NewsTalk

Welcome to the archives for NewsTalk, an IBJ blog published from November 2007 through December 2010.

Another ‘Merchants’ bank born

April 3, 2009
Banks aren’t known for creative names. Three in Indiana—in Mooresville, Fairmount and Munster—include “Citizens” in their names. Three others have “Peoples.” Eight have “Community.” And don’t ask about “First.”

Now there’s another blurring of bank brands. Greensfork Township State Bank, a tiny bank north of Richmond, announced today that it has changed its name to Merchants Bank of Indiana.

This gets interesting when one recalls Greensfork bought Symphony Bank last year. Symphony is the Carmel startup that never made a profit, largely because its sole branch was so lavishly expensive. (Greensfork, by the way, was the most profitable bank in the state last year.)

You’ll also recall that Muncie-based First Merchants Corp. has operated in Hamilton County for several years, and last year expanded in the Indianapolis area in a big way by buying Lincoln Bancorp in Plainfield.

So, how does First Merchants feel about another “merchants” showing up on its turf?

First Merchants President Mike Rechin complains that regulators tell him the term Merchants is prevalent enough to allow Greensfork to use it. Now, Rechin, says, he’s consulting an attorney, but stopped short of threatening a lawsuit.

“Willfully creating customer confusion is unfortunate,” Rechin says.

No one at Merchants Bank would come to the phone to explain its strategy.

Maybe Greensfork is reaching back to the history bought to Symphony by some of Symphony’s executives. One, Otto Frenzel IV, is a son of the scion of the family that controlled the former Merchants National Bank in Indianapolis before it was acquired by National City, which last year was taken over by PNC.

Indianapolis brand expert Jim Walton thinks Symphony was a good name because it was unique. But Greensfork probably was looking for a recognizable brand, and Merchants is certainly that.

What do you think?
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