What’s in a name? Perpetual to rename 138-year brand

funds management Perpetual KKR rebranding

13 May 2024
| By Laura Dew |
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Perpetual will have a heavy task ahead of it as it searches for a name that will sufficiently maintain its brand recognition and heritage, branding consultants believe. 

Last week, it was announced the ASX-listed firm will lose its name as part of the deal with private equity giant KKR to acquire its corporate trust and wealth management business. 

This will require the firm to rebrand its name that has been in place since 1886 with the new name for the remaining asset management business expected to occur by 31 December 2025.

Money Management spoke with branding consultants Luke Sullivan and Andrew Begg to discuss what the name change could involve and how it will affect the business. 

Past asset management rebrands include Colonial First State Global Asset Management (CFSGAM) rebranding as First Sentier Investors in 2019, Investec rebranding as Ninety One in 2020, and ETF Securities rebranding as Global X in 2022. Name changes or rebrand can come from both firms looking to refresh their brand or from a legal reason as a result of a merger or divestment.

Sullivan, managing director of COG Branding, said: “The name change will impact every business touchpoint. They will need to come up with a robust strategy identifying the evolutionary stages and milestones they need to hit. If ideation [of a new name] is needed then they will need to identify the objectives of a new name,  work with all the different stakeholders and identify if there are any name conventions that are impacted legally.”

The firm has already said a licensing agreement is expected to be in place for Perpetual’s Australian equities team to allow them to continue to use the brand for up to seven years. The brand will sit alongside its other multi-boutique asset management brands including Pendal, Trillium, and Barrow Hanley.

Andrew Begg, chief executive of brand agency Traffic, said: "When we are undertaking a rebrand, we run a series of workshops and interviews to ensure that we get the opinions, perspectives and agendas that exist throughout the business on the table - that way, they feel that their voice is being heard, and that their ‘fingerprints’ are all over the end solution."

The pair also discussed to how the firm could incorporate its 138-year heritage and how that would impact brand recognition that has been built up over that time.

Begg said: "It’s always a challenge in determining how to weave the relevant DNA of a legacy business into a thriving brand after an acquisition, merger or divestment. If you lean too far towards the new parent company’s heritage, you can risk eroding the positive traction that the acquired company previously enjoyed. It’s really about finding the right balance and understanding exactly what elements of the company's background, culture and offering are most valuable.

"Since its infancy, Perpetual has successfully helped clients build and grow their wealth over many decades. To capture the next wave of growth as a new entity for the asset management side of the business, it will need to operate at a manner that is commensurate with the audience of today and demonstrate its relevance to its customers, as well as their staff and stakeholders, and the industry at large. 

"However, the new brand needs to somehow link back to what it was, yet at the same time demonstrate its new offering in a simple, memorable, impactful and optimistic manner. That’s the tricky ‘juggling act’."

"Where a name has been is crucial to where a name can get to, the answer is in the past sometimes," added Sullivan, who has previously with financial advice licensee Fiducian.

Once a name is decided, it will then be up to the firm to publicise that name change to new and existing clients. This will be an ongoing process as advertising research shows it can take up to 10 times before a consumer remembers seeing an advertisement.

“This will depend on how quickly the rebrand needs to be enacted and how quickly they want the cut-through to be, not just with existing clients but with new clients as no one will know who this new brand is. This will involve multiple media touchpoints across TV, radio, digital advertising,” Sullivan said. 

Begg said: "A rebrand isn't over once the initial switch occurs. A thorough and robust ‘always-on’ communications plan will need to be implemented to ensure the rebrand is an ongoing success (internally and externally), beyond the launch ‘ta-dah’ moment."

Sullivan added the firm’s media team would need to be briefed to deal with any fallout if the new brand is not received well, which could cause reputational damage especially in the age of social media.

This was the case of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management rebranding as abrdn in 2021, a name that has faced widespread criticism ever since for its lack of vowels. Earlier this year, chief investment officer Peter Branner called the media out for its “childish” ridicule of the name. 

“I understand that corporate bullying to some extent is part of the game with the press, even though it’s a little childish to keep hammering the missing vowels in our name,” Branner said.

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