Wednesday, February 1, 2012

BofA, Wells among world's top banking brands

Charlotte's big banks have earned top spots in a new study measuring the value of bank brands.

Wells Fargo & Co. ranked No. 2 on brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance's international Banking 500 report, behind British lender HSBC. The San Francisco-based bank, which bought Charlotte's Wachovia in 2008, was the top U.S. bank on the list, with a brand valued at more than $23.2 billion, the study released this week found.

Bank of America Corp., which drew criticism last year over a series of PR missteps and a sinking stock price, remains one of the world's best banking brands, Brand Finance found. The Charlotte lender ranked No. 3 on the list, with a brand valued at $22.9 billion, though that was down from the No. 1 spot in 2011.

Overall, with the exception of London's HSBC, European banks performed "miserably" due to economic uncertainty and the Eurozone crisis, the firm said. Meanwhile, banks in emerging markets fared better - brands from Brazil, Russia, India and China now outnumber their European counterparts among the world's top 20 banking brands - and U.S. lenders held steady.

Brand Finance said Wells Fargo has delivered strong results but still faces a difficult future, given the lack of confidence in banking markets.

There are fears that the brand is too deeply connected to the U.S. economy, the firm said, citing its stagecoach logo. However, "in a time where the public trusts banks less and less, a saving grace for the company could be that it is perceived as trustworthy, working on behalf of Americans and not only concerned with profits," it said.

Of Bank of America, Brand Finance acknowledged big hurdles - but said if the bank can successfully integrate its Merrill Lynch brand and continue rehabilitating its wealth management business, then "no doubt it will become a great asset for the bank and make solid contributions to its bottom line."

First published in 2006, the Banking 500 measures the financial value of the world's top banking brands, based on the strength, risk and future potential of a brand relative to its competitors.