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Damage Control: What Should Big Banks Do to Repair Their Brands?

By Matt Koppenheffer - Sep 15, 2013 at 11:41AM

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Time heals all wounds, but big banks are still smarting from all the bad press; should they be working harder to woo consumers?

Motley Fool analyst Matt Koppenheffer sits down with Rick Engdahl for a side-of-desk interview about banks. Are they really that hard to understand? Can the big banks be trusted? Join us for a discussion that sheds some light on banks from Citigroup (C 0.70%) to Wells Fargo, as well as some of the smaller players.

The crisis has passed and banks are well on the road to recovery, but many consumers still have a bad taste in their mouths. In this video segment Matt discusses what kinds of measures big banks should be taking to bolster confidence -- and how investors should be looking at them as they consider getting back into the sector.

A full transcript follows the video.

Rick Engdahl: Do you think, given the bad press over the years -- and it is waning; it's certainly not in the headlines every day like it used to be -- do you think your Bank of Americas and Citigroups need to spend a lot of time and attention repairing their brands, or do you think that just comes out in the wash over the long term?

Matt Koppenheffer: Yes. I think they do. I think to some extent it's a "Time heals all wounds" kind of issue. You only get so many media cycles on any given thing, and it's already been a lot of media cycles on this particular issue. We'll get to something else, for better or for worse.

But at the same time, they are going to need to continue to advertise and tell people why these are worthwhile institutions, why they've turned a page; they're not necessarily doing the things that they did. I think to some extent, too, where they can is revealing the places where they didn't run afoul.

Yeah, I think it's a combination of things. I think they have to proactively repair the brand, but I think time as well will heal it.

Part of it, too, is just offering a good service, offering a compelling valuation for customers. No customer wants to think that they're going to get messed around with, so I guess that's important from a base level.

But in terms of offering ease and convenience, when you hear about Bank of America, for instance, offering mobile deposits, offering a great mobile banking experience, offering a great online banking experience.

If you're somebody for whom convenience of banking is a big issue, that goes a long way for Bank of America repairing its brand because people start to think less about, "Well, Bank of America is messing around with mortgage modifications," and they start to think more about, "Bank of America is a very technology-forward bank that makes banking very convenient."

Rick: Yeah, from my work in brand, I'd say that that experience is far more important about building brand than advertising or anything like that, that people think of when they think of brand building.

Matt: Well, yeah. I guess thinking back to... one of the big brand destroyers over the past few years was the BP disaster, right?

I think back to the... they did a flood of advertising after that, and I'm not really sure that that really did a whole lot. But the fact that BP Phillips stations are convenient for people, and they offer gas... I don't know.

Rick: Do you have any last words of advice for somebody who's thinking of investing in financials, who may just be getting their feet wet?

Matt: Oh, well... I would encourage not to invest based on just the general sense of things. When we talk about the headlines, the negative headlines, obviously that's one issue; you don't even bother looking at the sector because you read the headlines, and "Ah, banks are terrible."

Then the other side of the coin is just looking at the surface. Maybe looking at a valuation, or thinking about, "Oh, I bank with Bank of America," or "I bank with Citigroup and I think they're great." It's very important to dig in, to do your homework, to do your research and really understand what it is that you're investing in.

Yeah, the big banks are a little bit complex, but I don't think they're beyond investors' comprehension. I think if you open up the annual report, you read what's going on, you listen to some conference calls, listen to what they're talking about, listen to what they're focusing on, you get that understanding.

I think the understanding of what the individual bank does -- because like I said, they're not all the same -- the Big Four banks aren't all the same. The banks under that aren't all the same. I think it's important to really understand the individual bank you're investing in.

Matt Koppenheffer has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Citigroup and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Bank of America Corporation Stock Quote
Bank of America Corporation
$36.30 (1.09%) $0.39
Citigroup Inc. Stock Quote
Citigroup Inc.
$54.38 (0.70%) $0.38
Wells Fargo & Company Stock Quote
Wells Fargo & Company
$45.94 (1.52%) $0.69

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