Based on Italian Law No. 24 of 1 February 1901 vis-à-vis the safeguarding and remittance of emigrant savings, the Naples-based Banco di Napoli (BN) became the first Italian bank to engage with émigré communities at risk of being swindled by small self-professed "bankers", eventually opening its first branches on American soil in order to manage these savings. Before doing so, however, it initially operated through U.S.-based correspondent banks; only later, at the request of local authorities and various business associations, did it send its own inspectors (or, alternatively, central office directors) and engineers to assess the situation and return to report their findings to the Board of Directors.
After opening an inspectorate office with limited responsibilities in New York in 1906, BN set up its first real overseas office there in 1909. Welcomed by the local community, the new agency helped boost both the quantity of money orders sent by the émigré population back to Italy and BN's own activities, through the nomination of new correspondent bank partners.
BN opened its first African branch in Tripoli, in 1913. It had already been authorized by the Italian government to set up branches in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania (modern Libya) two years prior, but was initially extremely hesitant to do so given the industrial backwardness of the area.
In 1918, nearly a decade after establishing its New York agency, BN set up a second American branch in Chicago, which also had an extensive Italian émigré community.
In the early 1920s BN set up two agencies in the Balkans - the first in Zadar (Zara) in 1921 and the second in Rijeka (Fiume) in 1924 - before turning its attention to South America, where it opened a branch in Buenos Aires in 1930. It had made the decision to do so already in 1921, but delayed the opening due to adverse political, economic and monetary factors. Yet establishing a branch there was opportune for various reasons, including the growing economic relations between Italy and Argentina, the absence of Italian banks in Argentina's capital city and the sizeable quantity of remittances received from BN's correspondent bank partner there.
In the 1930s BN set up numerous branches in Africa (Asmara in 1936; Addis Abeba, Dekemhare and Mogadishu in 1937; and Massawa in 1938), eager both to foster agricultural development in these areas and, in the case of the branches in Eritrea, to meet the banking needs given rise to by military operations for a possible colonial expansion. 1937 also saw the opening of BN's first-ever subsidiary, Banco di Napoli Albania, in Tirana, based on the Italian Foreign Minister's will to foster that country's process of modernization and development.
In the 1940s BN opened a number of other offices in the Balkans, including branches in Corfu, Kotor, Split and Cetinje, primarily in order to provide services for troops operating in Adriatic coastal territories. It would not be long before these outposts were heavily damaged during the war.
The first signs of post-war recovery for the bank came in 1945, starting with Chicago, while in Europe it began to cultivate relationships in Zurich, Brussels and Madrid in order to set up new representative offices in those cities. At the end of the 1940s, after negotiations were wrapped up with the United States Office of Alien Property Custodian, the New York agency was also authorized to resume its activities.
In the early 1950s BN started up talks for collaborative partnerships with London and Frankfurt. In Africa, it opened a branch in Kismayo, while those in Tripoli and Asmara also recommenced their activities; in later years they would be nationalized.
At the start of the 1970s the bank set up representative offices in Paris, Frankfurt and London, and began planning presences in Moscow and Tokyo. By the end of that decade, a representative office had also been opened in Sofia, and the New York agency transformed into a branch.
In the 1980s BN's London and Frankfurt representative offices were also transformed into branches, and negotiations were begun for setting up a branch in Hong Kong and a representative office in Los Angeles.
Following the opening of branches in Madrid and Barcelona, in the 1990s BN went through a major crisis that forced it to complete the sale of its Buenos Aires branch and to close first its Paris, Frankfurt, Moscow and Los Angeles offices and then that in Madrid. BN's last overseas branches, in Hong Kong and London, were sold in 2000, also the year in which the bank liquidated its New York branch.
Aldo Pace, Il Banco di Napoli, cinque secoli di storia, Istituto Banco di Napoli Fondazione, Napoli, 2010
Banco di Napoli, Il Banco di Napoli nella nuova realtà internazionale, Gratton, Roma, 1991
Luigi De Rosa, Storia del Banco di Napoli, I Farella, Napoli, voll. I-IV, 1940-2005