Betting on big bank brands

September 24, 2008, 11:42 PM UTC

Warren Buffett is investing $5 billion in Goldman Sachs — “an unrivaled global franchise,” he calls it. Mitsubishi is putting some $8 billion into Morgan Stanley . These are giant bets on Wall Street survivors that, under the government’s sweeping reform plan, are remaking themselves into bank-holding companies that can accept consumer deposits.

It’s too early to know how Goldman and Morgan will develop their consumer brands (Morgan has 500 U.S. branches, over 2 million customers, and uncertain plans), but the opportunities for these firms make you wonder: Will consumers too want to bet on their venerable brands?

The brand gurus at Interbrand released their Best Global Brands report late last week, and Goldman and Morgan Stanley are on it. Goldman ranks No. 38 among 100 in total, and Morgan Stanley lands at No. 42, one slot behind UBS. The list of financial brands ahead of those three: American Express at No. 15, Citi at No. 19, Merrill Lynch at No. 34 (which should please the folks at Bank of America since BofA is acquiring Merrill) and J.P. Morgan at No. 37. Interbrand bases the rankings on a complex methodology that includes an evaluation of a brand’s financial strength (based on companies’ public reports and analyst data) and a brand’s influence on customer demand, based on Interbrand’s in-house market research.

All the financial brands except American Express have been scathed by this year’s financial turmoil and have fallen in rank since last year’s Interbrand study. But one other financial-services brand gained stature: Visa, which is on the list for the first time, at No. 100. Given its healthy growth in emerging markets and it scant exposure to the credit crisis (it’s a credit processor, not a lender), Visa’s brand image is rising.

And by Interbrand’s analysis, what is the world’s most valuable global brand? Coca-Cola . Just behind it: IBM, Microsoft , General Electric, and Nokia.

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