BofA Scion, Board's 1st Female, Dies / Claire Giannini Hoffman was daughter of founder

BofA Scion, Board's 1st Female, Dies / Claire Giannini Hoffman was daughter of founder

1997-12-23 04:00:00 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Claire Giannini Hoffman, daughter of the founder of Bank of America and Transamerica Corp., and herself a significant figure in international business and banking circles, died Saturday at Seven Oaks, the historic family home in San Mateo. She was 92.

Hoffman was born in San Mateo on Dec. 30, 1904, the same year Amadeo Peter Giannini pioneered "banking for the people"

by founding the Bank of Italy in San Francisco, the predecessor to the Bank of America.

Hoffman was educated at Bay Area schools and at Rosemary Hall in Connecticut before being admitted to Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. But homesick, she returned to the Bay Area to attend Mills College in Oakland.

She soon became engrossed in her father's burgeoning banking interests and was his traveling companion and confidante on many of his business trips across the country and abroad.

In 1930, she married Clifford Pierson "Biff" Hoffman, an investment banker and former All- American track and football star at Stanford. He died in 1954.

After her father's death in 1949, she was appointed to his seat on Bank of America's board of directors, becoming the bank's first female director. She continued to champion his ideas on branch banking as the key to bringing banking services to new and expanding neighborhoods and helping to fuel California's explosive post-war growth.

When her brother, Bank of America President L.M. Giannini, died in 1952, she became a member of the bank's General Executive Committee.

She was never a passive director, however, and her relations with modern-day bank management were often stormy. Passionately loyal to her father's principles and contemptuous of contemporary banking policies, she resigned as an honorary director of the Bank of America in 1985 after blasting senior officers for putting the bank's World Headquarters up for sale.

She called management's decision to sell the 52-story building at 555 California Street "appalling" and "unpardonable." S

"I have watched three successive administrations," she wrote in a scathing letter of resignation, "stray further and further from the policies and practices that were such a vital part of my father's leadership: a willingness to place the human needs of ordinary people above private ambition, and a realization that the bank was less a place of work for its thousands of employees than an extended family of fellow workers."

She credited her mother, Clorinda Agnes Cuneo, with teaching her how to accomplish things at a time when women in business were uncommon. Besides blazing a trail herself, she worked to promote the cause of women, including creating career paths and opportunities and equality of pay.

Active in major national and international business and financial organizations, she was for many years the only woman invited as special guest at events of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

In the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration chose Hoffman to serve on the National Council of Consultants to the U.S. Small Business Administration. In 1959, she was a U.S. delegate to the Atlantic Congress in London and a member of its Free Trade and Exchange of Currency Committee. She also became a member of the board of trustees of the Center for International Economic Growth. And in 1962, she was made the only honorary member of the American Institute of Banking.

In 1963, Hoffman became the first female director on Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s board.

She went to Geneva in 1964 as U.S. delegate to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, representing the U.S. business community. That same year, President Lyndon Johnson asked her to be a director of the Export-Import Bank.

President Nixon appointed her to the Financial Investment Advisory Panel of the National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak) in 1970, and in 1972 she was appointed the first female member of the Board of Regents of St. Mary's College.

In 1973, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Arthur Burns and Nixon asked Hoffman to become the governor of the Federal Reserve Board. She declined because the appointment would have required her to sever her connections with Bank of America.

Numerous honorary memberships were bestowed on her by organizations ranging from the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce to the Association of California County Treasurers to the Soroptimist Club of San Francisco.

Many organizations, including the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the California Lieutenant Governors' Club and the San Francisco Opera, awarded her special recognitions.

An accomplished equestrian, she kept a stable of horses at the Champagne Paddock, her 11-acre property in Woodside. She also enjoyed ballroom dancing and was an avid golfer.,

Hoffman had no children and is survived by two nieces, Ann McWilliams of San Francisco and Virginia Hammerness of San Jose, and two grand-nephews, Phillipe Hammerness of Lovelock, Nev., and Lawrence Hammerness of Los Angeles.

Services will be private.