One of those banks, TD (Toronto-Dominion Bank), is already a significant financial brand in the US, as well as in Canada and the UK. In 2004, TD acquired Banknorth, a US bank operating on the East Coast. More recently it acquired Commerce Bank, also on the East Coast. TD just announced it will merge the two under the new name, TD Bank, and brand the combined entity as “America’s Most Convenient Bank.” (Originally, Commerce Bank was to be named TD Commerce Bank, but another Commerce Bank fought to retain rights to the name.) TD Banknorth in the New England area is perhaps best known as the name that adorns the revamped Boston Garden, hallowed home of the Boston Celtics basketball and Boston Bruins hockey teams. The facility will be renamed TD Bank Garden.
Prior to 2000, TD acquired a discount brokerage firm, Waterhouse, and then sold it to Ameritrade in 2005, retaining a one-third interest and renaming the firm TD Ameritrade. TD Ameritrade ranks number 79 in the “Forbes 400 Best Big Companies” of 2008, competing with such high-profile financial firms as E-Trade, Fidelity Investments, and Schwab.
While Banknorth and Commerce Bank are regional, TD Ameritrade operates nationally in the US. In late September 2008, reports surfaced that TD might be interested in acquiring some of the assets of troubled Washington Mutual (“WaMu”), the largest savings and loan bank in the United States. But on September 25, WaMu succumbed to the economic crisis and was sold to JP Morgan Chase.
TD, with assets of close to CDN $504 billion and 17 million customers worldwide, is the second largest bank in Canada (Royal Bank of Canada holds the top spot). While financial institutions are not generally renowned for branding or marketing, TD has made its mark on the Canadian consumer. According to Investment Executive, Canada’s newspaper for investment advisors, TD topped the consumer advertising category for two years in a row in the publication’s “Account Managers’ Report Card.”
Humorous Canadian TV ads for TD highlight the bank’s extended hours and use an oversized green chair to represent easy, convenient banking. The chair was conceived in 2001, when TD and Canada Trust merged. It was then that making banking comfortable became the new entity’s positioning.
Now, the green chair has become an iconic symbol for the bank. According to Investment Executive: “TD has even used green chairs in strategic product placements. One such example is the TD Canada Trust Comfort Zone, a block of front-row seats at Toronto’s Rogers Centre for Toronto Blue Jays baseball games. The seats are usually awarded to fans who participate in special contests.” The chairs are also used in bank branch promotions.
Green chairs may be the most visible part of TD’s branding strategy, but just as important, if not more so, is the bank’s aggressive support of community-based projects. The bank’s new “Campus Motivator” program was recently launched by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. The program is designed to encourage students at a dozen university campuses across Canada to promote environmental initiatives.
It is philanthropic activities like the Foundation that convinced retired general Rick Hillier, the high-profile former Chief of Defense staff, to join TD in September 2008. According to Canada.com: “The appointment is among the most high profile of its kind for a Canadian bank and follows the recruitment of Tony Blair to play a similar role at JPMorgan…”
The closest TD has come to the green chair icon in the US is American actor Sam Waterston of television’s Law & Order, who is the current spokesperson for TD Ameritrade. Interestingly, Waterston was preceded by another Law & Order actor, Steven Hill, when the firm was still TD Waterhouse. Waterston talks, among other things, about the independence of the American investor (TD Ameritrade’s tag line is “The Independent Spirit.”) Not surprisingly, the dominant color in the television and print ads is “TD green.”
Other Canadian banks have a stake in both the Canadian and US markets. Royal Bank of Canada, for example, recently rebranded its RBC Centura Banks, located in the Southeastern US, as simply RBC. RBC has been running a US advertising campaign with the slogan “Let’s do something giant.” The bank operates in only six American states, so it has managed to avoid the extreme difficulties of larger US competitors. RBC was ranked number one on the 2008 Carolinas 100, an annual ranking of the top 100 publicly traded businesses based in North Carolina and South Carolina, published by The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC).
Still, TD seems to be the most visible Canadian bank in the United States, primarily because of the prominence of TD Ameritrade. The financial firm’s intention is clear: to make the green “TD” logo a very well-known entity south of the Canadian border.