Branding is not often a top-of-mind consideration for bank technology executives -- that's one function they usually can leave to the marketing folks. But it could be a different story for the IT team at Citigroup, which at press time had just sold its iconic red umbrella logo to St. Paul
Travelers, the large property-and-casualty insurance company that is soon to be known simply as Travelers Companies. This is actually a reacquisition; as everyone in this industry likely knows, Citigroup acquired Travelers Insurance (and its logo) in 1993 in a bold move to redefine U.S. financial services. But when the bloom came off the convergence rose, the institution sold Travelers' P&C business to St. Paul Companies and its life business to MetLife.
Now, Citigroup is intent on simplifying its branding and will use the name Citi -- in silver with a red arc above it -- across all its businesses. "Through a unified brand, we will leverage this symbol to represent our commitment to providing our clients with best-in-class advice, products and service," chairman and CEO Charles Prince said in a statement.
Financial institutions redesign their logos and revamp their messaging all the time, but Citi obviously is a bellwether institution, and its successes and failures often are viewed as both best practices and cautionary tales for the industry. So in this environment of striving for organic growth and automating all kinds of customer interactions, what do Citi's moves all mean?
It would be a gross oversimplification to say that these developments only prove that former Citi CEO Sandy Weill was wrong. Any banker who thinks the definition of a financial services provider is a static, unchanging concept is going to look pretty foolish before too long. While convergence might not be coming through dramatic cross-industry M&As, technology already has made "anywhere, anytime, any channel" banking a reality.
Citi's announcement earlier this month that it will acquire Egg, the U.K.-based online banking provider, can be viewed as recognition that distribution is going to be more about integrated channels than about traditional marketing partnerships. Time will tell whether the Egg deal will work better for Citi than the Travelers acquisition did. But folding the umbrella shouldn't be seen as a concession.