One of the least surprising findings of an extensive, recent brand study by WPP's Millward-Brown was that the brands of major banks have taken a pounding during the worldwide financial crisis. Thanks to the collapse of the mortgage-securities business, U.S.-based global giants such as Bank of America and Citigroup hemorrhaged brand value, ceding the top of their category mainly to Chinese players such as ICBC, the Chinese Construction Bank and the Bank of China.
But it's not just banks operating in fast-growing markets that are thriving. In Canada, a new list of the most valuable brands is dominated by financial-services companies. In fact, fully half of Brand Finance Canada's top 10 "Most Valuable Brands 2009" are banks. Royal Bank of Canada came in at No. 1, besting even the ubiquitous mobile-device brand BlackBerry. It was followed by TD Canada Trust at No. 3, ScotiaBank at No. 6, BMO at No. 9 and CIBC at No. 10.
Of course, this isn't due simply to overt marketing activities but rather to investment choices these brands didn't make -- i.e., making dicey loans or buying securities based on them, whether because of government regulation or good sense. As a result, Canada, where only 3% of loans were subprime, compared with 25% in the U.S., has so far escaped without a bank failure. (For more, check out this lengthy Time story on the glory of Canadian banking.)
"I would call it a Canadian success story, at least on a relative basis," said Andrew Zimakas, managing director, Brand Finance Canada told the Canadian magazine Marketing. "The global [banking] sector has been in virtual collapse for the past six to 12 months, and yet, through a combination of regulatory factors, business practices and, to some extent, the way they've managed their brands, Canadian banks have more than held their own and have really gained on the global stage."