In the last decade and half, corporate Nigeria battled with what you may consider an identity crisis. This battle manifested in dramatic changes of corporate names apparently to tell better business stories and improve their fortunes. Can you see the link between names, storytelling and profits? Owena Bank changed to Omegabank; parcel courier company, IMNL, c hanged to UPS; Nigeria International Bank, NIB, changed to Citibank; while pharmaceutical company Pfizer got a new name, Neimeth.
State owned insurance company, NICON, has since changed identity twice; from National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria to NICON Plc, later to NICON Insurance Corporation; while the Nigeria Airports Authority, NAA, changed to Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.
The flurry of changes was highest in the banking industry largely because of the distress syndrome, privatization, recapitalization and transformation of status from merchant to commercial banking. Globalization and the crucial challenges of the new millennium ushered in the increased use of the word “international” for corporate names. The banks and the new gospel churches were the most visible in this regard. Some examples: FSB International Bank, Citizens International Bank, Christ Chapel International Churches. There were so many.
Many of these new churches pastured by charismatic preachers were the guiltiest. There are so many “international” churches in Nigeria today. Yet three or four of them can be located in one building, each operating from one hall, or from a prefabricated structure on a partially developed plot of land.
While the banks may be excused for using “international” in their corporate names, the question of many puzzled Nigerians about this growing trend is, what is international about this new churches of which a good number do not command up to 300 members. What stories are they telling? Are the numbers contradicting their names?
Some companies prefer to maintain an identity that tells a global story. There is the International Distilleries Limited, a major player in the hot drinks and spirits market. As markets get tougher, competition and globalization is making impact on corporate names of organizations who want to tell new stories about who they are and their business. That may explain why Owena Bank changed its name to Omegabank. The bank was re-engineered and needed to shed its identity as a state-owned regional bank for a global identity through a name that will tell a better story. So what’s in name?
The change of name at Omegabank was a top management decision. But management of the bank did not limit the choice of a new name to itself. It threw the choice to the public, the first of its kind in Nigeria. The bank executed the job by setting up a new name committee made up of seasoned professionals outside the bank. The committee called for entries from the public for a new name and logo for the bank, offering attractive prizes.
It screened more than 600 entries and made recommendations to the Board of Directors of the bank. Shareholders gave their assent before the new name Omegabank was sent to the Central Bank of Nigeria for approval. For many years, Omegabank did robust business with the new name which told a new story about the bank. Though it is worthy to mention that the name no longer exists in Nigeria’s banking industry as the bank merged with others to form a new bank during the bank consolidation exercise executed by the Central Bank from 1985-1987.
Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com