Wealth management rebrands: The good, the bad and the ugly

Alexandra Newlove, 29/04/2021

It would be fair to say that Aberdeen Standard Life’s rebrand to ‘Abrdn’, announced earlier this week, was not universally adored.

As a New Zealander, I was absolutely delighted. We butcher vowels at every opportunity and thoroughly welcome the idea of doing away with them entirely.

“Our new brand Abrdn builds on our heritage and is modern, dynamic and, most importantly, engaging for all of our client and customer channels,” its chief executive Stephen Bird told us via a press release, and possibly through tears.

“Our new name reflects the clarity of focus that the leadership team are bringing to the business as we seek to deliver sustainable growth.”

But as some have pointed out, the anagram of ‘brand’ at least got the asset manager some attention, with one person joking someone in marketing had “taken way too much E”. The Financial Times declared the firm ‘disemvoweled’.

In honour of the occasion, we reviewed some rebrands in private wealth. As you will see from some of the following examples, it may be the case that it is impossible to undergo such an exercise without slipping into self-aggrandising corporate claptrap.

Quintet Private Bank - 4 stars

Brown Shipley’s dad, Quintet, came into life in January 2020, as the Qatari royalty-backed banking group looked to do away with the clumsy “KBL European Private Bankers”.

One star has been deducted for this truly bonkers paragraph which came with the launch: “Inspired by music’s universal appeal and reflecting the group’s partnership approach, the Quintet name is a symbol of the five senses and five fingers on a hand – combining the female number two with the male number three, representing all human beings.”

But the overall vibe of harmony, teamwork and the allusion to high-class pursuits is pleasing. It’s also snappy and distinctive.

Aberdeen Standard Capital - 5 stars

The discretionary private client business of “abrdn”. Used to be Standard Life Wealth, until 2019 when they decided ‘wealth’ was both overused by lower-tier financial advisers, and also crass and elitist.

Now to become… Abrdn Stndrd Cptl?

Five stars anyway because it’s not nice to kick people while they’re down.

Kingswood - 3 stars

Back in 2017, these guys were known as European Wealth – it’s hard to say whether this makes more or less sense if you consider their designs on the American market at the time.

They then adopted the horribly cumbersome “KW Wealth” for a time, before quietly becoming Kingswood which – while being a little benign and forgettable – is certainly an improvement.

1762 - 4 stars

I think this just means “Brewin Dolphin’s rich clients”. But then for months after this business launched, we would get calls asking us to please refer to it as the arm for “clients with complex needs”. Draw your own conclusions.

Meant to reflect the firm’s heritage-dating-back-to date, but in reality, quite hard to remember and easy to confuse with the other financial advice firm called Eighteen-something-something?

Would have been 3 stars except I'm trying to secure an interview with them at the moment so... 4 stars and well done to everyone involved!

Delfin Private Office - 5 stars

Launched in 2020 as a breakaway from Owl Private Office, which in turn was brought to us by the former founders of Lord North Street.

In Māori culture owls are considered to be an omen of death and bad luck, though given there’s only eight Kiwi billionaires, this probably wasn’t going to be a huge business development obstacle for Owl. However owls are, contrary to popular belief, also rather dim – their huge eyes leaving little room for a big brain.

So, all in all, an excellent decision to go with a different critter.

Delfin means dolphin in many languages, and the motto at this firm is “be dolphins not ostriches… Always learning and innovative, we help prepare for the future, without forgetting the lessons of the past and the human dimension.”

IQ-EQ - 2 stars

The former moniker of this investors services business, ‘Firstnames Group’, was meant to intone a friendly, collegiate place where people referred to each other informally. They were then bought by SGG, which in turn became IQ-EQ in 2019.

It’s hard to love, isn’t it? Kind of onomatopoeic for a squeaky bed frame. But let’s give them a chance.

Chief executive Mark Pesco said at the time: “Our new name brings together the rare combination of technical expertise with a deep understanding of the needs of our clients. To deliver for our clients depends not just on our ability to provide expert services, but equally on how well we know them and their business.” (Emphasis his own.)

He carries on, valiantly: “We believe in personal relationships developed over time. As a brand IQ-EQ perfectly embodies this thinking and reflects who we are and what we bring to the sector. It also represents another hugely successful step on our journey and is something we’re all incredibly excited about.”

Mark... we are not all incredibly excited.

Alvarium Investments - 4 stars

Have you ever noticed how wealth managers have something of a penchant for birds? We have Sparrows Capital, Falcon, Wren Investment Office, the aforementioned Owl Private Office, the list goes on.

So perhaps the former LJ Partnership was looking to make it a case of the birds and the bees, Alvarium being Latin for ‘beehive’.

“Honeybees have developed a highly effective approach to cooperation and a complex consultation process to make better decisions. Alvarium shares these qualities as an international network facilitating collaboration, connection and co-investment,” the multi-family office told us at the time.

Other potential slogans: “Life isn’t all about honey”.

Certainly an improvement on LJ Partnership, anyway. One star deducted because I'm allergic to beestings.

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