Valley National Bank of Arizona
Valley National Bank branch in Safford in the 1950s, prominently showing the bank's longtime octagonal logo
|Fate||Acquired by Bank One|
|Headquarters||Valley Center (now Chase Tower), Phoenix, Arizona United States|
|Walter Bimson, chairman (1933-1970)|
Valley National Bank of Arizona was a bank based in Phoenix, Arizona, founded in 1900 and acquired by Bank One in 1992. The bank was one of Arizona's leading financial institutions during the 20th century and the last major independent bank in Arizona at the time of its acquisition.
Formation and early development
The history of Valley National Bank can be traced back to the establishment of the Gila Valley Bank in Solomonville, Arizona, in Graham County, on January 16, 1900. The primary shareholder of the Gila Valley Bank was town founder Isadore Solomon, who established the town to support the area's copper mines. The bank was well-positioned to contribute to nearby communities in Arizona's copper mining country, such as Safford, Morenci and Clifton.
The Valley Bank, another predecessor to Valley National Bank, was a Phoenix-based institution that primarily served agricultural businesses. In 1914, overlending left Valley Bank short on capital, and fearing a run on the bank, shareholders closed the bank in November. They turned to Gila Valley Bank, asking that institution to assist Valley Bank; Gila Valley purchased some Valley Bank assets, and in 1922, the two combined into the Valley Bank of Arizona, later named The Valley Bank and Trust Company. The bank continued to grow by mergers; upon its 1935 merger with Consolidated National Bank of Tucson, the institution became known as Valley National Bank of Arizona.
In 1932, Valley Bank built a headquarters for the expanding company in conjunction with the Maricopa County Medical Society, the Professional Building. In 1939, Valley Bank took over the entire building; from 1958 to 1972, a large rotating Valley National Bank neon sign adorned the structure.
The Great Depression and Walter Bimson
The Great Depression hurt Valley Bank severely. In 1933, many banks nationwide were closing their doors. Meanwhile, Walter Bimson, the son of a blacksmith who had studied economics and was working at Harris Trust and Savings Bank in Chicago, traveled to the Southwest and was impressed with the region. In that year, Valley Bank hired Bimson as its president.
Bimson's banking policy broke with conventional wisdom. Amidst the depression, he instructed bank personnel to continue lending, believing that adequate funds existed in the communities but that lending would be the spark needed to restart the economy. These policies began to put Valley Bank at the forefront. Within a year after coming to Arizona, Valley Bank was the first in Arizona to become a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and it was one of the first to provide government-guaranteed home loans; in 1936, one Miami, Arizona furniture company credited the government's FHA programs and Valley National Bank for a 60% increase in business.
Bimson's policies made Valley National Bank a success; he remained the bank's driving figure until 1952, and stayed on as chairman of the board until 1970.
With the postwar growth of Arizona, Valley National Bank expanded as well. It built branches throughout the rapidly expanding Phoenix metropolitan area and the rest of the state. In a 1961 article in the Los Angeles Times, Arizona senator Barry Goldwater characterized the bank's growth as one that "parallels the explosive progress of Arizona".
In 1972, it built the Valley Center in downtown Phoenix, which remains the tallest building in the state of Arizona; in 1981, it opened its 200th branch, in Solomonville, the town where the bank began. At the same time, it was a pioneer in banking services; it was the first bank in Arizona to issue a credit card in 1965 and the pioneer of direct deposits for Social Security in 1973, a program that was taken nationwide two years later. It also was early with drive-in banking branches and in issuing photo IDs to customers.
The savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s initially caused major losses at Valley National, which lost $149 million in 1989, but the bank rebounded to post positive earnings in 1990 ($7.5 million) and 1991 ($34.6 million).
On April 14, 1992, Valley National Bank announced its merger with Bank One for $1.2 billion ($2.02 billion in 2015 dollars). At the time of the merger, it had 206 Arizona branches, plus 35 in Utah (where it operated as Valley Bank and Trust of Utah) and seven in California (under the name California Valley Bank), and it held $11 billion in assets. Some Valley National Bank branches and offices, including Valley Center (now known as Chase Tower), are still occupied by Bank One's successor, Chase.
Four buildings associated with Valley National Bank are listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Arizona:
- The Gila Valley Bank and Trust Building in Globe, constructed in 1909
- The Valley National Bank Building in Tucson, constructed in 1929 for Consolidated National Bank of Tucson and the oldest skyscraper in the city
- The Professional Building in Phoenix, home of The Valley Bank and Trust/Valley National Bank from 1932 to 1972
- The Valley National Bank branch in Casa Grande, constructed in 1950
Valley National Bank retained a large art collection, displayed at its offices and branch locations, until the bank's 1992 acquisition. By then, the collection featured 3,500 pieces and was large enough that the art was displayed on every floor of Valley Center (including in the building's Walter Reed Bimson Gallery of Art), in every Valley National Bank branch, and additionally filled a large warehouse; the bank also employed an art curator. The collection was sold off by Bank One upon its acquisition of Valley National, and the pieces are in the hands of museums, private collectors, and with JPMorgan Chase in Manhattan.
- Associated Press (1992-04-15). "Buyout would put Banc One in top 8". The Pantagraph.
- Arizona Historical Society historical overview of Valley National Bank
- "Business Increase Laid to FHA Plans: Modernization Program Is Boon to Arizona Firms". The Washington Post. 1936-02-09.
- Goldwater, Barry (1961-08-15). "Some Philosophy From a Banker". Los Angeles Times.
- Narisetti, Raju (1992-04-15). "BANC ONE AGREES TO ACQUIRE CHAIN IN WESTERN STATES - VALLEY NATIONAL EMERGING FROM LOSSES". Dayton Daily News.
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
- Nett, Walt (1992-04-15). "Valley, Ohio-based bank reveal merger". Arizona Daily Star.
- Victor J. Danilov. A Planning Guide for Corporate Museums, Galleries, and Visitor Centers. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992. 135.
- "Art Patron, Curator to Judge CG Fiesta". Casa Grande Dispatch. 1976-03-25.
- Jarman, Max (2010-04-19). "Bashas' fights to keep $16 million art collection". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2014-01-26.