As bank merger and acquisition activity hits its highest levels since 2007, many FI leaders expect that they are likely to be involved in a deal in the coming year.
In fact, according to American Banker’s 2022 predictions report, one in four banks of all sizes sees a merger as “very likely” or “certain to happen” and a little more than one in four says a deal is “somewhat likely” in 2022. With nearly half of banking leaders believing their institutions could be joining forces with another bank in the coming year, what is top of mind in light of such a merger? Branches are.
“You should not underestimate the importance of your branch experience today even as transactions migrate out,” says Gina Bleedorn, Chief Experience Officer at Adrenaline interviewed for the Financial Brand’s article “Avoiding Branch Rebranding Headaches in Mergers and Acquisitions.” Further, she says that customer or member interactions at the branch have taken on heightened importance and value, because they help shape experience and guide consultative selling, as even younger consumers report want to visit branches for their in-person consultation services.
Given the increasing pace of bank mergers and the evolving nature of the branch, we’ve rounded up some best practices banking leaders should embrace to optimize equity and prioritize experiences as two brands come together.
1. Develop Upfront M&A Strategy
Brand and branch assessment should be part of the consideration set for all mergers and acquisitions. We find oftentimes banks and credit unions consider merging two brands and the subsequent branch conversions as downstream decisions – something to be taken care of once the merger is complete. Our team knows what brand assets a financial institution brings to the table is a key lever for determining synergies between two organizations – from the brand through to the branch. As such, these should be more upstream considerations that are part of the discussion in the due diligence phase of the M&A process to ensure a more cohesive strategy from the outset.
2. Coordination from the Outside-In
When people think of mergers, often the first thing that comes to mind is signage. But brand conversions at the branch are about much more than simply an exterior sign and interior branding changeover. With phase one of branch conversion incorporating neutralization of the old brand and phase two implementing the new one, having a connected, cohesive strategy to guide you is critical. Banks undergoing M&A should plan for a turnkey program that coordinates the exterior with the interior environment and launches a communication strategy for the new reenergized branded experience inside the branch.
3. Risk Mitigation in M&A
One of the biggest concerns for any financial brand is attracting and retaining customers and talented employees to serve them. When done well, M&A represents a renewed opportunity for banks to serve more and serve better, but mergers also pose a not insignificant risk of attrition in both talent and the market at large. That’s why having a culture and communication strategy for staff and customers is imperative. “Launching a brand is about celebrating the change by communicating and then communicating again and three more times after that,” says Gina Bleedorn. “You mitigate attrition by communicating.”
4. Develop a Scalable Kit of Parts
A kit of parts is a way of organizing the individual parts and pieces of a design into standardized and easy-to-deploy application in the branch environment. Based on a prototype design, this kit is a scalable, flexible way to cost-efficiently roll out a set of design standards into the branch. “This is the most efficient branded package of elements that you can have when converting a branch from one brand to another brand,” according to Frank Beardsworth, Chief Delivery Officer for Adrenaline. Given the wildly varying current conditions found inside the branch and across the branch network – especially branches you are inheriting in an acquisition – it’s important that this design be flexible enough to apply across many different conditions and sizes.
Stay tuned to Adrenaline’s Insights as we continue exploring important topics like M&A in banking. For financial institutions needing branded environment consultation and expertise for transforming their branches or to speak to one of our financial services and banking industry experts, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (678) 412-6903. Interested in the latest banking news – from the brand to the branch? Be sure to visit Believe in Banking, our mission-oriented platform that features insights, conversations, and expertise to empower the financial industry.
Adrenaline is a brand experience company that creates and implements end-to-end branded experiences through creative and environmental design. We enhance our clients’ customer experiences across digital and physical channels, from their branding and advertising to design and technology in their spaces. After transforming an organization’s brand, Adrenaline extends it across all touchpoints — from employees to the market to in-store environments. And, we focus on serving industries that sell human experiences including financial, healthcare, sports and entertainment.