If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times
Wriston, Walter B.
Not a Utility
Three years ago I heard you speak to a group of business students at Yale and you said that you foresaw a day when banking would evolve into a public utility. I wonder if your outlook has changed?
I don't recall saying that it would. I said there was a danger of it. There still is. The danger exists because a lot of people make speeches about free enterprise (except for me, of course!) but are really seeking special protection within their own markets.
At the time you're speaking of our bank had invested enormous sums of money in talent and skills to build a new technology of consumer activated terminals to be used with our own Citicards. Those who did not take that risk or spend that money were saying, "Let's have a utility. Let's give everyone access to your data base." We answered, "No way! We don't want to be a utility. We want to differentiate our product. We spent the money. We took the risk. Our customers like it. We have no desire to merge into one vast common denominator."
We fought that battle. We're still fighting it. So far, we're still not a utility. I don't think we're going to be. The danger has diminished somewhat...but I keep looking over my shoulder.