TonyWanless_4_4.jpg

A proposed merger between two big suburban Vancouver credit unions has been called off. Apparently, the dating that's been going on for several months convinced the two that any union between them would end up as a brand marriage from hell.

Tony Wanless Tony Wanless

Credit unions in BC are sprinting to the altar like mad these days, trying to differentiate their brands in the financial services landscape. But a proposed merger between two big suburban Vancouver credit unions has been called off. Apparently, the dating that's been going on for several months convinced the two that any marriage between them would end up as a constant battle over style. I'll say. There are similarities that probably created the dating discussions in the first place. Abbotsford-based Prospera Credit Union works the eastern suburbs of Vancouver and extends all the way to Kelowna. North Shore Credit Union works the – you guessed it – north shore of Burrard Inlet and Howe Sound. But while they're similar in terms of operating in burbs, they are in reality unlike as you can get in terms of style and approach. Prospera – Prospera, live long and prosper, get it? -- is an aggressive marketer that often uses its own branding as a marketing technique in itself. It likes to let the world know about its clever marketing, usually manifested in a blizzard of excited press releases. Who could forget the introduction of “personal concierge” services, one of the “rock star amenities” it offered to shoppers in the South Granville area in Vancouver when it made its first foray into the city? It used last Valentine's day as a lever to start an “edgy” ad campaign urging people to “break up with your bank”. The pitch, obviously aimed at women, featured a “sad looking broken piggy bank named 'Hank',” and the headline “She broke up with me.” Meanwhile, NSCU relies on basic business principles to expand. It has a quiet and solid business plan that concentrates on the growing North-shore corridor that extends all the way to Whistler. Pretty good spot to be in, what with the Olympics coming and all. NSCU – yep the name's pretty functional in a world full of ad agency-generated brands-- takes its style approach from its CEO, Chris Catliff, who was supposed to lead the merged credit union. One of the top financial services chiefs in the country, Catliff is a strategist who eschews the Gee Whiz marketing approach. He's old fashioned enough to think that service value matters, and modern enough to understand the innate sophistication and lifestyles of his primarily middle to upper class market. NSCU's press releases are few, and generally simple and informational. Donations to its community. Awards for its IT innovation. Appointments in key positions. Annual reports. Stuff that supports its brand as a no-nonsense competent provider of financial services. So what would this marriage have been like? They're about equal in financial capability --Prospera has $2.3 billion in assets, and 60,000 members; NSCU has $2 billion and 40,000 members – but “differences in governance philosophies” indicate the style thing might have been a problem. Think of a brash young Surrey nightclubber who lives for today marrying a North Vancouver manager who's into health and growing the retirement account. It would have been a constant battle of the brands. And a living hell for both. Read Tony's previous blog here. Read Tony's next entry here. Do you agree? Disagree? Use the comment form below and tell Tony what you think!