Avoiding Branch Rebranding Headaches in Mergers and Acquisitions

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Rebranding stores acquired as part of a merger or acquisition involves much more than just changing the logo on the outside of the building. Costs, cultural change and consistency across the branch network must be taken into account. Otherwise, a bank or credit union risks not only wasting time and money, but worse, disappointing staff and ultimately losing customers.

Even at a time when customers do most of their banking online, the branch remains vital for the vast majority of banks and credit unions to attract, interact, and even trade with customers. When an acquired office suddenly shifts from a shape customers were familiar with to a new look, the way that transformation takes place can mean the difference between holding or losing business.

“You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of your industry experience today, even if transactions migrate,” said Gina Bleedorn, Chief Experience Officer at Adrenaline, an agency for experience design, in an interview with The financial brand.

What is at stake:

Store interactions now have increased importance and value. You shape the experience and lead the advisory sales.

Three factors determine the process of renaming a merged or acquired branch. Affordability will determine much of what can be done, so this should be considered first.

(( Continue reading: 5 ways to make sure your rebranding project doesn’t sizzle

1. How much are we willing to invest?

The first step in planning a branch rebranding after the merger is realistic assessment and acceptance of the associated costs. The cost is easy to underestimate, says Bleedorn, as such combinations affect everything, including the size of the store network, planning and redesign, staffing, marketing, and ongoing communication.

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First Horizon Bank, based in Memphis, Tennessee, is in the process of renaming former Iberiabank branches in several states and eventually building a network of around 500 branches. “Most importantly, how we create the First Horizon brand in Iberiabank’s locations at the lowest cost, but also so that we don’t compromise so much that we overlook some important areas,” says Peter Powell, leader in retail strategy and Delivery, sales, planning and transformation at First Horizon.

Merger rebranding is a complex process because not every branch is created equal, notes Frank Beardsworth, managing director at Adrenaline. “It doesn’t help to start a new program on a very tired and dingy looking branch,” he says. Based on local market analysis, it can also make sense to invest more money and resources in branches with greater business potential.

(( Continue reading: How to tackle the major rebranding challenges in banking)

As a rule of thumb, Beardsworth says that after conducting site surveys and interviews with branch staff, stores can be divided into three different classes, each with different budget areas:

  • A rebranding and physical upgrade budget for a branch with very cheap market research showing the greatest potential for growth would be between $ 100,000 and $ 110,000.
  • In a midsize office that may have opportunities to sell the brand, the budget can range from $ 50,000 to $ 80,000.
  • At the lower end, where a branch office might just need a major upgrade for a variety of reasons, the budget can range from $ 30,000 to $ 50,000.


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2. Follow an outside-inside strategy

The goal of a store rebrand should be to incorporate the best parts of the acquired store experience into the best parts of the acquiring institution in order to make the customer experience even better than before. The acquired branches should fit consistently into the overall brand of the acquiring institute and at the same time preserve part of the individuality that the branch has built up in its history.

“Your branch exterior is your beacon. It is your face But your interior is your experience. “
– Gina Bleedorn, Adrenaline Agency

“We want to be respectful of both old brands on the way,” says Powell. “It is extremely important for us to keep aspects of the overall bank center design that customers value. Priorities include applying First Horizon elements that we used previously, but also making sure we stick to where we were in the past as we move into the future with the two organizations Look to the future. “

Effective branch rebranding requires an outside-inside strategy. “Your branch exterior is your beacon. It’s your advertisement. It’s your face for the community and your reason to attract someone, ”says Bleedorn. “But your interior is your experience. This is where your bankers actually interact with people. “

Adrenaline branch rebranded VeraBank exterior

Adrenaline Branch Rename UW Credit Union Sign

Outside begins with the new logo and new corporate colors. There are also other external touchpoints to consider, including ATMs, merchandising and even things like the bollards that lead to the drive-in window. (These posts can have corporate colors or even cleverly crafted merchandising information.)

Inside, however, the transformation becomes very specific. Adrenalin estimates that there can be up to 45 different customer-centric elements in a given industry that need to be incorporated into the new corporate brand.

Adrenalin Fulton Bank branch rebrand interior before after

These range from wall colors, carpet designs, cashier backgrounds, digital displays to areas where the required compliance documents are presented. Different areas within the branch must be delimited, e.g. Where business is done, where consultation takes place and where basic interactions take place, such as B. Waiting areas or entrances.

At the same time, each branch should have some kind of individuality or even continuity. This can be done in a number of ways, e.g. B. by viewing photos of the community or by nearby events. Peter Powell notes that some First Horizon stores have longstanding relationships with local artists or art schools and provide space for their work.


Most important, according to Banker, is to allay current customers’ concerns about continuing service after the rebranding. “Your first concerns are about your banker,” he says. “An important understanding for our customers is that our bankers are still there, even though a brand can change, although the colors can change, although the name on the door can change.”

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3. Get everyone on board

Not only do customers need to accept the physical aspects of the new brand, but the people in the industry – who personify the new brand – need to understand what it’s about, know their status within the new regime, and have a sense of ownership for a new and better place.

“If the merger is not really understood by your employees, you not only risk downsizing, but also losing customers,” says Bleedorn.

Unintended consequence:

If employees don’t know exactly what the merger means to them and why it’s a good thing, that ambiguity is conveyed to customers.

There’s no overcommunication with employees, says Powell. In the time since the First Horizon / Iberiabank merger was announced, various reciprocal email chains have been set up, there have been many departmental huddles with executives coordinating in their areas, and a bank-wide online newsletter links all mergers to everyone.

Ultimately, “you want the reps to get the answer before the customer asks a question,” says Powell.

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