There are dozens of reasons a financial institution might decide to rebrand: to stand out in a crowded marketplace, for legal reasons or simply just to refresh brand colors and logo after a long period.
For Pathward Financial, formerly known as Meta Financial Group — the holding company of well-known fintech partner MetaBank — a rebrand was about bringing several different umbrellas of the company under one name and brand identity that reflected a future-looking mentality.
There was also another matter that added urgency to a rebranding process already in the works: The banking company sold its name.
The former MetaBank disclosed in a December 2021 regulatory filing that it had “Entered into an agreement with Beige Key LLC to sell the Meta names and trademarks for $60 million.” While the name Beige Key may not mean anything to most people, the company is a subsidiary of Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook.
The concept of the Metaverse is, of course, central to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s growth plans. Several observers at the time believed the acquisition of the MetaBank name could point to the Facebook parent looking at potential banking in the metaverse. Those rumors have since died down as the social media giant has fallen on hard times, but may yet resurface.
A Facebook Bank?
MetaBank sold its trademarks to Meta Platforms, parent company of Facebook, sparking rumors of a possible entry into banking by Mark Zuckerberg’s company.
Regardless, Anthony Sharett, President of Pathward Financial, tells The Financial Brand the rebrand was in the works prior to the Meta Platforms deal. He adds that contractual obligations prevent the bank was disclosing exactly how the Meta deal came about, but that the parties “made contact with one another” and eventually worked out a deal.
“Our new name and branding reflect our goal of charting a path forward and helping our clients reach the next stage of their financial journey,” says Sharett.
The regulatory filing noted that between $15-$20 million of the sale of the brand trademarks would go towards the rebrand. Sharett did not reveal the exact amount the rebrand cost, but confirmed it fell within that figure.
Bringing Many Brands Under One Umbrella
A major impetus for the rebrand was to unify a collection of different “brand silos” under one brand, says Sharett. MetaBank was well known for its banking-as-a-service (BaaS) model and for partnering with fintechs such as MoneyLion and tax providers like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt to enable tax refund payments.
Meta Financial also has a commercial lending business. The company acquired commercial lender Crestmark in 2019 and kept the Crestmark name and branding for its commercial lending unit. Meta also had a robust payments division called MetaPay, which is the issuing bank behind many prepaid cards. MetaPay became familiar to millions of Americans who received government stimulus payments in the form of debit cards during the Covid-19 pandemic. MetaBank was the Treasury’s financial agent for these Economic Impact Payment cards.
E Pluribus Unum:
An impetus for Pathward’s rebrand was to consolidate several subsidiary names under one brand identity.
“We were operating in a bit of a siloed manner, with a few different brand names, and we wanted to rebrand everything under one brand identity,” Sharett explains. “This is something the leadership team had been thinking about for a while.”
The new color scheme is similar to the old MetaBank colors, and that was intentional, says Sharett.
“The new color is a slight tweak from the old Meta blue, it’s still in the same color family,” he says. “It’s a way of honoring our history as the Midwestern bank we started as. We want it to reflect the new brand promise but also represent who we’ve always been.”
The name Pathward reflects the bank’s forward-looking mentality as well as its mission of financial inclusion — helping people find a path forward financially.
“Whatever name we picked had to align with our overall purposes,” Sharett explains. “Our goal remains the same, and that is to expand financial access.”
“We work with diverse partners to deliver financial products for individuals and businesses that traditional financial institutions have historically overlooked,” said Pathward CEO Brett Pharr in a press release.
Collaborating with Employees and Partners
During the eight-month rebranding process, the company’s leadership worked closely with its external partners and employees to get feedback on the potential new name, logo and colors. Sharett advises other banks potentially looking at a rebrand to collaborate with employees and work closely with them.
“We had a focus group internally and we worked together on how we wanted to reflect our brand promise,” he adds. “It was very important that we leveraged our employees and got their feedback.”
Since Pathward works largely in a partnership model, it was also imperative to work together with the third party fintechs, businesses and others that it engages with. This included constant communication with partners about the rebrand and timelines.
“We wanted to make sure that there was no customer confusion about the rebrand,” he says.
This is especially important because the bank’s partner model is lucrative. According to a 2020 analysis by Andreessen Horowitz based on a three-year average, MetaBank’s performance was well above industry averages for return on equity and return on assets (about 27% ROE and 2.7% ROA versus 10.8% and 1.2%).
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Rebranding Lessons the Bank Learned
Perhaps the most important lessons for any bank undergoing a rebrand is to have a detailed and thorough project plan. Sharett notes that there is so much involved in a rebrand that details can get easily overlooked.
Every part of the bank is involved with the rebrand, Sharett states. “It’s not just sales and marketing but tech, risk and compliance — every department is involved.”
Some of the little details include changing email signatures, and the names on every single legal and compliance document. There is also an SEO component. When starting with a new name that has no prior search history, you need to work with experts in digital marketing as well.
For example, when searching for “Pathward Financial” or “MetaBank” the headline of the search result for the bank’s website reads “Pathward: Formerly Crestmark, Metabank, Metapay” to alert those who may not be aware of the rebrand
Sharett says that in total Pathward worked with three external branding agencies during the rebrand process.
Another piece of advice Sharett offers is to allot as much time as possible. Even with a perfectly planned project outline, issues always arise, and things can easily get off track.
“No matter how much time you have, be sure to include a little bit more,” he says.
Sharett also says its important to take a positive vibe into any rebranding project.
“Just tell people to embrace the opportunity,” he adds. “Our teams had a lot of fun with this, and it really energized the company and made us excited for the future.”