Walter Wriston

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Walter Wriston
Born (1919-08-03)August 3, 1919
Middletown, Connecticut, U.S.
Died January 19, 2005(2005-01-19) (aged 85)
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater Wesleyan University
Fletcher School at Tufts University
Occupation Banker

Walter Bigelow Wriston (August 3, 1919 – January 19, 2005) was a banker and former chairman and CEO of Citicorp. As chief executive of Citibank / Citicorp (later Citigroup) from 1967 to 1984, Wriston was widely regarded as the single most influential commercial banker of his time.[1][2] During his tenure as CEO, the bank introduced, among other innovations, automated teller machines, interstate banking, the negotiable certificate of deposit, and "pursued the credit card business in a way that no other bank was doing at the time".[3][4] With then New York Governor Hugh Carey and investment banker Felix Rohatyn, Wriston helped save New York City from bankruptcy in the mid-1970s by setting up the Financial Control Board and the Municipal Assistance Corporation, and persuading the city's union pension funds and banks to buy the latter corporation's bonds.[5]

Personal life

Wriston was born in Middletown, Connecticut to Ruth Bigelow Wriston, a chemistry teacher, and Henry Wriston, a history professor at Wesleyan University who was later president of Lawrence College and Brown University.

Wriston attended grade school and high school in Appleton, Wisconsin.[6] Reared as a traditional Methodist, he was not allowed to listen to the radio or go to the movie theater on Sundays.[citation needed] Wriston was an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.[7]

He attended Wesleyan University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941. While there, he was a member of the Eclectic Society and received the "Parker Prize" ("Awarded to a sophomore or junior who excels in public speaking"[8]). He received a Master's Degree from Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1942.

After graduate school, Wriston became a junior Foreign Service officer at the State Department, where he helped negotiate the exchange of Japanese interned in the United States for Americans held prisoner in Japan. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, he served in the U.S. Army for four years, being with the Signal Corps on Cebu in the Philippines during his service.

In 1942, Walter Wriston married Barbara Brengle, with whom he had one daughter. Two years after her death in 1966, he married lawyer and businesswoman Kathryn Dineen.[9]

Wriston died on January 19, 2005 in Manhattan, New York City, New York, at the age of 85. His papers, including the text of hundreds of speeches and articles spanning his lengthy career, are at Tufts University's Archives. Many have been digitized and are available in the Tufts Digital Library.[10]


He served as Chairman of The Business Council in 1981 and 1982.[11] From 1982 to 1989, Wriston was chairman of President Ronald Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board, and in June 2004 awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil honor, by President George W. Bush.[12] He was twice offered the job of Secretary of the Treasury but turned down the offers.[1] One report is that Wriston declined the offers because these were not made to him personally by the-then President. Wriston also would have had to take a substantial pay cut had he accepted the government position.

In 1987, the Manhattan Institute of Policy Research initiated a lecture series in honor of Mr. Wriston,[13] and in 2004 the Idea Channel organized a seven-part series of interviews with him as well.[14]


  • Capital goes where it's welcome and stays where it's well treated. --Walter B. Wriston
  • Information about money has become almost as important as money itself
  • Countries don't go bust
  • The 800 number and the piece of plastic have made time and space obsolete
  • The Eurodollar market exists in London because people believe that the British government is not about to close it down
  • It is inconceivable that any major bank would walk away from any subsidiary of its holding company. If your name is on the door, all of your capital funds are going to be behind it in the real world. Lawyers can say you have separation, but the marketplace is persuasive, and it would not see it that way.[15]


  • The Twilight of Sovereignty (1992)
  • Risk and Other Four-Letter Words (1986)
  • Bits, Bytes and Balance Sheets (2007)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sullivan, Patricia (January 21, 2005). "Walter B. Wriston, 85; Chairman of Citicorp". The Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Walter B. Wriston: A Remembrance". Forbes. January 21, 2005. Archived from the original on July 31, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Walter B. Wriston Archives, Biography
  7. "Wriston, Walter B." Paid Notices: Deaths. The New York Times. 2005-01-25. Retrieved 2006-09-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Scholarships, Prizes, Awards, Wesleyan University. Student Affairs. Parker Prize. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
  11. The Business Council, Official website, Background
  14. Idea Channel
  15. Financial Institutions Restructuring and Services Act of 1981, Hearings on S. 1686, S. 1703, S. 1720 and S. 1721, before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, 97th Congress, 1st Session, Part 11, pp. 589-590.

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
George S. Moore
Chairman of Citicorp
Succeeded by
John S. Reed