Profiles: Dan Riley

Dan Riley

Dan Riley

MBA Banking & Finance 81, Amicus Award 07

President-Global Treasury Services at Bank of America-retired

San Francisco Native


Dan Riley is a San Francisco original. His parents brought Dan home from the hospital to Castro Street in San Francisco's Eureka Valley neighborhood; where he started school at Most Holy Redeemer. In 1956, the family moved up to the Twin Peaks area, then it was off to Saint Ignatius for high school, followed by City College of San Francisco, and a transfer to San Francisco State University, where he earned a BA in marketing while juggling a full-time job at the legendary Bank of America. He would build a career over the next three decades and earn a Golden Gate University MBA along the way.

Dan found his ladder of success inside the vault; coin wrapping, currency counting, making up change orders for the large clients, dealing with armored cars, and handling cash for large customers, most importantly, the Federal Reserve Banks. This was prior to ATMs, so the branches kept all the cash. It was the central cash vault for Bank of America in Northern California. After graduation in 1973, Dan transferred to the day shift and became a supervisor for the first time. With each move, the volume of money and number of employees he supervised grew. By the time he retired, he would be responsible for processing billions of dollars daily, overseeing thousands of employees throughout the world, and seeing the Bank of America headquarters relocate to the East Coast.

In 1979, he left the vault to take a supervisory role as the liaison between the branch network and the data-processing centers. The way checks were processed was changing, and B of A tapped Riley to become the head of item processing, which included check processing, statement mailing, tracing and adjustments, the mailroom and the courier network. His group was part of processing the checks from all the branches. It was the late 1980s and his department was the largest check processor in the country next to the Federal Reserve Bank. Dan's climb up the corporate ladder was one of strategy and taking advantage of opportunities as they emerged. Dan was starting to advance into ever-more responsible positions at the bank and he rightly believed that an MBA would be helpful to his career.

He'd gotten used to balancing school and work as an undergraduate, so in the early 1970s, he had no trouble starting the MBA in banking program at Golden Gate. Dan and his brother Mike both attended GGU and competed in everything from sports to card games to ping pong. Naturally, completing a GGU MBA was yet another competition. The Riley brothers were both working full-time and going to school at night.

Like many Golden Gate students, Dan received tuition assistance from his employer. The bank's tuition-assistance program for MBA coursework was earmarked for those considered to be high-potential candidates and required a successful approval process. Hard work and long hours were no strangers to him, as he regained the pace he'd set as an undergraduate a few years before. The educational experience, though, was significantly different. Golden Gate embraced the case-study as part of its management education early in the 1960s and that method of teaching was fully entrenched by the 1970s when Dan was a student.

"My personal feeling about the MBA degree is that the real value is not so much the content of the courses in a broad business curriculum, although that's certainly important, but more important is the discipline and the focus you have to demonstrate to get through those kind of programs. Someone who takes the time and who applies the focus to get an MBA is a person who has the ability to get some things done that maybe other people don't have.

I've been asked if someone had to have an MBA to come to work for me, and my answer has always been that they did not. I hired many people that didn't have graduate degrees into senior positions throughout my career. However, I've always thought highly of people who go on to do graduate work, particularly if they were working at the time. That demonstrated to me a focus and productivity that many other people simply don't have."

In 1996, Dan Riley was named president of Global Treasury Services. In that new job his charge was to cement the bank as a global presence. B of A was starting its next expansion phase. "I was offered a job in ‘cash management,' which was an operating department with a sales group. When I started it was about $800 million in revenue in the United States. When I retired in 2004, we had $5.5 billion in revenue globally, about $1.5 billion after-tax net profit, with some 13,000 employees in 35 countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. That phenomenal growth, which was both organic and acquired, meant that Dan Riley was on the road most of the time. In 1998, when Bank of America merged with Nation's Bank and moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Charlotte, North Carolina, Dan Riley was one of the bank officers who stayed in California.

His job was twofold: to work with employees inside the bank and to work with clients. It provided a unique perspective. Dan Riley believes in the importance of personal contact. He says you can tell a lot more about what is actually going on when you can sit down with someone and look him or her in the eye. It's also good employee relations. Another component was working with the business partners, Bank of America employees who were part of a different division.

By 2004, though, Dan was reassessing his options. His wife, Irene, who received the Bank of America CEO's Eagle Award, the bank's highest honor for an associate, was also thinking about retirement. She had been with the bank a year longer than Dan, and was a senior vice president and senior market executive specializing in community development programs in several states. Irene was powerful force in San Francisco's Chinese American community; the city had twice designated "Irene Yee Riley Day," once in 1996 and again in 2004. Frequently recognized for her service by several nonprofits, Irene is also past president of the Chinese Newcomer's Service Center, the Chinese American Women's Business League, the Park Presidio Lions Club and the Hong Kong Association of Northern California. She served on the board of directors of the Wu Yee Children's Services, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation and the Chinese Culture Center. She is co-chair of the San Francisco Taipei Sister City Committee, past president of the Association of Asian American Bankers, chairperson of the UCSF Asian Heart and Vascular Center Advisory Cabinet — and she serves on the board of directors of the On Lok Senior Health Services.

Theirs had been an office romance that traced back to their earliest days working in the vault. In 1988, the couple was married, and both retired after spending their entire careers at Bank of America.

Today, Dan and Irene Riley divide their time between San Francisco and a second home in Sonoma County. They remain avid supporters of several community-focused boards and Golden Gate University, which named the conference center at the San Francisco campus in their honor. In addition to the Golden Gate University Board of Trustees, Dan also sits on the A.P. Giannini Foundation board, which supports postdoctoral research in medicine, and on the board of a small software company in the East Bay, GT Nexus. Irene Yee Riley is also very active in the community as a member of the San Francisco Small Business Commission and a former San Francisco Housing Authority Commissioner.

Admittedly, he hadn't really thought all that much about Golden Gate University since his 1981 graduation, when then- President Phil Friedman came to call. The university was seeking to expand its business school advisory committee and Richard Rosenberg, longtime GGU trustee and former president of the board, had recommended Dan. Golden Gate was a university in transition and the board was seeking strong business leaders to join in the effort. Dan Riley made significant contributions to the actual focus of the GGU board of trustees, thanks to the committee on governance that he established and chaired.

If you were to ask Dan Riley to describe himself, he would probably say that he's just an ordinary, hard-working San Francisco native who doesn't often get too excited.