Former HSBC global marketing chief Peter Stringham has hit out at the financial services sector, claiming the big UK banks are failing to build brand equity.
Stringham, who is now global chief executive of Young & Rubicam Brands, described banking as "a big business building small brands" in a speech to the Financial Services Forum annual conference last week.
He also told the conference that selling product was different to building a strong brand and that banks and financial services companies were among the least differentiated of all brands and lacked "energy".
He added that companies should build "meaningful and lasting" brands in order to stand out from their rivals.
When questioned if traditional banking brands could break through that barrier, he said it was possible but would prove hard. He admitted that HSBC had failed to do it under his tenure, although the group’s direct brand First Direct had.
Stringham stepped down from his role as group marketing chief of HSBC in February after announcing his departure in October, as revealed on marketingweek.co.uk. He spent six years with the company and devised its worldwide campaign that positioned HSBC as the "world’s local bank".
He consolidated HSBC’s £350m advertising and media business into WPP in 2004, which led to the creation of Team HSBC, led by JWT and Mindshare. Previously, he was chairman and chief executive at Y&R North America. HSBC has yet to appoint a replacement.
He has now returned to Y&R to replace Ann Fudge, who has retired, and has been tasked with fostering greater collaboration among its agencies to service shared clients and when working across different disciplines.