In no other industry do companies change names more often than in financial services. It’s not just due to mergers. Banks and credit unions voluntarily choose to switch monikers quite often. Below are some of the elective name changes financial institutions in the U.S. underwent recently.
Credit union sheds a common name
Old Name: Community First Credit Union
New Name: Magnify Credit Union
Reason: The credit union offers no real explanation, although it says the new name “reinforces our fresh, new focus,” which seems to be built around a slogan, “Simplify banking. Magnify life.”
Analysis: It was smart to make the switch. 525 credit unions are using “Community” in their name. Another 179 use “First.” These are two of the most commonly used in credit union names (see the full list here). There are eight other credit unions using the exact name “Community First,” including one with over $1 billion in assets in the same state.
The new “Magnify” name has positive financial connotations and appears to be available in the USPTO database in the financial services category, which is unusual for such a common, real word. The credit union has applied for trademarks on both its name and its slogan.
Transitioning beyond transit workers
Old Name: MBTA Employees Credit Union
New Name: Mass Bay Credit Union
Reason: The credit union has outgrown its single sponsor, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Analysis: Single SEG credit unions are becoming increasingly rare. It seems that serving one employer doesn’t suit credit unions with plans for future growth. At least this credit union trying to preserve some connection with its heritage by keeping the “Mass Bay” in its name.
Railway workers no longer driving growth
Old Name: Railway Employees Credit Union
New Name: Greater Ozarks Community Credit Union
Reason: The credit union says it wanted to make it more clear that membership isn’t limited to railroad employees.
Analysis: There was no future for the credit union if it continued to serve railroad workers exclusively, so changing names made strategic sense; they were dead otherwise. The new geographical name will probably not limit the credit union’s growth potential, and should be adequately suitable for the indefinite future. The word “Community” was an unnecessary addition, however.
Not ‘elderly’ anymore
Old Name: Elders Rural Bank
New Name: Rural Bank
Reason: A merger with two other banks presented the opportunity… but one can only assume the bank was itching to drop a crusty word like “Elders” from its name.
Analysis: Years ago, Rural Bank merged with Elders Bank. Then, more recently, Rural Elders Bank merged with Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. The less-than-sexy “Rural” name probably works well with the rugged outback Australia communities the bank serves.
Old Name: Darlington County Bank
New Name: Dedicated Community Bank
Reason: The bank says it decided to change its name and slogan as “a way of restating our commitment to our customers and our community.”
Analysis: PRO: They kept the bank’s acronym, “DCB,” by reverse-engineering a new meaning, so they don’t need to change the logo or web address. CON: The bank’s rationale sounds pretty shaky. You can “restate your commitment” without changing names. In all likelihood, the bank needed to expand beyond Darlington County, but concocted a story and picked a name that would be as painless and objectionable as possible. Too bad the new DCB name is a basically bland.
We’re cooperative… and a credit union… did we say we’re co-op?
Old Name: Puget Sound Energy Credit Union
New Name: Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union
Reason: The credit union wanted a new name to reflect its expanded charter. It now serves anyone, not just employees of Puget Sound Energy.
Analysis: It’s an interesting choice to add the (redundant) word “Cooperative” to the name, as 36 other credit unions have also chosen to do.
Big brands cause credit union naming complications
Current Name: EDS Credit Union
New Name: InTouch Credit Union
Reason: EDS (the company, not the credit union) was purchased by Hewlett-Packard a while ago. Also, sources suggest that EDS lawyers requested the credit union divorce its identity from the corporation.
Analysis: The credit union had been discussing new names internally for over four years, so the move comes as no big shock. EDS probably gave the credit union a heads-up a few years ago by saying along the lines of, “Hey, would you please change your name at the next/earliest opportunity? Thanks!” Hewlett-Packard probably plans on killing the EDS brand sometime soon, so this eliminates one part of the EDS legacy.
Credit unions like those affiliated with big brand names like John Deere and Weyerhaeuser have been asked to change names. It has nothing to do with trademark infringement and lots more to do with bigtime corporate lawyers zealously protecting their clients brand names. It doesn’t appear that there was any pressure from EDS for the credit union to change names, nor does it seem the credit union bears any grudge.
InTouch appears to be available at the USPTO’s online trademark database. The name, however, has the waft of presumption: “We’re in touch with [you, reality, our feelings].” Any member with a gripe will be tempted to lob the obvious insult: “You guy think you’re ‘InTouch?’ You’re outta’ touch!”
