Arthur T. Roth, a strong-willed and innovative banker who helped finance the rapid growth of New York's Long Island, died there Wednesday at the age of 91.
He built Franklin National Bank, of which he was chairman, into the nation's 18th-largest bank by 1968. His push to provide home loans and other banking services to mechanics, civil servants, and other relatively low-wage workers earned him the name the "people's banker."
He left Franklin that year, though, after a struggle for control, and the bank was declared insolvent six years later. Its failure-the biggest to that time in U.S. history-raised concerns it would trigger a nationwide financial crisis. Franklin became part of European American Bank.
Mr. Roth introduced many retail products and practices that were later to become standard, including full-service branches, gifts for opening accounts, charge accounts, and credit cards. Service charges were rare when he first imposed them in the 1940s, as reported in "People's Banker," a 1987 biography of Mr. Roth by Walter S. Ross.
Among other accomplishments listed in the book:
Mr. Roth took a case to the Supreme Court to win for commercial banks the right to use the term "savings" for interest-bearing accounts. The word was previously reserved in some states for savings institutions.
Following the lead of Diners Club, Franklin introduced a restaurant charge card, initially offered to readers of Gourmet and Esquire magazines. The bank eventually passed its Gourmet list on to American Express, which used it in its entry into travel and entertainment cards.