By Uche Akolisa |
At the middle of the year, Skye Bank carried out a retouch of its corporate identity, but analysts say, the communication effort towards making that change visible to all the bank’s stakeholders was too limp to achieve a significant impact.
At the formal handover by his predecessor and former GMD/CEO) of Skye Bank Plc, Mr. Kehinde Durosinmi-Etti in July 2014, the current helmsman, Mr Timothy Oguntayo had hinted on the plan of the bank to broaden its customer base when he said, “We have played very well in the corporate high-end of the market, but we think it is time for us to begin to touch on the SMEs and retail customers and that is what we have set out to do.”
Four months afterwards, in October 2014, Skye Bank, in an ambitious drive to play in the big boys’ league, acquired Mainstream Bank. It was a strategic move by the hitherto business-to business bank to delve into retail banking. The transformation was almost instantaneous – a quantum leap from 260 branches to 469 branches just at the seal of the deal. But industry observers argue that, the communication efforts that followed that change was too insignificant to make an impact.
To communicate the smoothening of the frills of the new outfit into a seamless operation, an internal cum cosmetic makeover was inevitable. It was therefore not surprising when , on June3, 2015, at a low-keyed event held at a venue in Ikoyi, Lagos, Skye Bank unveiled a refreshed corporate identity as part of rebranding effort to position the financial institution as a ‘smart’ bank.
The occasion doubled as the official unveiling of a new thematic campaign, ‘Skye is Big Enough,’ a change of its brand promise – from the tagline, “Expand your world’ to ‘Be Smart, bank on Skye.’ The bank’s logo remained intact except for the tweaking of the corporate colour s to brighter colours to reflect ‘vibrancy’ and a ‘refreshed’ Skye Bank.
Unlike tier-two banks in its category, such as FCMB, Fidelity Bank, Wema Bank which recently made good measure of ‘noise’ to announce their rebirth, Skye Bank’s exercise appeared more like a wink in the dark. Very few stakeholders noticed.
In branding, a change in the positioning and brand promise of a company is a major development because, it impacts on strategy, products or services, customers and staff of the company and therefore should be made visible to all stakeholders. However, it seemed Skye Bank’s intent to build a robust image, was pushed half-heartedly.
Business Hallmark spoke to some brand and financial analysts, bank customers and investors but most of them did not know that Skye Bank went through a brand refresh, recently.
Brand expert and MD, Noah’s Ark, an advertising agency, Mr Lanre Adisa, said that the brand refresh by Skye Bank was low-keyed as they did not ‘make noise’ about it.
“I am not too sure anybody noticed. I don’t think they made a song of it. If they did, it was very minimal.”
Analysts associate the lack of appreciable impact of the brand refresh with a number of factors; paucity of funds, personality of the new helmsman, inability of the bank to snap out of its old-brigade mould and a less -than -industry-level investment in advertising campaign.
A financial analyst who spoke to Business Hallmark on condition of anonymity while disclosing that he was not aware that a Skye Bank brand refresh happened, wondered what the bank achieved by scaling down its rebranding exercise. He argued that such an exercise should have been on the same scale with FCMB’s. The analyst however explained that its low-key may be due to paucity of funds.
“It cost Skye Bank a fortune to acquire a big bank like Mainstreet Bank. So the decision to have a ‘minimal’ rebranding probably had to do with the need to keep an eye on costs. Perhaps after they have sufficiently recovered from the Mainstreet acquisition, they will now carry out the real thing, ”he said.
The analyst also reasoned that motley of campaigns and promotion from the same house about the same time may have drowned the communication message around the corporate identity retouch.
“The bank seems to have so many campaigns running simultaneously that it clearly affects the message it is sending out,” he submitted.
The conspicuous absence of senior management team of the bank, particularly, the GMD, Mr. Timothy Oguntayo at the rebrand unveil which was presided over by Executive Director, Corporate Services, Mrs Abimbola Izu, is seen by industry watchers as indication of his rating of the essence of branding in business strategy. Managers of the old school are wont to see branding as an appendage and not an integral part of business strategy of their companies. This thinking more often than not affects the attention and funds voted for brand-building activities. But for a few spots on radio,TV and online platforms, the rebranding campaign which featured a grass -to- grace story-telling about three outstanding Nigerians-Taofik Adegbite, Ice Prince, Ladun Yadi went almost unnoticed by the Nigerian public.
The development was a bit of a surprise. Although a very conservative brand, Skye Bank has been known for very innovative branding campaigns. Take for instance, its “Hakuna Matata” campaign which ran some years ago. It has stuck like a leech on the memory of Nigerian bank customers.
How Skye Bank is perceived
Industry analysts are of the view that Skye Bank is one of the most stable banks in the country going by its financials. Its total assets stand at N1.32 trillion from N1.42 trillion in 2014. Its profit after tax grew by 21% fromN9.86 billion in 2014 to N11.88 billion at the end of nine months (third quarter) in 2015. Loan loss exposure dropped by 15% to N6.4billon from N7.52 billion.
However, deposit dropped by 13% from N952 billion in 2014 to N830 billion in 2015 even as operating expenses rose by 38% fromN46.9 billion to N64.61 billion.
Among its customers, Skye Bank is seen as a technology-savvy bank. It has earned a reputation for owning ATMs that always work. A customer of the bank, Mr Nkrumah Bankong said, “Most of my dealings with them are via ATM and their ATM never fails.” The bank is also being applauded for its efforts at inclusive banking for the under-banked. Recently, it introduced the Skye Pearl Initiative to promote economic empowerment of women.
In the public eye, Skye Bank is perceived as a corporate banker, rendering more of B-to-B services than B-to-C. Its major customers have been state governments particularly, the Lagos State and the Federal Government until the recently introduced Treasury Single Account which has left many banks including Skye Bank panting.
Although the bank has made a feeble attempt to say it has flung open its doors for personal banking, prospective bank customers are yet to buy into the new thinking. The low human traffic at five branches of the bank visited by Business Hallmark in Lagos, recently, is an indication that prospective customers are yet start seeing the bank as a provider of personal banking.
Also, despite the national spread the bank has gained through the acquisition of Mainstream Bank, it is still making concerted efforts to shake off the hangover as a bank with an ethnic slant. At a recent function organised by the bank in Lagos, the bank went out of its way to invite a compere from the Eastern part of the country when Lagos is milling with top-rated MCs.
It is yet to be seen how well the bank would manage philosophy and culture following the consummation of its marriage to Mainstream Bank. Fashioning out a distinct corporate culture from corporate marriages is hardly a walk in the park. After all, old loyalties die hard. But then, Skye Bank has a history of successful post-merger integration of people and processes in the aftermath of the Bank-Consolidation years.
However, its perceived ‘cocky’ relationship with the media may not be helping its cause. Rather its reticence in its relationship with the media may have informed its placing of the importance of communication with its publics as evidenced in its latest corporate identity retouch. .
Efforts to get reaction from Skye Bank proved abortive. When asked whether Skye Bank has plans to embark on a more elaborate rebranding exercise at a later date, the bank’ s spokesman, Mr Moses Obajemu told Business Hallmark that he would enquiry from the appropriate quarters and get back to us. However, he did not, neither did he take subsequent calls from this writer.