For banking start-ups, the word 'bank' has become a business liability

For banking start-ups, the word 'bank' has become a business liability

"Has the word 'bank' been so discredited that a new name needs to emerge?" That's the question being asked by business mogul Richard Branson as he conducts a rebranding exercise for the prospective Virgin Money/Northern Rock banking business.

Virgin agreed a deal to acquire bailed out Northern Rock from the UK government for £747 million last week, creating a new high street bank boasting four million customers and 75 branches.

Branson is looking to capitalise on consumer disenchantment with the traditional banking establishment when he opens the doors to new customers in early 2012.

"Banking in the UK needs some fresh ideas and an injection of new competition," he stated when the deal was announced. "Virgin has a history of entering new sectors to improve service and provide value for customers. We plan to do the same in banking."

Branson is lending his self-proclaimed (and somewhat dubious) anti-establishment credentials to the company's charm offensive by turning to Twitter to ask followers how the new business should be branded.

"Should a bank be called a bank?" he asked on Monday. "At the moment we're inclined to call the company Virgin Money rather than Virgin Bank. Personally I'm quite keen on Virgin Rocks!"

By Tuesday morning the early results were in, prompting a follow-up tweet: "Thanks everyone - thumbs firmly down for any name with the word 'bank' in it. Virgin Money hot favourite to date!"

Virgin is not alone in looking to distance itself from the toxic connotations associated with the 'b' word. Earlier this month US banking start-up BankSimple invited its first customers onboard and rebranded the business as plain Simple.

Comments: (1)

Matt White
Matt White - Finextra - Toronto 22 November, 2011, 11:45Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Interesting piece on Branson the carpetbagger in today’s Guardian. Despite the beard and flair for self-promotion, he’s really not very anti-establishment.