Focus groups kill off 162 years of Midland history

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The Independent Online
MIDLAND BANK, one of Britain's oldest and best-known banking names, is to disappear from the High Street after 162 years because of a decision by its parent company, the giant HSBC group, to give all its businesses around the world the same name.

From tomorrow, Midland will be renamed HSBC. Over the coming year the Midland name will disappear from the bank's 1,700 branches, to be replaced with HSBC's logo. The bank's seven million customers will also receive new cheque books and credit cards.

HSBC has been preparing for the switch for some time. Last year, Midland quietly scrapped its trademark griffin, replacing it with HSBC's red-and- white hexagon logo. At the same time, the bank's traditional yellow and blue colours began to disappear from its branches.

A spokesman for HSBC said customers were more likely to trust the bank when they realised it was part of a global organisation. "We have found that Midland is not more respected or disliked than any of the other clearing banks," he said. However, First Direct, the successful telephone bank which is part of Midland, will not be changing its name.

The decision brings to an end a 162-year history that stretches back to the height of the industrial revolution. Midland was founded in 1836 in Union Street, Birmingham, by Charles Geach, a former Bank of England employee, with the help of the city's leading merchants and manufacturers.

By 1918, it had become the largest bank in the world with deposits of pounds 335m. But in 1987 it was taken over by HSBC, owners of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank.

The name change is part of a $50m worldwide exercise by HSBC to establish a single, global brand for all its financial services operations. The group owns banks in the Far East, North and South America. It also has a large investment banking division.

"Increasingly, the financial services industry and modern communications are borderless. More and more people travel internationally," said John Bond, HSBC's chairman. "We are developing a growing range of products and services which are marketed around the world. Our strategy calls for the development of a strong consumer brand."