HSBC UK chief confirms high street banking rebrand

HSBC is preparing to rebrand its high street banks as it sets in motion plans to separate the UK business from the parent company to comply with legislation.

HSBC: High street banks in the UK to be rebranded
HSBC: High street banks in the UK to be rebranded

Stuart Gulliver, UK chief at HSBC, said that the name change would not be a "big deal" and was primarily so clients were clear about whether they were dealing with the ring-fenced bank in the UK or the global HSBC operation.

"We will operate with a different brand name. We haven’t decided what that brand name will be and we’re going to consult with customers and our own staff over the next few months to decide what we might call this bank," he told investors during a conference call.

HSBC declined to say whether it would be working with an agency on the rebranding process or if this would be carried out in-house.

However, Gulliver also stated it was "too early" to tell whether HSBC would keep the ring-fenced bank, leading to suggestions that the rebranding is a move to make the business more attractive to potential buyers because the HSBC name has been tarnished in the UK.

In February 2015, HSBC was exposed for its role in helping wealthy clients carry out industrial-scale tax evasion by using Swiss bank accounts.

More recently, the bank has been dragged into the FIFA corruption scandal. The FBI has charged a number of senior executives with offences relating to money laundering and bribery. Three banks including HSBC are said to have processed payments and internal investigations are being carried out to see if anti-money laundering and bribery rules were broken.

In an unrelated issue, a senior Italian HSBC executive is also under investigation in connection with a major corporate scandal relating to deals made by the country’s largest insurer.

HSBC currently operates two subsidiaries in the UK: First Direct and M&S Banking.

Switching to the First Direct brand name would make sense as it already has a loyal customer base and boasts the highest customer satisfaction rating in the UK, according to Which? magazine.

Mark Knight, director of Broadgate Mainland, had previously told PRWeek the reputation of the UK banking sector was at "rock bottom" and it would "take years" to restore confidence with careful comms management.

The bank is not the only high-profile company looking to revamp its image this year. Last month, Malaysia Airlines said it would start from scratch and unveil a new name on 1 September after it was left "technically bankrupt".

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