Biography and History

Fred I. Kent (1869-1954) was a banker who spent the majority of his career at Bankers Trust Company in New York. He was an expert on foreign exchange, and during World War I and its aftermath was involved with establishing foreign exchange policies, reparations, and war debt. Kent was also active in numerous organizations, including the American Bankers Association and the International Chamber of Commerce.

Kent was born Frederick I. Kent on February 12, 1869 in Chicago, Illinois to Henry and Julia Kent. He was educated in the public schools of Chicago and never attended college, choosing instead to leave high school and seek employment. He married Etta G. Williams of Boston, Massachusetts on April 18, 1891.

He began his banking career in 1886, at the age of seventeen, as a clerk at the First National Bank of Chicago. He was steadily promoted until he became manager of the Foreign Exchange Department in 1905. Kent also became active with the American Bankers Association during this period. He was the first president of the Chicago chapter of what would become the American Institute of Banking, and the first national president of the Institute. The Institute provided distance-learning classes and published materials for the continuing education of individuals in the field of finance.

Kent's work with foreign exchange earned him recognition in the financial world. In January 1909, he accepted the position of vice-president of the Bankers Trust Company in New York City, where he was placed in charge of organizing the Foreign Exchange Department. He also continued his work with the American Bankers Association, coordinating the development of the Travellers' Check System of the Association and serving as chairman of the Committee of the Express Money Order Department.

Kent was in Europe at the outbreak of World War I and organized and directed efforts to provide stranded Americans with the funds and transportation necessary to return to the United States. The recognition he gained from this work, and his expertise in international finance, led to his appointment as deputy governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 1917, and later as director of the division of foreign exchange of the Federal Reserve Board. In this capacity, he assisted in establishing a system of foreign exchange between the Allied countries. During this period, he also served as financial adviser to the director of sales of the War Department and as representative of the United States on the organization committee of the Reparations Commission to Paris. Following the war, he assisted in the stabilization of exchange and settlement of money problems of several European countries, especially with regards to reparations and debt payments. Kent received many honors for his work in Europe after World War I, including Chevalier, and a later promotion to Officer, of the Legion of Honor in France, Commander of the Crown of Italy, and Commander in the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus in Italy.

After the war, Kent returned to his position as vice-president at the Bankers Trust Company. He stepped down from this post in 1928, but continued as director until his death in 1954. He resigned from his position as vice-president in order to devote more time to a number of semi-public organizations that he was associated with, especially the International Chamber of Commerce. He also became chairman of the Commerce and Marine Commission of the American Bankers Association, a position he held until 1954.

Kent was elected to the Council of New York University in 1929, after having served as chairman of the advisory board of the Wall Street Center of New York University since its establishment. The Council serves as the university's board of trustees. Kent became president of the Council in 1931 and chairman of the Council in 1951. He served as chairman until his death.

Throughout his life, Kent was the director of several corporations, including the Bankers Trust Company and the National Industrial Conference Board. He was also an officer or member of a large number of semi-public organizations, including national commerce, industry and trade groups, banking groups, economic, political and social science organizations, and the International Chamber of Commerce. Kent was frequently a speaker on financial matters, especially in venues where foreign trade relations were discussed. He received an honorary LL.D. from the University of Southern California in 1930, and was awarded the Robert Dollar award for his work in foreign trade by the National Foreign Trade Council in 1945. Kent died on October 25, 1954 at the age of 85.

Source: From the finding aid for MC077

  • Fred I. Kent Papers. 1901-1954 (inclusive), 1920-1950 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC077

    Fred I. Kent (1869-1954) was a banker who spent the majority of his career at Bankers Trust Company in New York. He was an expert on foreign exchange, and during World War I and its aftermath was involved with establishing foreign exchange policies, reparations, and war debt. Kent was also active in numerous organizations, including the American Bankers Association and the International Chamber of Commerce. Kent's papers include his correspondence with businessmen and politicians about financial and economic issues, articles and speeches written by Kent, and papers documenting his involvement with several banking and economic organizations.

  • Fred I. Kent Papers. 1901-1954 (inclusive), 1920-1950 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC077

    Fred I. Kent (1869-1954) was a banker who spent the majority of his career at Bankers Trust Company in New York. He was an expert on foreign exchange, and during World War I and its aftermath was involved with establishing foreign exchange policies, reparations, and war debt. Kent was also active in numerous organizations, including the American Bankers Association and the International Chamber of Commerce. Kent's papers include his correspondence with businessmen and politicians about financial and economic issues, articles and speeches written by Kent, and papers documenting his involvement with several banking and economic organizations.