Outside-In: Branch Rebrands and Conversions Following Mergers & Acquisitions, Part I

Setting the stage for growth by optimizing the branch experience

With post-pandemic merger and acquisition momentum building, more and more financial institutions will find themselves in the position of needing to align their newly acquired branches.

Given the level of complexity inside the branch, the branch rebranding process necessitates a strategic, organized and cohesive approach. In the recent article in The Financial Brand article Avoiding Branch Rebranding Headaches in Mergers and Acquisitions, Adrenaline’s chief experience officer Gina Bleedorn and managing director Frank Beardsworth share their insights on branch rebranding and why it’s so critical to get it right. 

You should not underestimate the importance of your branch experience today even as transactions migrate out.”
– Gina Bleedorn, Chief Experience Officer at Adrenaline

As more and more consumers do their everyday transactions via digital channels, it’s tempting to think that this migration takes the pressure of the branch experience. But we find the opposite is true. As a primary channel for acquisition, the branch channel is consumers’ #1 consideration for starting a new primary banking relationship. “The reality is that consumers open more accounts in person at the branch, have lower account attrition, and those accounts are worth more than those opened digitally,” according to Believe in Banking in its exploration of the influence of the branch for growth

Investment Tiers

Most of the decisions about branch rebranding will ultimately be determined by how much budget financial institutions are prepared to invest. “It’s easy to underestimate the costs, says Bleedorn, because such combinations affect everything, including the size of the branch network, planning and redesign, staffing, marketing and continuous communications,” as outlined in The Financial Brand article. Hundreds of unique brand assets to align adds to complexity and cost. Further, because each branch comes in at a different current-state, a branch-by-branch analysis is a requisite first step. 

“It doesn’t help to put a new program in place in a very tired and dingy looking branch,” according to Frank Beardsworth in his interview with The Financial Brand. Matching information on branch health with data and market analytics will help financial institutions devote more budget and resources in branches that have the greatest growth opportunity. “Following site surveys and interviews with branch personnel, branches can be sorted in three distinct classes, each with a different budget range,” according to The Financial Brand. These ranges include: 

1) A rebranding and retrofit branch with optimal market opportunity showing the most growth potential would range from $100,000 to $110,000

2) A middle-tier branch with moderate opportunities and strategic location would have a budget range between $50,000 to $80,000

3) A basic upgrade branch that’s remaining open but isn’t primed for growth would have a budget range from $30,000 to $50,000


Taking an outside-in approach, each branch serves as a billboard for the new brand, bringing people inside where their experience comes to life. “Your branch exterior is your beacon, your advertising,” according to Bleedorn. “It’s your face forward to the community and it is your reason to attract anyone. But your interior is your experience… where your bankers are actually interacting with people.” Inside the branch, there are branded elements to address – including brand colors, carpet, interior signage, digital displays, teller backgrounds and more. “Adrenaline estimates there could be up to 45 different customer-facing elements in a given branch,” according to The Financial Brand. 

In an interview for their branch rebranding article, Adrenaline’s client Peter Powell of First Horizon is interviewed by The Financial Brand and describes the process of branch conversion in their Florida Flagship. “We want to be respectful to both legacy brands,” Powell says. “Maintaining aspects of the overall banking center design that clients’ value is extremely important to us. The priorities include the application of First Horizon elements that we’ve used previously but also making sure we’re honoring where we’ve been in the past while looking to the future with the two organizations combined into one.”

Cultural Considerations

Ultimately, the most beautiful branch conversion in the world won’t matter if people aren’t part of the process. The Financial Brand puts it this way: “If staff doesn’t have a full understanding of what the merger means for them and why it’s a good thing, that ambiguity will be conveyed to customers.” Bleedorn drives the point home: “If the merger is not truly understood by your people you risk not only attrition of staff but the loss of customers.” Aligning staff to the new brand will help define the new brand’s success in the market and having a sense of ownership is critical to their ability to deliver on the new brand promise and the best experience a branch can deliver.

For more information on the branch rebranding process, stay tuned to Adrenaline’s Insights for part II of Outside-In: Branch Rebrands and Conversions Following M&A where we will discuss a powerful real-time way of communicating and monitoring all of the elements inside a branch rebrand. For all of Gina and Frank’s insights, see the full article Avoiding Branch Rebranding Headaches in Mergers and Acquisitions in The Financial Brand. To learn more about the branch conversion following mergers and acquisitions or to speak to one of our financial services and banking industry experts, email us at info@adrenalinex.com or call (678) 412-6903. 

Adrenaline is an experience design agency 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.

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