# 8 – A Tale of Two Banks .. Previously Posted on Facebook

April 23, 2016

My dad ,Maurice Gore, worked for The Merchants Bank of New York, a Jewish bank located near Canal Street which was focused on helping factory entrepreneurs finance their accounts receivable and inventory via working capital loans as cash flow could be difficult to gauge.

Thanks go to my dad for having paid for my college education and to my mother in law , Lorraine Puckett,for  having paid for my graduate school, The American Graduate School of International Management, ( Thunderbird ). With schooling behind me, ( I thought ),  I was fortunate to be hired by Citibank and be accepted into their Overseas Division training program.

The Citibank Overseas Division training program was ultra WASP and cuts above Citi’s New York Branch Division and Citi’s National Division as a career launching pad. The Bank’s recent Presidents had been Executive Vice Presidents in the Overseas Division.

And, I could tell the status of the Overseas Division by its most recent trainee hirees which included George Champion Jr whose father was Head of the Chase Overseas Division,and David Oliphant whose father was President of Hanover Bank . Later,  in South Africa, Citibank made it possible for me to have a friend, David Andersen, whose father was Head of JP Morgan’s Overseas Division..

The Citibank  program only accepted Ivy league graduates ( almost only )  and I was later to learn they hired far more graduates than they needed and expected the training process to thin the herd. That’s because trainees still needed to be accepted by a Desk such as the UK Desk, the Africa Desk, the Middle East Desk, the Far East Desk, etc.

So, here I was expecting to be cut from this herd almost any day based on my Iona College credentials not to mention that I was a half Jew,  in hiding. But, as luck would have it, perhaps my hidden half Jewishness was a subliminal magnate that they couldn’t resist, because you can be sure I wasn’t intentionally transmitting a Jewish beacon.  I was invited to a screening  lunch by a Princetonian and a Yalie ( affirmative action ? ) and then was asked to work with them on the Middle East Desk which covered the entire Middle East from Turkey to Aden with branches in Beirut, Cairo and Jiddah.,

You may find it interesting to know that Israel was not served by the Middle East Desk, but by the UK Desk and God forbid a KuwaitI Sheik and an Israeli official should enter the same elevator at the same time.

The boss of my boss was Ed Thorne, Senior VP, a guy you would never expect to have a family which had  owned ( in his youth ) the whole of Hilton Head Island…the whole of the second largest island on the East Coast,  after Long Island !  It was said, the family had been  fond of taking weekend safaris into the interior of  Hilton Head  with domestic help carrying a silver tea service and everything that went with it.  Lots of Monday’s I heard my fellow trainees discussing their  weekend trips to the Bahamas, Vail,   or wherever,  and yet they were very open to me joining them for lunch. ((With   me remaining silent about my weekend in Yonkers ).

My job was to learn how to express myself in writing in a conversational way and write letters for Vice Presidents to Kuwaiti and Saudi Sheiks relating to their business with the Bank. which included large time deposits. And , to immerse  myself into customs and procedures of  the  middle east relating to lending, collateral , interest etc   mainly by reading branch manager’s ongoing memos such as how to negotiate loans with Saudi  merchants who were brilliant traders , but paid no mind to traditional accounting practices including the preparation of financial statements.  Part of my day was to take a language lesson and to have  one on one instruction in writing from a professional writer ( Rudolph Flesch ) .

I ghosted a letter for James Stillman Rockefeller , President to Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt informing him that the Bank was freezing Egypt’s deposits at our Bank in reaction to Egypt seizing our Cairo Branch.

Mr Rockefeller’s secretary informed me in advance, that when reading my draft, Mr Rockefeller would be expecting to hear violins in the background. I responded by supplying what I believed sounded like a full string quartet. The letter was duly signed, on my third try, and returned to me with a pink transmittal slip on which Mr Rockefeller’s secretary inscribed ” WOW” !

And, it was out of correspondence with the Kuwaitis and exchanges with Greek oil magnates such as Onassis that Larry Heath, VP sitting just         four desks away from me, invented the first Time Certificate of Deposit . Yes,  the CD  we all know today, which instantly caught on as being far more negotiable than a letter from a Vice President to a wealthy depositor.

The sensory impression created by  the fifth floor  “Overseas Officers Platform ”  at 55 Wall Street was instant and of  Charles Dickens. … tall  and wide mahogany roll top desks which hid a VP or higher and allowed him to keep his back to a window on the street ( five floors below )  and remain hidden from other occupants of the platform, including me.

I prided myself on believing I could converse with Mr Rockefeller if called to do so ( without my heart pounding ), and just as easily fit in with construction workers pouring concrete in the street below ..

So, when my father showed up unexpectedly one afternoon, in a custom silk suit hand tailored by one of his Canal Street contacts, to offer me a ride home, I wasn’t thrown for a loop. I introduced him around the platform including to Hans von Fleugge , a self deprecating, always joking, German trainee, and everything went off without a hitch.  I once shared an Officers elevator with von Fleugge and we were confronted by an officious, matronly, territorial , senior secretary from somewhere who wanted to know our titles.  Without missing a beat,  von Fleugge replied ” Madam, I am Baron Hans von Fleugge. Is that title enough ?  I don’t want to say we left her with her mouth open…but it was close.

And, now when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see a Bronx Irish Catholic anymore, I didn’t see a Jew.  I saw a WASP banker in a three piece J.Press suit and did I enjoy the role.!

This was confirmed  when Dave White, Princeton and I were asked to pose with Walter Wriston, Head of the Overseas Division for an article the NY Times was doing on careers in Commercial Banking.

And then,  I was told I was being assigned to Johannesburg, not Jiddah…..Thank God…more hours of sun each year than the French Riviera, 5,600 feet elevation and lots of sports to play including rugby, cricket, and tennis !, A free country club, first class steamer accommodations to and from, kids educated for free in Switzerland, nearby  game reserves for photo safaris, a two months home leave every two years…..Lucky us. Me, Rosie, and Kris…..with Lisa on the way.

I had learned how to navigate in different types of worlds, as a man ,  just by observing my dad and using his way of relating to all types of people as my behavior model. I didn’t realize it then but my experience as a 15 year old sorting checks at Merchants Bank and my experience as an Overseas Officer at Citibank, would synthesize into the greatest experience of my life, working side by side with my dad.

I didn’t realize it , but all the perks of a career at Citibank, wearing J Press suits, eating in the Officers Dining Room and Clocks of the World decorating couldn’t hold a candle to working with my dad and being his best friend.

Within three years I would be trading Wall Street for Canal Street , for a junk yard desk and for  lunch at the Dayton Dairy Cafeteria. And, I would consider it the best trade I ever made.!,

Leave a Reply