As governments scramble to stimulate economic growth in the face of the ongoing global health crisis, and profits and interest rates take a hit, nearly two-thirds of the world’s 500 most valuable banking brands have recorded brand value losses, according to the latest report by Brand Finance– a brand valuation consultancy, published by The Banker magazine.
The industry has seen a dramatic downturn in the past two years when compared with previous year-on-year performance. The total brand value in the annual Brand Finance Banking 500 ranking increased by 10% in 2018 (from US$1.07 trillion to US$1.18 trillion) and again by 15% in 2019 (US$1.36 trillion) but decreased by 2% and 4% in 2020 (US$1.33 trillion) and 2021 (US$1.27 trillion), respectively.
The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are difficult to ignore, with global GDP forecasted to shrink by over 4%, which would signal the largest global recession since the Second World War.
Analyses conducted by Brand Finance on the world’s most valuable brands over three recessionary periods indicate that, on average, of the 100 brands that lost the most brand value during each recession, 74 of them were banks. On the other hand, of the 100 most successful brands during the recessions, 30 were banks.
David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, said: “Banking institutions were the main culprit in the last financial crash; this time around they are a large part of helping people overcome the repercussions of COVID-19. Brand Finance research shows that banks’ responses to the global pandemic have led to a year-on-year increase in overall reputation scores among customers, which no doubt could result in an uptick in brand values in the coming year.”
Apart from calculating brand value, Brand Finance also determines the relative strength of brands through a balanced scorecard of metrics evaluating marketing investment, stakeholder equity, and business performance. Alongside revenue forecasts, brand strength is a crucial driver of brand value. Banks with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score below 60 out of 100 experienced an average decline in brand value of 20%, whereas of the banks with a BSI score above 70, the average fall in brand value was only 8% – proving just how important it is for banks to have stronger brands than their competitors during an economic downturn.
“The widespread shift to digital has also opened up opportunities for banks to deliver better customer service and faster innovations, which goes a long way in enhancing brand awareness and value,” added Joy Macknight, managing editor of The Banker. “Those banks that have been investing time and resources in the digital transformation of their operations over the past few years have seen that investment pay off during the pandemic, as they were able to quickly respond to new customer needs.”
Chinese banks maintain dominance
Chinese banks maintain dominance of the Brand Finance Banking 500 2021 ranking, accounting for one-third of total brand value and seven of the ten top climbers by absolute brand value. Chinese banks have been largely impervious to the issues plaguing their counterparts elsewhere in the world – as two-thirds of brands in the ranking have experienced losses, Chinese banks recorded a healthy 3% average brand value growth. This is largely attributable to the banking sector’s role in China’s timely and effective response to COVID-19, which included regulatory policy adjustments for asset management, wealth management, and inter-banking, as well as increased investment into digitalisation.
US banks five spots in top ten
US banks account for almost a quarter of the total brand value in the ranking – the nation’s 74 banks reaching a cumulative brand value of US$274.8 billion. Five US brands feature in the top 10: Bank of America (down 7% to US$32.8 billion), Citi (down 3% to US$32.2 billion), Wells Fargo (down 22% to US$31.8 billion), Chase (down 8% to US$28.8 billion), and JP Morgan (up 3% to US$23.6 billion). Bank of America remains the most valuable banking brand in the US, placing fifth overall, and JP Morgan is the only brand in the top 10 to record a positive value change.
Currently holding the lowest reputation score among all banks in the US, Wells Fargo experienced the largest decline in brand value – dropping two places to seventh overall, and third in the US – the result of failing to rebuild favour among customers in the wake of several past scandals.
Ones to watch
While some of the world’s largest banks have floundered during the pandemic, 23 insurgent newcomers have joined the ranking, hailing from Europe, Asia, the US, and South America.
The highest new entrant is Truist at 36th position, with a brand value of US$8.0 billion. Formed in 2019 – a result of a merger between BB&T and SunTrust, which sat in 68th and 86th in the 2019 iteration of the Brand Finance Banking 500 ranking, respectively, with a combined brand value of US$7.2 billion. This merger is testament to the power of rebranding and a revised strategy, demonstrating that brands can be reinvigorated even in the face of a global crisis.