Walter Wriston, chairman and CEO of Citicorp, Died at 85


Walter Bigelow Wriston died on January 19, 2005 at the age of 85, was a banker and former chairman and CEO of Citicorp.

Born in Middletown, Connecticut on August 3, 1919 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.

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”.

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”).

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.

After a year’s service with the State Department and a four-year tour with the U.S. Army during World War II, Wriston joined Citibank in 1946 as a junior inspector in the comptroller’s division.

At the time, it was called First National City Bank. As president (1967-70) and chairman (1970-84) of Citibank, Wriston held sway as one of the nation’s most influential bankers.

He led the move to expand Citibank’s commercial operations, including home mortgages and credit-card services.

He also chaired President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board (1982-89), and wrote the books Risk and Other Four Letter Words (1986) and The Twilight of Sovereignty (1992).

He engaged in aggressive international expansion and diversification; one revolutionary innovation was the introduction of the automated teller machine (ATM). Wriston retired in 1984 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

Wriston is survived by his second wife, Kathryn, whom he married after his first wife, Barbara, died in 1966; his daughter Catherine from his first marriage, and two grandchildren.