How do banks decide on names?


Recently, the bank National City moved into the Milwaukee area (and suddenly seems to be everywhere now). A friend made a comment a few months back upon seeing their sign that’s stuck with me – “what were they thinking when they named this bank?” In fact, what are most banks thinking when they choose their names? It seems to me that banks choose their names using 1 of 2 rules: either pick a name that just doesn’t make any sense or make it an incredibly vague/general name. National City is the rare example that tries to follow both rules. I’m not sure what a national city is (aren’t all cities part of some nation?). National City also succeeds in being fairly general (though I do wonder why they didn’t choose Universe Galaxy Bank or something more powerfully general?)

Then there are the banks with just general names like US Bank and Bank of America. While they are somewhat general, again, I do wonder why they settled where they did when Western Hemishpere, Earth, Galaxy or Universe Bank may have been available? Of course, the best example of generalness has to be the World Bank. You know that when that name was selected years ago, it left hard-core banknamers despondent.

And finally, there are the other bank names that may not fit the general/vague rule, but seem to prefer the nonsense rule – like a Maritime Bank located miles from any sort of water. Or Wachovia – you have to do research to figure out what the hell this means, and then it only sort of makes sense (read here for info). How about Associated Bank – with whom/what are you associated? Or Citizens Bank – what if someone only has permanent resident status (a refugee for example), can they not bank there? I could go on and on but frankly I don’t have time.

Here are my suggestions (my main thought here being that a bank name ought to have something to do with what banks do – banking): Money Bank; Invest Here Bank; Checkings, Savings, CDs and Loans Bank; $ Bank; or We’ll Hold Your Money For You And Give You Very Little Interest Bank; or…

3 Responses to “How do banks decide on names?”

  1. Bill Walsh Says:

    There is (or was) a bank in Chicago called Third Fifth Bank. Riddle me that, Batman.

  2. lostinutah Says:

    There is still that bank Bill mentions – I deposited a check drawn on it today. I was incredulous that it was real.

    I do at least know that Bank of America was originally called Bank of Italy, because an Italian named Giannini started it in San Francisco. He changed it because, I think, he thought Bank of America sounded better.

    I only know that because I used to work for them. Just call me Cliff Clavin, the master of little known facts.

  3. awhayes Says:

    Nice bank history knowledge lostinutah. Bill, I did just drive by several Third Fifth banks on a recent trip east, a bank that would definitely fall into the the nonsense category. Like most banks, there is probably some explanation for the name, but unless one researches to learn about it, it just stands there to most who aren’t research-motivated as a pretty nonsensical name. Good example.

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