, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric Company.

  • The document was created from a compilation of interviews and question and answer segments with Walter B. Wriston which was later compiled into "If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times" in 1980. The original speech is located in MS134.001.034.00018.
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 Title Page
If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times
I: Getting Down to Fundamentals
The Big Cop-out
You Can't Go Bail for Everyone
Risk Is What It's All About
II: Some Basic Ills of the Body Politic
Lincoln Wouldn't Have Made It
Unpredictable Is a Dangerous Country
The Pitfalls of Single-issue Politics
Expect To Get Zapped
The Perils of Legal Pollution
The Injustice of Our Tax System
Those Wonderful People Who Bring You Inflation
Stop the Presses
Silly Premises Lead to Nutty Conclusions
Easier Said Than Done
III: New York, New York
New York City Is Alive And Well
The Road Back
IV: Careers
Rx for Happiness
Good Forward Planning
Dull Job?
A Simple Matter of Survival
Making It at Citibank
What Fast Track?
No Hiding Place
V: Once Around the World Quickly
South Africa
China: A Matter of Timing
The Real Significance of Iran
Iran and the Money Markets
Fashions in Country-criticizing
VI: The Global Financial Scene
The Elusive Eurodollar
De Facto Payments Mechanism
Too Big To Move
The Foreign Exchange Game
They Can't Leave the System
Baskets of Money
Swiss Francs
The Value of a Dollar
Not a Loss Since 1897
A Rational View of LDC Loans
Free Trade Benefits Consumers
The Destructive Costs of Regulation
The Big Rip-off
A Real Entitlement
Can Regulations Prevent Bum Loans?
The Insidious Side of Controls
Competition in Regulation
VIII: The Shape of Things To Come
Not As Big As You Think
What Lobby?
Armageddon Is Late, as Usual
Some Simple Facts about Interest Rates
An Expensive Luxury
How Big Is Big?
What We Did Yesterday Won't Work Tomorrow
A Matter of Semantics
Unpredictable Is a Dangerous Country
Privacy: A Serious Problem
The Unseen Revolution
Things Are Going To Be Different
Take the Handcuffs off Everybody
The Gray Areas of Lending
No Mouse under the Rug
Thank God We Don't Have National Banking
Competition Keeps You Awake
Accounting for Loan Losses
Not a Utility
People Like It
Computer Frauds
Some Final Words on Responsibility
About the Author