If You Ask Me: A Global Banker Reflects on Our Times
Wriston, Walter B.
About the Author
Walter B. Wriston graduated from Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Following a brief stint in the State Department, he served four years in the army during World War Two. He has been with Citibank ever since.
Just to wind things up could you just describe your career within the bank and--
I came to Citibank by accident and stayed through inertia.
Specifically, what accident?
Well, my mother died and I was called home from the army. My wife was teaching school in New York and couldn't leave in the middle of the school year. So, I postponed returning to the foreign service and took a temporary job in the Citibank. Very scientific planning. Having no training in finance or economics or accounting, I was naturally made an auditor and put in the Controller's Department. I did that for five years.
Then I moved into the credit side and worked there for awhile. That was a deliberate move--but not mine. One of the most remarkable men the bank ever had, Buzz Cuyler, picked me up and put me there.
One day they decided to expand the national banking division, and the head of that called for all the personnel files of the college training class and picked mine out of a hat. He said, "How would you like to cover the Middle West?" Well, I grew up there, so I said, "That's fine." So I was there for awhile.
Then they needed somebody to start up the specialized industries lending, and I got assigned over there. Shipping, trucking, airlines, railways.
One day they called me up and said, "We've got two branches in Europe. How would you like to go run those?" How they lighted on me for that job, I wouldn't know. But I went and eventually headed all the international business.
Then on to my current job. Very scientific! For most of us, our lives are a series of accidents. When we get old enough, we write a book explaining to our children how we planned it that way.