Bank of New York

Long regarded as the bank for the upper crust, the Bank of New York embarked on a program to grow by opening new branches and appealing to mid-sized and small businesses. These moves alarmed the bank's more conservative customers and, more important, some of its stockholders.

In a campaign marking the bank's 200th anniverary, we reassured its base that the Bank of New York would not abandon the conservative practices that had led to its great strength - while pointing out a number of the bank's "firsts" to counter the negative perceptions of being slow moving and overly cautious. Allthough a merger shortly after the campaign was launched meant a relatively short life for it, the ads still resonate with customers nearly thirty years later.


The way we see it, sometimes the last thing a bank should be is first.

Coming from us, that statement hardly comes as a surprise.

For it is no secret that we have traditionally taken a prudent approach to money matters. To put it plainly, we look before we lend.

What may be a bit of a revelation is the number of "firsts" we have marked in our first two hundred years.

We were the first bank in New York. The first bank in the country capitalized on real money rather than real estate. And the first bank anywhere to lend money to the U.S. government.

Ours was the first major bank to invest in the telegraph, the telephone and the television set. the first to establish a trust department, open a branch or use a computer.

Proof, we would say, that prudence does not mean paralysis. We have become highly adept in rapidly determining what's right. And then making the right moves.

Case in point: cable television. We recognized cable's potential early. And moved quickly to become the leading lender to the booming business of cable TV.

Yet while some banks were rushing to be first in lending to the Third World, we chose our clients carefully. As a result, we have the lowest foreign loan exposure of any major bank.

We could point to countless examples of both our prudence and our prescience. But our point is this.

The Bank has never tried to be first merely for the sake of being so. Only when first was the smart place to be.

Perhaps that's why, of all the banks chartered in New York, only one is around to celebrate a bicentennial.

The Bank of New York.

After all, what good is being first if you don't last?

Bank of New York
200 years of looking ahead