QUESTION: Since you yourself are a banker, and your own bank profits from the law we are talking about, How do you advocate change?
VANDERVOORT: For one thing, I believe in fairness For another, banking doesn't need all those crutches id the way of protective laws. In my opinion we can do better by that I mean render improved public service and be more profitable without them.
QUESTION: Haven't there been recommendations in Washington about some of those changes you've spot of?
VANDERVOORT: Yes. The Hunt Commission report of 1971, and proposed legislation resulting from it, which would benefit consumers. But the whole deal is stalled in Congress, with special interests including our own banking lobby holding up progress.
QUBSTION: DO YOU anticipate antagonism from other bankers because of your frankness here? VANDERVOORT: I really hadn't thought about it.
QUESTION: Apart from banking, do you have any overall view on the current economic scenes
VANDERVOORT: Yes, but an over-all view should not be limited to economics.
QUESTION: Please state your view and don't limit it.
VANDERVOORT: Our greatest problem, and our big shortcoming as a nation, is that almost everything nowadays is geared against the individual and in favor of the big institutions big corporations, big business, big unions, big banking, big government. So not only does an individual have trouble getting ahead and staying there, he often has difficulty merely in surviving. And whenever bad things happen inflation, devaluation, depression, shortages, higher taxes, even wars it isn't the big institutions which get hurt, at least not much; it's the individual, all the time.
QUESTION: DO YOU see historical parallels to this?
VANDERVOORT: I do indeed. It may seem strange to say this, but the closest one, I think, is France immediately before the Revolution. At that time, despite unrest and a bad economy, everyone assumed there'd be business as usual. Instead, the mob composed of individuals who rebelled overthrew the tyrants who oppressed them. I'm not suggesting our conditions now are precisely the same, but in many ways we're remarkably close to tyranny, once more, against the individual. And telling people who can't feed their families because of inflation that, "You never had it so good," is uncomfortably like, "Let them eat cake." So I say, if we want to preserve our so-called way of life and individual freedom which we claim to value, we'd better start thinking and acting about the interests of individuals again.
QUESTION: And in your own case, you'd begin by making banks serve individuals more. VANDERVOORT: Yes.
"Darling, it's magnificent! I'm proud of you, and I love you more than ever," Margot assured Alex when she read an advance copy a day before the interview was published. "It's the most honest thing I've ever read. But other bankers will hate you. They'll want your balls for breakfast." "Some will," Alex said. "Others won't."
But now that he had seen the questions and replies in print, and despite the wave of success on which he had been riding, he was slightly worried himself.
"What saved you from being crucified, Alex," Lewis D'Orsey declaimed, "was that it happened to be The New York Times. If you'd said what you did for any other paper in the country, your bank's directors would have disowned you and cast you out like a pariah. But not with the Times. It clothed you in respectability, though never ask me why."
"Lewis, dear," Edwina D'Orsey said, "could you intetrupt your speech to pour more wine?"
"I'm not making a speech." Her husband rose from the dinner table and reached for a second decanter of Clos de Vougeot '62. Tonight Lewis looked as puny and as underfed as ever. He continued, "I’m talking calmly and lucidly about The New York Times which, in my opinion, is an effete pinko rag, its unwarranted prestige a monument to American imbecility."
"It has a bigger circulation than your newsletter," Margot Bracken said. "Is that a reason you don't like it?" She and Alex Vandervoort were guests of Lewis and Edwina in the D'Orseys' elegant Cayman Manor pentbouse. At the table, in soft candlelight, napery, crystal, and polished silver gleamed. Along one side of the spacious dining room a wide, deep window framed the shimmering lights of the city far below. Through the lights a sinuous blackness marked the river's course.
It was a week since the controversial interview with Alex had appeared in print.
Lewis picked at a medallion of beef and answered Margot disdainfully. "My twice-a-month newsletter represents high quality and superior intellect. Most daily newspapers, including the Times, are vulgar quantity."
"Stop sparring, you twol" Edwina turned to Alex. "At least a dozen people who came into the downtown branch this week told me they'd read what you said and admired your outspokenness. What was the reaction in the Tower?" "Mixed." "I'll bet I know someone who didn't approve."
"You're right." Alex chuckled. "Roscoe did not lead the cheering section."
Heyward's attitude had recently become even icier than before. Alex suspected that Heyward was resentful, not only of the attention Alex was receiving, but also because of successes with the savings drive and money shops, both of which Roscoe Heyward had opposed.
Another downbeat prediction of Heyward and his supporters on the board had concerned the eighteen million dollars in deposits from savings and loan institutions. Though the S&Ls managements had huffed and puffed, they had not withdrawn their deposits from First Mercantile American. Nor, it now seemed, did they intend to.
"Apart from Roscoe and any others," Edwina said, "I bear you've a big following these days among the staff." "Maybe I'm a swiftly passing fad. Like streaking."
"Or an addiction," Margot said. "I've found you habit forming."
He smiled. It had been heartening over the past week to receive congratulations from people whom Alex respected, like Tom Straughan, Orville Young, Dick French, and Edwina, and from others, including junior executives he had not previously known by name. Several directors had telephoned with words of praise. "You're doing the bank's image a power of good," Leonard L. Kingswood had called to say. And Alex's progress through the FMA Tower had, at times, been near triumphant, with clerks and secretaries greeting him and smiling warmly.
"Talking of your staff, Alex," Lewis D'Orsey said, "reminds me you've something missing over in that Headquarters Tower of yours Edwina. It's time she moved higher. While she doesn't, you people are losing out."
"Really, Lewis, how could you?" Even in the candlelight it could be seen that Edwina had flushed deep red. She protested, "This is a social occasion. Even if it weren't, that kind of remark is quite improper. Alex, I apologize."
Lewis, unperturbed, regarded his wife over his halfmoon glasses. "You may apologize, my dear. I won't. I'm aware of your ability and value; who's closer to it? Furthermore, it's my custom to draw attention to anything outstanding which I see."
"Well, three cheers for you, Lewis!" Margot said. "Alex, how about it? When does my esteemed cousin move over to the Tower?"
Edwina was becoming angry. "Stop it, pleaser You're embarrassing me acutely."
"No one need be embarrassed." Alex sipped his wine appreciatively. "Um '62 was a fine year for Burgundy. Every bit as good as '61, don't you think?"
"Yes," his host acknowledged. "Fortunately I put down plenty of both."
"We're all four of us friends,)' Alex said, "so we can speak frankly, knowing it's in confidence. I don't mind telling you I've already been thinking about a promotion for Edwina, and I've a particular job in mind. How soon I can swing that, and some other changes, depends on what happens in the next few months, as Edwina is well aware."
"Yes," she said, "I am." Edwina knew, too, that her personal allegiance to Alex was well known within the bank. Since Ben Rosselli's death, and even before, she realized that Alex's promotion to the presidency would almost certainly advance her own career. But if Roscoe Heyward succeeded instead, it was unlikely she would go any higher at First Mercantile American.
"Something else I'd like to see," Alex said, "is Edwina on the board of directors."
Margot brightened. "Now you're talking! That would be an onward up for women's lib."
"Nor" Edwina reacted sharply. "Don't equate me with women's lib ever! Anything I've achieved has been on my own, competing honestly with men. Women's lib its catchwords, asking for favoritism and preference because you're a woman has set sex equality back, not forward."