“They Have Their Exits”: Bank Survival 1983-2010

How many formerly famous banks have disappeared in only a generation!  Of the 50 largest US bank holding companies by assets in 1983, only eight still exist as independent companies.  For those of us who have spent some time in the banking trade, reading the 1983 list is a sobering remembrance.  Only 16% of these 50 once prominent banks have survived; 84% have passed into memory (or oblivion).

The Top 50 Bank Holding Companies in 1983

A. Survivors





1983 Name    Current Name   


  1. Citicorp Citigroup
  6. Chemical JP Morgan Chase
18. Norwest Wells Fargo
25. NCNB Bank of America
26. Bank of New York Bank of New York Mellon
27. PNC Same
34. Comerica Same
47. Northern Trust Same

B. Memories





1983 Name   


Fate/Acquired By   


Now Part of   


2. Bank America NationsBank/1998 Bank of America
3. Chase Manhattan Chemical/1996 JP Morgan Chase
4. Manufactures Hanover Chemical/1992 JP Morgan Chase
5. J.P. Morgan Chase Manhattan/2000 JP Morgan Chase
7. First Interstate Wells Fargo/1996 Wells Fargo
8. Continental Illinois Bank America/1994 Bank of America
9. Security Pacific Bank America/1992 Bank of America
10. Bankers Trust Deutsche Bank/1999 Deutsche Bank
11. First Chicago NBD/1995 JP Morgan Chase
12. Wells Fargo Norwest/1998 Wells Fargo
13. Mellon   Bank of New York/2007 Bank of NY Mellon
14. Crocker Wells Fargo/1986 Wells Fargo
15. Marine Midland HSBC/1987 HSBC
16. InterFirst RepublicBank/1987 Bank of America
17. First Bank System U.S. Bancorp/1997 U.S. Bancorp
19. Bank of Boston Fleet Financial/1999 Bank of America
20. Texas Commerce Chemical/1987 JP Morgan Chase
21. RepublicBank NCNB/1988 Bank of America
22. Irving Bank of New York/1988 Bank of NY Mellon
23. FirstCity of Texas Failed  
24. NBD Banc One/1998 JP Morgan Chase
28. MCorp. Banc One/1989 JP Morgan Chase
29. Republic New York HSBC Holdings/1999 HSBC
30. Barnett Banks NationsBank/1997 Bank of America
31. Southeast Banking First Union/1991 Wells Fargo
32. European American ABN AMRO/1991 Citigroup
33. CoreStates First Union/1998 Wells Fargo
35. Valley National Banc One/1993 JP Morgan Chase
36. Union Bancorp California First/1988 Bk of Tokyo-Mitsubishi
37. Allied Bancshares First Interstate/1988 Wells Fargo
38. Wachovia First Union/2001 Wells Fargo
39. Harris Bank of Montreal/1983 Bank of Montreal
40. Banc One JP Morgan Chase/2004 JP Morgan Chase
41. Sovran Citizens & Southern/1990 Bank of America
42. Citizens & Southern NCNB/1991 Bank of America
43. Michigan National Standard Federal/2001 Bank of America
44. First Union Wells Fargo/2008 Wells Fargo
45. National City PNC /2008 PNC
47. U.S. Bancorp Firststar/2001 U.S Bancorp
48. FirstNationalState Fidelity Union/1984 Wells Fargo
49. Midlantic Banks PNC /1996 PNC
50. Rainier Security Pacific/1987 Bank of America

It is hard to keep clearly in focus, as we think about business or investment strategy, how profound the change can be in a relatively short time.  The bank trainee who was 23 years old at the time of our original list, is now only 50—with perhaps another 15 or 20 years in the business to experience still more shifting of the foundations.

Our list displays the riskiness of banking and its pervasive consolidation over the last generation.  Do we expect the risk or the consolidation to stop now?  Or change direction in some surprising way?  Note especially that the Survivors are by no means the biggest institutions of 1983—only two of the top ten and three of the top 20 made it to here.

The structures of the present to which we are accustomed seem so solid.  But perusing this list should make us usefully reflect on the insubstantiality of institutions and get ourselves ready for more creative destruction, to use the celebrated term of Joseph Schumpeter.  As Schumpeter observed, “Economic progress, in capitalist society, means turmoil.”  And further: “Capitalism not only never is, but never can be, stationary.”

Or to alter Shakespeare slightly:

          Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,

          But sad mortality o’ersways their power,

          How with this rage shall BANKING hold a plea?

We bid the “Memories” banks adieu and life goes on.

Alex J. Pollock is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.  He was President and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago 1991-2004.  In 1983, he was working at #8 Continental Illinois.