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Connexus : Issue 43
Naming rights Your peak industry body has changed its name to the Customer Owned Banking Association. BY CAMERON COOPER In the ongoing fght against the major banks, Abacus -- Australian Mutuals has had one hand tied behind its back. Recur ring questions confront its spokespeople during media inter views, promotional campaigns and advocacy discussions as they try to deliver a strong and clear voice for the mutual fnancial ser vices sector. Just what are mutuals? What exactly do they do? And by the way, what is Abacus? So Abacus has changed its name as part of a bold new industry rebranding initiative to create greater awareness of credit unions, building societies and mutual banks. From July 1, the peak industry body has been known as the Customer Owned Banking Association. "For me, what's driving this change is that there's an opportunity and an appetite for this new association to step up in terms of its visibility and advocacy outcomes," says association CEO Louise Petschler. She admits it's a big change to embrace the words 'customer' and 'banking' in a sector that has been all about 'members' and taking on the banks, but she says the rebranding underlines how serious the association board and her team are about engaging with all stakeholders. "Most importantly, we want to talk about the value and difference of the customer- owned banking model generally." True colours As well as the new name, the rebranding will deliver a new logo and new momentum, but the distinctive green colours of Abacus will stay. "We've kept the colours because they rated strongly in focus group research," says Niels Bendixsen, creative director of Three Squared, the visual communications agency responsible for the new image. While NAB offshoot Ubank uses a shade of green, Bendixsen says green is a "strong brand asset" and will distinguish the new association from the major banks. Bendixsen describes the logo for the Customer Owned Banking Association as a "really simple clean new mark". He says research has shown that a rebranding was necessary. "One of the big issues coming back time after time was that the word 'mutual' was not readily understood." While stalwarts understandably love the concepts of membership and mutuality, Bendixsen says they have been thwarting one of the sector's biggest aims -- attracting new customers. "With the general public, the meaning of 'member' sometimes brings up negative connotations of an exclusive club. It almost makes it a little bit inaccessible, and that's not what the whole mutual banking sector is about." Dissolving issues The association's head of public affairs, Mark Degotardi, is looking for ward to fronting media interviews and not having to explain what credit unions, building societies and mutual banks are all about. He says the new industry descriptor -- customer-owned banking -- gets cut- through. "When we put the words 'customer owned' and 'banking' together, a whole lot of lights went on among our research groups," he says. "It completely dissolved a whole range of issues around what it was that we were or did." Feedback from industry leaders at meetings of mutual chairs and CEOs in May was also positive. Degotardi believes adhering to cur rent terminology would have given credit unions, building societies and mutual banks little chance to woo new generations of customers. "Mutuals really The new logo ...there's an opportunity and an appetite for this new association to step up in terms of its visibility and advocacy outcomes. 10 Connexus NEWS