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Union Bank: Emerges from Recess, Primed to Compete for your Mind, Business

L-R: Emeka Emuwa, group managing director/chief executive, Union Bank Nigeria Plc; Mansur Ahmed, non executive director; Nike Akande, non executive director, and Udoma Udo Udoma, chairman, at the Union Bank new brand identity unveiling in Lagos.
 
Union Bank after three years of internal re-organisation - technology and personnel wise, appears set to launch an offensive on the competition. How did the bank wriggle out of the former inertia? Find out the strategic imperative of this through and through repositioning of a brand. 
 
Some of the obvious signs of a brand in decent are obsolete, weak and ineffectual corporate manifestation collaterals such as logo, office ambience and brand touchpoints’ design, look and feel. In the same token the people, culture and customer service add to the take-outs by the customer and equally go a long way to determine if such brand must be embraced and kept at arm’s length.  
 
Some of these seemingly little but critical issues have either made or marred brands. This is why a brand needs to carry out a periodic self-audit or be audited in a bid to know when to pull the plugs on certain things and when also to go all out to rejig and infuse more life into its essence so that the customer can continue to find it relevant and contemporary. This is necessary in view of the fact that every brand has a life-cycle – birth, growth, maturity and decline. When a brand is nudging towards the last stage, it calls for urgent ‘surgery’ to stem the tide through a well thought-out re-engineering process to breathe fresh lease of life into the brand.  Through this exercise, the brand is further differentiated to seek a new pride of place in the mind of the customer.  
 
This exercise could also mean fighting a ‘positioning war’ which the marketing guru, Al Ries describes as “the battle for the customer’s mind”. 
The old Union Bank brand displayed signs of hemorrhaging just after the 2004/2005 recapitalisation. It lost steam as the baggage of the ‘old generation toga’ became too heavy a burden for the iconic brand. The management was not oblivious of this, hence, it took the part of honour after a long lull. A deliberate step to dissect the brand and retool through a 360 degree exercise aimed at rebuilding its banking business by redefining its business model touching on the people, technology, products and service as well as the brand collaterals.  The exercise culminated in a refreshed brand as presented last Tuesday in Lagos.
 
In a brief but thought provoking statement at the unveiling, Chairman of the bank, Senator Udo Udoma expresses that he knows and understands the bank too well and therefore understands what it took the bank to get to its current daring and future forward position. For the Chairman, the management, board, staff and customers should be proud of the new Union bank.
 
He therefore sees occasion as opportunity to celebrate yet another milestone for the bank. Realistically, he points out in view of the challenging competition in the industry that the beginning of a new chapter will “require more hard-work from all concerned” .  
 
The brand rejuvenation started in 2012 when the current Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Mr Emeka Emuwa was hired with an ambitious strategic mandate to make Union Bank a highly respected provider of quality financial services in Nigeria. 
 
According to the MD/CEO in his presentation, the brand transformation for the iconic banking institution was hinged on pillars such as people, technology and customer service.  These three core stakes are strategic and potent force to build a world-class, seamless as well as technology compliant and responsive organization. 
 
Defending these very strategic pillars, the team lead believes an organization can get to anywhere and achieve about anything with the right team (people). Technology is also critical and the management found it expedient for the bank and its staff to be technologically compliant. This will no doubt makes it more competitive and better positioned to serve the customer and give the competition a good run for their money.  The customer touchpoints also enhanced to ensure better service delievery to delight the customer.  
 
Until the unveiling, people who don’t have interaction with Union bank are wont to say “Union bank is made up of old people”, one of the testaments of the last three years is the evidently young people (staff) at the relaunch. This is corroborated by Head, Corporate Affairs & Corporate Communications, Mrs. Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, who reveals the mandates of the transition include to optimize the bank’s talent poll, reengineer the entire banking operation, hire a lot more young people to ensure we have the right people in the right places, aligned staff compensation with industry standard to attract some of the most intelligent people with energy, agility and passion to ensure an altruistically transformed bank.
 
On the technology for development and enhanced service front,   the propelling question for the new Union bank is, how does the bank serve its customers without having to be (physically present) in their faces? To circumvent this challenge,  the bank has developed and invested in channels  which include more ATM, Online Banking among other platforms in a bid  to live up to its new proposition –‘make banking simple”. In line with this, the bank’s new online and mobile channels are described as fantastic. Union mobile and Union online provide the time constrained customer platforms to and effortlessly complete hitherto complex transactions within record time space while on the go. 
 
 In the same vein, most of the bank’s physical structures have gone through impressive facelifts to create impressive ambience however the target of the bank  in the near future,  is to make its customers rely much less on physical structures as solid technological infrastructural platforms are being laid for the seamless,  time and cost efficient transactions.
 
“Now running on its new banking platform, Oracle FlexcubeUBS 12.0, Union Bank has Smarter Banking Centres in strategic locations - such as MM2 Ikeja and the E- Centre, Yaba targeted at the technology savvy customers looking for convenient banking service. The bank has also built a state of the art data centre and a new Central Processing Centre to streamline its branch operations and enhance customer service”, the MD/CEO. The future is played out at these Smarter Banking centres as the customer can all by himself open an account and complete transactions from start to finish, he explains.  
 
Under its ‘Achieving together’ slogan, Union Bank is looking forward to being a more energetic and vibrant bank. In line with this objective, everything about the identity has been refreshed and re-energized to embrace technology which is at the heart of every forward looking enterprise.  
 
As one of the longest standing financial brands in the country, the bank’s new identity leveraged the old logo in driving home the bank’s new proposition. The brand make-over demonstrates an obvious respect for the bank’s endearing heritage such as integrity and trust as well as embrace the future in a parity breaking customer service and technology deployment. 
 
 The new identity still has the iconic stallion but now in motion representing a seamless strength, passion and dynamism.   This is complemented by modern type font of two contrasting sizes. In the name logo, Union is presented in strong and bold characters while the suffix – ‘bank’ now comes in slimmer and fun font presenting a balanced contrast as a sign of the modern times. In the same token, the blue house has been updated to a more vibrant blue. The elements of the new logo – stallion in motion, the new logo are well arranged on a vibrant blue square box to make the new visually appealing logo. The introduction of patterns also in vibrant blue and while adds to the bank’s collaterals.  
 
Although trend in banking rebranding is the deployment of multiple shouting colours, Union bank resisted this tendency jumping into the fad, yet the new identity sits well with the brand and creates an aura of relationships the motion, the patterns and the vibrant blue make the brand ‘playful, relatable and serious’ in a way.
 
No wonder, the CEO while fielding questions dropped the hint that the bank is ready to take on new challenges, just as its saying to customers and prospects today, “we are ready to provide you enhanced customer’s service, we are ready to compete for business” as the bank commences the battle for the minds of the customers. The CEO demonstrates an infectious high spirit and enthusiasm that currently pervades the bank now mostly youthful workforce. Hopefully, customers will also catch the fever at those critical moments of truth!
 
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