Commercial banking

commercial bankingOver the past seven years, Goldome has grown from a $3-billion traditional savings bank to a $ 15-billion publicly-owned diversified banking company, marketing consumer banking and commercial banking services in the United Slates nationwide. Subsidiary companies conduct business in the areas of real estate, insurance brokerage, and leasing and mortgage banking from coast to coast.

The bank’s $ll-billion deposit base is the seventh largest among thrift institutions in the country. Further, its consumer and commercial lending portfolios, at $1.8 billion and $977 million respectively, are among the industry’s largest.

Goldome’s nearly 5,300 employees service approximately one million banking customers from 1 10 full service branches across New York State and Florida. It has also expanded its retail markets through off-premises banking operations. Through Goldome’s own and shared electronic banking networks, customers have access to 40,000 cash machines and in-store direct debit facilities throughout the company’s marketing area and across the nation.

More sophistication was also something consumers desired. They wanted to deal with a professional firm that could he relied on to solve their financial problems. Although MeraBank, under its old name of first I federal Savings and Loan Association of Arizona, was actually offering all the products and services desired, consumers still did not see it as a full service institution.

The old name had no distinctive quality (there were over 89 financial firms with “First Federal” in their name in Texas alone!) and was tainted with the flagging reputation of savings and loans all over the United States. It was lime for a change.

Consumer research and management interviews provided the key criteria for a new name — it had to convey stature, service, and uniqueness: the word “bank” must appear; and pronunciation and spelling must be simple. By testing several identity alternatives in consumer focus sessions the logo was line-tuned to its present form. An extensive $1 million-plus promotional campaign included print and TV advertising, billboards, and new signage across MeraBank’s branch network.

All company communications, from checks to credit cards, now carry the new logo. Robba Benjamin, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, and the bank’s officer in charge of the identity transformation, explains this insistence on consistency throughout. “We knew by communicating a consistent personality for our firm to all our target audiences, we would achieve a swift and powerful change.”

However, the bank’s marketing staff knew that simply creating new image ads and redesigning; ail company communications could not make the new image a reality without the support of the firm’s employees. “We sold this change from the inside out,” says Benjamin. “We created a new identity language that remained consistent across ail target groups. Customers, employees, shareholders, and even the press began using the terms MeraBanker and MeraBanking,”      (  Link  MeraBanking)

The firm’s internal marketing program took the form of employee task forces, the development of a logo manual, branch training, and a new employee newsletter, “The MeraBanker.” “We communicated each step of the process to our employees before we approached the media or our customers,” explains Benjamin. And the firm injected an element of fun into its employee projects. Successful completion of crossword puzzles testing staff knowledge of the why behind the new name earned such prizes as t-shirts, shoelaces, and pencils, all sporting the new logo.

MeraBatik’s careful planning paid off. Consumer research confirms that 63% of consumers in the bank’s service areas now perceive the company as a full-service financial institution. The ads introducing the new logo were successful in motivating trial of the bank by more than 40,000 new households.

A few other feathers for the MeraBank cap: product cross-sales increased from 1.5 per-household to more than 3, and the firm’s Arizona share of checking account deposits, a key banking product, rose from 4% to 7%. Employee involvement in the process resulted in a renewed sense of pride among MeraBank’s staff, who now refer to themselves as bankers. Finally, the piece de resistance — firm assets were up by 20% and ad recall by 116% after only one year.

For most financial institutions, the use of public relations —that F” is, having someone else blow your firm’s horn — is often neglected. A recent issue of Bank Marketing confirms the power of publicity. Consumers, the author asserts, are live times more likely to be influenced by editorial copy than by advertising.

A good public relations program can acid considerable weight to an image-building campaign for any financial firm, as was the case with The Royal Bank when they launched their Registered Retirement income Fund with a rather unique sales force.

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