Citigroup is a global financial services corporation and the parent company of Citibank, the consumer finance division of the company. They are most often simply referred to as Citi when discussing either entity. Citi celebrated their 200th anniversary in June of 2012, making it one of the oldest financial services companies in America.
Today Citi is one of the three largest banks in the country. It is also one of the largest financial services institutions in the world, having branches in 36 countries. The contributions of Citi throughout the institution’s history had a significant impact on the United States and the world, making it one of the most important banks ever established.
A part of history
Citibank was founded on June 16 of 1812 as The City Bank of New York. It counted among its founders Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Osgood, the latter of whom was the bank’s first president. Since there was no national or central bank at the time, City Bank of New York acted as the financial institution for the Treasury, helping to finance purchases during the War of 1812. Among other historical events, it also financed the first transatlantic telegraph cable in the 1860s.
Citi weathered at least two periods of financial turmoil in the early and mid-19th century, becoming one of the largest banks in the country by the end of the Civil War. By that time, the bank had changed its name to The National City Bank of New York, reflecting its participation in a new unified banking system. The National Bank Act of 1863 set out to create a national currency backed by the U.S. Treasury and Citi was part of that effort.
A new century
With its increasing size and ability to finance large projects, in 1904 Citi was called upon to fund one of the largest engineering projects ever undertaken. The Panama Canal project required millions of dollars in funding just to get underway, much of which Citi provided.
Citi was also the first U.S. bank to open offices outside the country, starting with a Buenos Aires, Argentina branch in 1914. Five years later, Citi became the first U.S. bank to reach $1 billion in assets. Citi continued to thrive and merged with First National Bank in 1955. The combined company was renamed First National City Bank in 1962. It also was responsible for pioneering the first certificates of deposit in 1961, allowing investors to collect a fixed interest rate for an extended duration.
In 1968, they introduced their first credit card, the First National City Charge Card, to compete with the BankAmericard.
The modern era
In the mid-1970s, First National City Bank became Citibank, and the bank’s holding company, First National City Corporation, became Citicorp.
With this change came the branding of a new form of automated banking, the Citicard. With the Citicard, customers could perform banking transactions without a passbook. The Citicard was also used to make all types of transactions 24/7 at the bank’s new ATM machines. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Citi continued to expand into new markets and introduce new banking technologies.
In 1998, Citicorp merged with Travelers Group to form the largest financial services company in the world. Travelers had been an insurance company but had also acquired stock brokerage firm Smith Barney, among other financial services assets. The combined entity was renamed Citigroup on Oct. 9, 1998.
Today's Citi has traveled far from its origins as New York City's hometown bank. The organization now operates more than 16,000 locations across the globe, working with businesses and consumers of all types and backgrounds.
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About the Author
Ashley Dull Finance Editor
Ashley is the Media Relations Coordinator at CardRates, formerly our Editor in Chief. She now creates national media campaigns for the site, leveraging years of industry knowledge acquired through regular collaboration with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets.
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