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'We're not Beaufort Securities!' Dealing with mistaken identity

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'We're not Beaufort Securities!' Dealing with mistaken identity

‘Our website crashed because so many people went online to check us out,’ recalls Simon Goldthorpe, describing the day the news broke that Beaufort Securities was being probed by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) last month.

Goldthorpe (pictured), executive chair of Beaufort Group, a completely unrelated company, has since 2016 found himself in the unenviable position of having to try and defend the brand he has built up since 2012 from this unexpected and unwanted threat.

Beaufort Securities was founded in May the following year and Goldthorpe admits that at the time, he was not keen on the similarities between the two companies’ logos.

‘Their branding was very similar and a bit close to ours for our liking, in terms of the colours and font,’ he said.

However, what was initially just a minor gripe developed into a major problem in December 2016, when Beaufort Securities had its discretionary permissions restricted by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

A turn for the worse

The situation escalated markedly on 2 March 2018 when Beaufort Securities was placed into administration by the FCA, before the DoJ announced the indictment on the same day. The case had all of the ingredients to draw in readers, including the attempted sale of a Picasso painting to an undercover FBI agent in a money laundering sting.

‘The website subsequently went down again when there was the second bit of coverage, so we’ve had to get more bandwidth. We’ve had a number of clients phone, but it’s the unknowns that are the concern. How many people you don’t even know have been put off using us? That’s the real worry.’ Goldthorpe said.

‘You could just sit tight and hope it will fade away, but I suspect it’s going to rumble on for some time.’

The question then was how Beaufort Group should try to defend its brand and minimise the scope for mistaken identity. The firm quickly put a pop-up box on its website, which told visitors that it is a completely unrelated business.

It has also closely monitored press coverage of the Beaufort Securities case to ensure Beaufort Group’s name is not used in error.

What’s in a name?

Goldthorpe was adamant that he did not want to rebrand the business, having invested so much time and energy in it over the years, but he accepts that the issue will likely dog the firm for some time to come.

‘It will stay in the Google search, even if we did pay to be pushed to the top. It’s just something you’ve got to bear and it’s just really unfortunate, but we believe that our own brand and reputation will win through in the end.’

Goldthorpe is not the first business owner to face this problem and he will almost certainly not be the last.

Strange calls

John Millican, the founder of Fiducia Wealth Management, ran into a similar issue last year when he received a strange call from a would-be client.

‘We were contacted by someone asking about a stamp duty avoidance scheme. I said we don’t do that and then I realised that they were talking about a different company with a similar name,’ he said.

Around the same time, Millican was contacted by DP Pensions, which the firm uses for Sipps and Ssas, to let him know that they had rejected an agency application from a company with a similar name.

He discovered that company was CDP Tax & Wealth, which traded under the name of Fiducia Wealth & Tax.

‘In the end we didn’t do anything as we just had the one call, but if we’d had a string of calls, perhaps we’d have put a notice up on our website. There is a risk you end up bigging it up and giving credence to it, and people wonder if there is something in it,’ he said.            

The communication expert’s view

The most important thing is to act ‘decisively, positively and proactively’, says Andrew Appleyard, founder director at communications specialists MRM.

The risk for a business is that it spends a lot of time, effort and money fighting a situation that it ultimately has no control over. He says it is far better to put that effort into ‘creating a new, clean and hugely positive future for the business’.

Regarding Beaufort Group, Appleyard said: ‘From what I can see, this is the perfect case for a proactive rename strategy. You need to ask “will this still be a drag on the business in one, three or five years’ time?”.’

‘With Google etc…it’s going to be a millstone around their neck for years to come otherwise. Possibly forever.’

He added: ‘Clients will understand why they’ve done it and done in the right way it could work as a proactive marketing and engagement vehicle for prospects. It really doesn’t have to be a purely defensive move.

‘If they do a re-brand, it may be worth doing something close to their existing brand, eg BGFS (Beaufort Group Financial Services), otherwise they may lose out on all the goodwill they’ve picked up. But if they keep too similar a name, there is a danger that it doesn’t actually change things of course – the same costs incurred and time spent, but not enough distance.’

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