Managing competing rebrand priorities in a financial sector merger

Managing competing rebrand priorities in a financial sector merger



Regulatory changes, increasing competition, changing customer dynamics, and advancing technology — it’s all combining to create a ripe environment for mergers and acquisitions in the financial services industry. Some of the country’s leading regional banks are merging, including TCF Financial and Chemical Financial in the upper Midwest, and SunTrust and BB&T in the Southeast. M&A activity in the insurance market also remains strong.

As a result, we’re seeing a rise in the total value of rebrands in the financial sector. While a rebranding effort usually presents the combined organization with ample business and marketing opportunities, the realities of the category present notable challenges as well.

Shifting regulatory requirements combined with prevalent consumer mistrust in the category mean that it’s absolutely critical for financial service companies to tightly and effectively manage their rebrand implementation. Despite these pressures, the process has to move forward with speed and accuracy to minimize market confusion and to start realizing efficiencies of the rebrand quickly.

Both retail banking and mid-tier insurance companies manage a host of branded touchpoints that 1) directly connect with consumers and 2) are subject to a host of federal and state regulations. The key is managing a financial services rebrand implementation so it addresses both of those essential priorities.

Building consumer confidence in a financial services rebrand

In a bank merger, the rebrand implementation needs to address customer-facing branding both at the branch experience level and through mobile/online, where the biggest opportunity for competitive advantage resides. Insurance, too, is a complex business with technology and documents that support both end customers and brokers.

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In both cases, the soon-to-be-combined companies need to move quickly to minimize customer confusion and get employees on the same page. Brand experience is a big part of this equation as it’s a powerful driver for customer loyalty. A poor experience can quickly be amplified across the web through social media and online communities.

BrandActive helps companies properly plan for effective customer communication and a consistent brand experience. Our process amplifies the combined company’s powerful new values, manages expectations, and delivers critical information in a clear and confidence-building way.

Rebranding and regulatory requirements for financial companies

While addressing consumer audiences, financial sector M&As also have to contend with SEC requirements. Insurers are regulated at the state level (and rules differ among states). These regulatory requirements can complicate  the rebranding process. While the joint organization’s legal and compliance teams are managing those on the operations side, the marketing team has to understand these complex rules as they relate to customer communication.

Any existing financial service contracts or agreements, investment documents, account statements, and the like are subject to SEC rules. Consumers have to be notified of any change to their accounts and investments, particularly when the institution’s name changes. Consumers also have to grant approval for the transfer of their assets to the new entity.

Managing consumer and regulatory priorities

Rebrand implementation in the financial sector layers complexity on top of complexity, because consumer communication has to happen seamlessly and in synchrony with regulatory activity.

Financial mergers run into trouble when company leaders only focus on compliance instead of leading customers on a change journey via branded communication. When rebranding tasks happen in a vacuum — for example, when the regulatory compliance team sends out shareholder notices before the marketing message has been crafted — then communication gets out of sync and customers get confused.

It takes expertise and category experience to manage the process so that consumer trust stays strong. As rebrand implementation strategists, BrandActive functions as air traffic control, helping the combined marketing team build timelines, set priorities, and develop a plan for deploying the right branded assets at the right time. From critical documents to branded environments to digital experiences, we work to coordinate the entire rollout so the brand’s relationship with consumers doesn’t skip a beat.

And during this time of change, you’ll have the opportunity to institute new processes, tools, and systems to ensure the integrity of the brand. You can lean on our experience to streamline vendor selection and implement technologies that help your marketing group manage the production of approved branded assets going forward.

Clearly, M&A in the financial services industry offers brands both risks and opportunity. We can help you minimize the former and maximize the latter.