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What’s in a name? The art of rebranding post-M&A

What’s in a name? The art of rebranding post-M&A

The slew of M&A activity over the past two years has seen a number of new brands come to market while several others have been consigned to history.

So how should firms approach the often emotive issue of branding?

For some companies the decision is straightforward. Both Investec Wealth & Investment and Rathbones routinely bring their acquisitions under their own banners, which has seen such long-standing names as Williams de Broë, Rensburg Sheppards and Taylor
Young discarded.

Others have preferred to conjoin the two merged companies’ names in a bid to double up on their recognition in the market.

Quilter Cheviot marketing director Jane Seymour said the combined company decided on this route with both brands being ‘well-known and respected in our target markets’.

‘It made sense from that perspective. Perhaps not uniquely, the decision was not marketing led, but business led. Both parties in the merger were keen to preserve their identities,’ she said.

‘You could say that this was an egotistical decision, but in fact the decision was based on a solid understanding of the importance of brand recognition to our clients, and the reassurance that the merger would cause minimal disruption to the all-important client relationships the investment managers oversee.’

Retail recognition

Tilney Bestinvest took a similar approach, albeit for the reason that Bestinvest has the retail recognition and Tilney the discretionary history. Beneath this, Bestinvest will continue to be the branding on its direct to consumer platform, while the newly badged Tilney For Intermediaries’ will service the IFA market.

‘We were very keen to get the value of both brands,’ said Bestinvest managing director Jason Hollands. ‘We have put both together at the top company level but the emphasis is different in different parts of the market so there is no confusion.’

Hollands is a veteran of corporate activity and has seen a number of different approaches to branding. Friends Ivory & Sime was rebadged as Isis Asset Management after it acquired RSA Investments back in 2002 with the new name later dropped when Isis merged with F&C, where Hollands then worked, in 2004.

‘F&C felt it had the heritage and that outweighed the work done on the Isis brand,’ he said. ‘You can fuse them together, and that is sometimes temporary as part of a journey, but that is not the case at Tilney Bestinvest.’

In January, JO Hambro Investment Management opted for the new name route, albeit Waverton was the existing branding of its retail fund range.

Chief executive Hugh Grootenhuis said the management team deliberated long and hard about the name, but always came to back to the same idea.

The rebrand, which was sparked by Somers Ltd and the management team buying the company from Credit Suisse, also had the advantage of removing any confusion caused by the number of companies having ‘Hambro’ in their name.

‘We did test out the name with some of our clients and they liked it and were familiar with it as they probably have some of our funds in their portfolios,’ Grootenhuis said.

‘We had other ideas but we always came back to Waverton.’

Seymour said that in many ways, brand is not the be all and end all in such a niche industry as wealth management, which is so reliant on professional connections and personal relationships.

‘Brand plays an interesting role in our sector of the industry,’ she said. ‘People rarely come to us or our competitors because we are a high street brand like, say, Barclays. They come to us because they have been referred by an existing client or a professional intermediary who recommends us. The new client is dealt with by the investment manager responsible for their portfolio and deep relationships result on a personal level.

‘Brand sits behind these relationships providing the reassurance of a professional and robust firm sat behind the investment manager the client is dealing with. Brand provides the glue to cement relationships rather than necessarily the magnet to draw in new business on its own.’

The perceived value of having a strong name behind the brand was one of the factors why Heartwood became ‘Heartwood part of the Handelsbanken group’, following its acquisition by the Swedish bank. It was also felt that Heartwood had strong recognition and retaining the name reflected its independence within the wider group.

‘The decision to build on the Heartwood brand all but took itself. For one thing, Heartwood had over many years established a strong market reputation for wealth and investment management based on recommendation and track record, and Handelsbanken didn’t have this in the UK,’ a spokesman said.

But rebrands do not only follow corporate activity, of course, with Fowler Drew being a case in point. Director Stuart Fowler said the company started out as No Monkey Business ‘from a deliberate positioning as a maverick’ with the name change designed to ‘position it as a leader’.

‘The key to making the change when we did was client surveys, which we really recommend,’ he added.

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