New Ideas from Dead CEOs: Bank of America

I have been trying to read this book New Ideas from Dead CEOs: Lasting Lessons from the Corner Office by Todd G. Buchholz for quite a while now. It is an insightful book with stories and experiences from the CEOs of great organizations (or great CEOs that made great organizations). It is quite thick book for my preference, so I am trying to read one CEO at a time and planning to jot down few lessons here. Let me know if you have read it too.

Several iconic CEOs have been chosen in this book. From A.P. Giannini (Bank of America), Thomas Watson Sr & Jr. (IBM), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Ray Kroc (McDonalds), David Sarnoff (RCA), Akio Morita (Sony), Estee Lauder (Estee Lauder), Mary Kay Ash (Mary Kay Cosmetics) to Walt Disney (Disney).  The author has apparently chosen them based on these qualities

  • Innovators, not just outstanding managers
  • Interesting (to the author)
  • Lessons that are applicable today

So the first CEO is A.P. Giannini,  founder of Bank of America.

A. P. Giannini is a representation of the multicultural USA, coming from Italy and founding Bank of America. Despite his father being killed, and starting from a mediocre vegetable business, he thrived at competition, and jumped at opportunities. Rather than going after the then traditional banking to riches, he took the opposite bet- serving the working people, or the ‘little fellow’. Giannini revolutionized industry and economy as a whole. He understood the little fellow. He introduced trust by introducing flexible hour banking, more values to the consumers, better interest, flexible loans (even on cows! and ideas of course) and branch banking. His decisiveness during earthquake was commendable. As if that wasn’t enough, he passionately bounced back from an almost bed-bound condition to the biggest bank of the world. His retirement words are as impressive as working words – “If I ever hear that any of you are trying to play the big man’s game and forgetting the small man, I’ll be back here fighting.”

It amazes me how our banks are still unable to provide loans based on ideas on this day when Giannini understood it 100 years ago!


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