Coutts: dropping the RBS branding

Coutts

Last year, RBS Coutts, the international arm of the private bank, dropped the RBS initials from its logo, becoming simply Coutts, as it appears in the UK. This followed the arrival of chief executive Rory Tapner in 2010, and Ian Ewart, global head of products, services and marketing in 2011.

Being associated with RBS and the negative press it has attracted in recent years could be seen as a risk for the private banking arm, which prides itself on serving the very wealthiest people, including the Queen.

While Ewart claims that being associated with a bank, which is majority-owned by the state, isn’t a ball and chain for the private bank, he says dropping the RBS moniker has made it clear who the business is aimed at.

“Clearly RBS is one of the biggest banks in the world, it is still fantastic to have an organisation of 160,000 behind you.

“But nobody calls the Mini the BMW Mini even though it belongs to BMW. So why would we call ourselves RBS Coutts? It just makes for confusion,” he says.

The rationale behind the rebrand has been, in part, to reach consumers in eastern Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia where it has less of a share of voice. It wants its overseas business to be worth about 60% to the UK’s 40% as part of its five-year plan.

“[The brand] had to be immediately understood in the different geographies, and for people to say ‘yes, that will help me do more business’,” says Ewart.

The bank has pulled out of several countries as a result of the strategy, now operating in 76 instead of the previous 172. The bank only wants to have a presence in countries where it can achieve a 3% market share.

“We sold some of the business to Royal Bank of Canada as part of this strategy to not have clients everywhere. We will try to make sure we have at least 3% market share in the places we service and to do this to a high standard rather than trying to spread ourselves too thinly,” says Ewart.

The new Coutts brand and logo was taken around the world by Ewart and head of marketing strategy Sarah Wyse, who explained to staff about the new values of the bank: connected, cosmopolitan and human.

“We discounted a lot of the language that tends to be used in the industry – expertise, intelligence and insight for example. We wanted our values to be something the whole business could understand.”

Wyse claims that the removal of RBS from the logo, and the new way of thinking about the business is helping RBS and Coutts work more closely together. “When we had two brands, it was all about thinking what could we as a brand do. It was Coutts and it was RBS Coutts. We didn’t see much evidence that they talked to each other or that they aligned in any way, but now it is quite collaborative.”

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