Your brand is your promise to your clients. It tells them what they can expect from your firm, and it differentiates you from your competitors. Your brand stems from who you are and how you want to be perceived.
Many companies choose to launch new branding alongside a name change. Well-known examples include Google (formerly known as Backrub), Healthy Choice (formerly known as Diet Deluxe) and Pepsi Cola (formerly known as Brad’s Drink).
As the business of financial advice evolves, advisory firms are looking to create stronger brands. Practices named after founders have been renamed to reflect the identity each firm wishes to promote. Some use exhaustive computer analysis to come up with a catchy name and others find inspiration in foreign languages or Greek mythology. Firms that have rebranded with a name change include Aspiriant (formerly Kochis Fitz/Quintile), Brightworth (formerly Polstra & Dardaman) and Traust Sollus (formerly Zdenek Financial). In a reverse move, Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros & Blayney assumed its old name when it bought itself back from a bank where it was called Harris SBSB.
A name alone will not establish a brand identity, though it can go a long way. Contemplate who your optimal client is, what services you provide and how you would like the market to think of you. For example, is innovation an important characteristic to convey, or is safe and steady your desired image? Do you wish to express your identity as investment-centric or financial-planning-centric? Should your brand indicate the type of clients you wish to serve?
For example, Christopher Street Securities, a firm named after an iconic West Village street, adopted the tag line “gay money, straight advice.” Other firms have adopted a regional identity, such as Southwest Money Management or North Berkeley Investment Partners.
Branding experts often say that consistent, strategic branding leads to strong brand equity, resulting in more opportunities to do business or even the ability to charge premium prices for the services you offer.
Stand Out in ‘Homogeneous’ Industry
Private Vista is a Chicago-based advisory firm that resulted from the merger of Financial Strategy Network (FSN) and WNA Wealth Advisors (WNA). Firm leaders used the opportunity of the merger to think about what kind of business they wanted to create.
Jim Weil, former equity partner of FSN, explained that when he and Bob Westrick, an owner in WNA, started to talk about the merger they asked themselves what made them better than and different from their competitors. They agreed to build the brand around helping clients live more enriched and fulfilling lives.
Westrick explained, “We felt our industry was homogeneous; many firms do pieces of the financial planning process, and most focus on what it will take financially for a client to retire. Often they view the process as something ending and not something beginning. We thought we could make a difference by focusing on helping our clients live a more enriched and fulfilling life.”
Weil added, “We landed on the name Private Vista for our new combined firm to reflect our clients’ own personal vision for their lives.”
Both leaders recognize that the name change alone will not define the brand. The ideas behind the name, however, continue to influence the development of their story to the market, their service offering, their client experience and perhaps, eventually, their pricing strategy.
The initial focus for Private Vista has been on the discovery process. Weil explained, “We changed the questions we have always asked and inserted new questions to help our clients view this next phase of their lives differently.” He noted that a lot of clients do not retire successfully, meaning that they have enough money but they are not at peace. “This caused us to delve into their attitudes and goals around philanthropy, family, health and well-being, leisure and the things they want to do to make an impact.”