Many poor Sicilians seeking a new life had emigrated to America.
Some stayed in New York, but the poorer ones, the hard-working fishermen, wanted to escape the crime.
They went to San Francisco.
Amadeo Gianni knew these men, he understood them: they worked hard, they saved their money.
Gianni knew they needed a bank to keep their money safe.
But no such thing existed for Sicilian immigrants.
Banks were just for rich WASPs (white, Anglo-Saxon, protestants).
And that was the gap in the market Amadeo Gianni saw.
The gap for a bank where Sicilians would feel welcome.
He didn’t know anything about ‘branding’ but he knew the name must be something they trusted.
He opened a little shop front with a big sign outside: BANK OF ITALY.
That said to them this is your bank, not just for rich WASPs.
And the Sicilian fisherman deposited their savings.
But in 1906, San Francisco was destroyed by an earthquake.
All the buildings were flattened, there were riots and looting.
Gianni made his way through the mob on a horse and cart carrying crates of oranges.
Just a fruit-seller, no one paid any attention to him.
What they didn’t know was that hidden under the oranges was every penny of the bank’s assets.
Gianni knew that as long as he had the money he still had a bank.
He went down to the docks where the fishermen worked.
He re-opened ‘Bank of Italy’ there, just a plank across two barrels.
They needed to borrow money to rebuild their homes and businesses.
He asked how much they needed.
When they told him, he said raise half yourself then I’ll lend you the other half.
This would prove they were serious and capable.
He was always proud that every penny was repaid.
Bank of Italy grew and grew until it became the only statewide bank across California.
Now it was time to stop being a bank just for Sicilian fishermen.
He needed a brand that the all US citizens could feel was their bank, Amadeo Gianni needed to rebrand.
In 1930, he changed the name to BANK OF AMERICA.
Now it felt like it had stature, it felt like it had history and tradition.
And Gianni was right about the rebranding.
Bank of America grew so fast that, in a few decades, it would become the second largest bank in the entire USA.
One of the largest banks in the world.
In 1958 they launched the world’s first credit card.
It was called the BankAmericard.
It created the credit card market around the entire world.
Which meant it wasn’t just a credit card for Americans.
It needed rebranding.
A name to underline the freedom it gave everyone to travel with their money anywhere.
BankAmericard was renamed VISA.
Today VISA has 38% share of the world’s credit card market.
It handles 62 billion transactions a year, amounting to $4.4 trillion.
Proving what Amadeo Gianni knew all those years ago.
Your best advertising is your brand.
Dave Trott is chairman of The Gate