No, we are not the Bank of Canada
Old Name: Canadian State Bank
New Name: Bank of Commerce
Reason: 1.) People were confused. Based in the Yukon’s Canadian County, the bank routinely received the type of questions that would normally be asked of a state-run government bank. 2.) The bank may someday consider opening branches outside of Canadian County.
Analysis: The name is about as boring and as common as they come in the financial industry, which will create online search issues. At least Canadian State Bank sounded Big and Important. Fortunately, it’s in a rural area where everyone knows all the available financial players.
From one community to three cities
Old Name: Kennewick Community Federal Credit Union
New Name: Tri-Cities Community Federal Credit Union
Reason: The credit union expanded its charter to include additional counties.
Analysis: Geographical names are only good for one thing: clearly defining your target audience. But what happens when you grow? You have to change names… which is exactly what this credit union will have to do — again — if it ever grows beyond the “Tri Cities” region. Also, the pairing of the singular “Community” with the plural “Cities” is a little awkward in the name. What does the credit union gain by adding the
Why are there five “branches” in a logo for an organization named “Tri-Cities Community?”
State charter means bank is no longer ‘National’
Old Name: First National Bank of Montana
New Name: First Montana Bank
Reason: The bank switched to a state charter, so it dropped the grandiose and inaccurate “National” from its name to reflect the bank’s focus solely on Montana.
Analysis: Sure, there are legal requirements when you switch charters, but it’s expensive to change names, whether you change the whole thing or just drop a single word. Hopefully the advantages of having a state charter outweigh the expense and disruption.
Members from hydro plant evaporating
Old Name: Bangor Hydro FCU
New Name: Changing Seasons FCU
Reason: The Bangor Hydro Electric Company had been “down-sized,” so the credit union had to get a community charter and new name.
Analysis: The credit union said it picked the new name because “we want our members to know that we are here for you in all the seasons of your life.” But some people are uncomfortable with life changes, preferring stability over fluidity. And how will Seasons FCU in Connecticut and Four Seasons FCU in Alabama feel about a credit union in Maine picking a similar name like “Changing Seasons?”
For all life’s needs
New Name: LifeStore Banking Insurance
Old Name: AF Bank
Reason: The bank sees itself as something more grand than just a mere financial institution. It wants to be a “retail store for life.”
Analysis: This is the 15th name change the bank has undergone in its 70-year history. That’s a new brand consumers have to become familiar with about ever 4-5 years. This latest name is certainly distinct, but it’s somehow strange. It feels more appropriate for a New Age bookstore than a financial institution. While the name may reflect the bank’s brand strategy (something about how money intersects with people’s “life stages” and “life plans”), one can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a more subtle way to make this connection in a name.
Why is the word “Life” so crudely rendered in the logo? Will the bank’s branches look like “retail stores? Or will they look more like regular bank branches?
Trouble brewing on ‘River Bank’
New Name: RiverBank
Old Name: Lawrence Savings Bank
Analysis: There could be big trouble brewing. There is a River Bank & Trust in Alabama that has held a USPTO trademark since 2007. It doesn’t matter that Alabama and Massachusetts are miles apart. Nor does it matter that the names may be spelled a little differently.
Federally registered trademarks cover the whole country, and infringement suits address consumer confusion. If the Alabama bank presses the issue, they will probably prevail.
Trademark infringement lawsuit…16 years later
New Name: TBD
Current Name: MidFirst Credit Union
Reason: MidFirst Credit Union in Ohio may lose a pending trademark infringement lawsuit recently filed by MidFirst Bank in Oklahoma.
Analysis: A quick check by Armco Employees Credit Union at the USPTO website back in 1994 would have stopped them from picking MidFirst as their new name in the first place. The search would have shown that MidFirst Bank holds four separate federally registered trademarks for “MidFirst” with the USPTO, with one dating as far back to 1987. Of course, the courts may wonder why it took Midfirst Bank 16 years to file suit.
Two credit unions merge, new name needed
New Name: TBD
Current Names: Australian Central Credit Union, Savings & Loans Credit Union
Reason: The second- and third-largest credit unions in Australia are merging. They have already decided they aren’t going to keep either name going forward.
Analysis: This is a solid strategic decision. Neither name is distinct nor worth retaining. More importantly, if one credit union’s name survived, members of the other credit union would feel inferior, as if their credit union was taken over. Whenever similarly-sized organizations merge, a new name should always be considered.