"In 1916, The Bank of Italy opened its first office in Fresno. The Bank of Italy of course is the historic predecessor to Bank of America."
But you can actually trace B of A's legacy back 131 years when it was called First National Bank of Fresno. It's charter dates back to 1881. The California-based Bank of Italy then acquired First National in 1921. The original building is still on the Fulton mall, at Tulare Street.
In 1930, founder A.P. Gianini renamed it Bank of America, after a merger with his Bank of Italy. Gianini came from a farm family in San Jose. He was a produce broker with a big heart. He became a banker in 1904. It wasn't long after that the great quake of 1906 struck the bay area
"AP Gianini went and was able to make loans to some of the affected residents of San Francisco right there at the docks."
This type of community outreach has been a business model for the company ever since. In the central valley, Bank of America employs nearly 1,000 people, many of whom are volunteers. Today, B of A has pledged $300,000 to support local non-profits. The company also has several bankers who focus on the needs of Fresno's small businesses.
"It's in our company's DNA to give back to the communities where we live and where we work."
Being that Gianini came from a family of farmers, he also instilled a legacy of agribusiness. In 1969, B of A established the California Livestock Symposium, the biggest of its kind at the time, and not too dissimilar from the Tulare Ag Show. The company also created an Ag research institute, working with California colleges and growers across the state. Today, B of A works with Fresno State on the annual agribusiness conference.
But the company can't ignore the struggles of the past. Getting through the great depression wasn't easy, and more recently, B of A faced some major challenges in the biggest economic decline since then. Market VP Randy Dhindsa says the key to hurdling obstacles like these, has always been to maintain relationships with customers and community leaders.
"We are Bank of America, but we're a community bank. We're here for the community. We're here for the people."