Will proposed banking changes affect the way banks approach branding?

There has been a great deal of government rhetoric regarding a shake up of the banking system. Both members of the coalition have argued for  break-up, but  Tories want to limit the split to the ‘casino’ activities of proprietary trading while  Lib Dems propose going further and ‘separating low-risk deposit taking banking from high-risk investment banking’.

While the debate rumbles on, the underlying sentiment seems to be ‘retail banking = good; investment banking = bad.’ If legislation is put in place, or in fact if recommendations are implemented, will this affect the way banks handle their branding? There are a number of optional approaches:

  • Banks could install their chinese walls internally, yet keep the same overall brand. This could potentially result in a confused message with the public unsure of how the two sets of values identified by politicians are to be reconciled. If bankers wish to rescue their tarnished brands they may wish to distance the ‘good’ deposit taking ethic from the ‘evil’ investment arm.
  • They could separate the two functions both structurally a physically, while keeping the overall endorsement of the bank’s brand: ‘Blogg’s High Street Bank’, and ‘Blogg’s Investment’. Indeed, some banks are already structured in such a way.
  • Finally, they could build dual brands, culturally and physically separate, reflecting the different values, practices and ethos of the two disparate activities. Their could be a good deal to commend this approach in terms of clarity of offer and protection of the brand image.

Taking such major decisions regarding brands is usually regarded with extreme caution. Organizations carefully consider strengths and virtues, the currency of exiting brands and their investment over time. Paradoxically, the financial sector seems to take a far bolder (or more foolhardy) approach. Brands change, restructure, cast aside establish brand names and launch new ones with far less soul-searching, it seems, than other business sectors.

It appears that structural changes are inevitable throughout the banking world: it remains to be seen how many institutions also see this as an opportunity for brand re-structuring and development.

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