What's in a name?

FTLComm - Tisdale - Saturday, February 17, 2007

"What's in a name, A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

It is most likely a function of our need as humans to have novel or apparent new names for the same old things. The Bank of Nova Scotia became Scotiabank some years ago, Toronto Dominion is now "TD" while the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce became the "Commerce" and now is CIBC. The old Royal Bank of Canada became widely known as the "Royal" then it became RBC. If you are following this so far I am certain you will have noticed that there are similarities in these names and that the trend is toward a few terse letters to be the "brand" for an institution, the very institutions that we all have to deal with to file away our earnings and pay our bills but this last one befuddles me. The Bank of Montreal wanted itself to be called "my bank" back when the words "Commerce" and "Royal" were in fashion but now in the time of initials it has named itself BMO.

I happened to have suffered a course in logic in my first year college and some things have really stuck with me and governed the way I think. If one thing is true and something else is untrue, then two things that are difference can not both be true. CIBC, TD, RBC all translate well from their earlier names but BMO, isn't that "O" out of place? I figure if a big billionaire outfit like a bank can dismiss logic so simply it is unlikely that they will have the ability to be trusted and surely if there is anything one needs, that is the ability to trust the operation handling your money.

CIBC and BMO have been shipping out new MasterCards and Visa cards to their customers replacing the cards their customers have held in the past with new cards, with new account numbers. The CBC and the two bank's customers have been asking over and over again just what is going on and the two are saying "trust us, there is a problem but we can't tell you what the problem is."

There is a saying that goes away back, and I am not sure just what field of studies it comes from, but most of us who have ever written an essay for marked grades on a course, stick to this saying, "when in doubt, leave out." There is no reason to not apply this axiom to your income and your purchasing power, if you are the recipient of one of these new cards and no adequate explanation is available, it is time to consider alternative banking and purchase transaction methods. No matter how much you earn, or the level of your disposable income, you can not afford the luxury of being unable to trust the company that is suppose to be handling your funds.

It was back in the early 80s that I was negotiating the purchase of an aircraft. Because of where we were living I had to conduct all of the mortgage procedures and deal making over the telephone. It was then that I discovered what most people already know and that is that when you deal with a financial institution you are not dealing with some amorphous complex corporation, you are dealing with another human being. The decision maker, the deal maker, your personal banker, that is who you have to put your trust and faith in to get things done. Their opinion of you and your honesty with them will determine the outcome of the transaction and all those details like credit standing, past borrowing history and available income, are just window dressing, the real thing is that interpersonal relationship between you and the person with whom you are dealing.

What I am telling you is that despite my warning of corporate trustworthiness, what it ultimately comes down to is the relationship you have with the front man, or woman for that company. Perhaps you can accept their statement of "trust me" when no reasonable explanation is available, as to the reason for the card replacement, but in a world of electronic commerce, you no longer are dealing with a single trustworthy person who you know and who knows you. You are dealing with a massive bureaucratic structure and it makes all of the rules in favour of itself, it decides what it will let you know and can, with impunity, charge you whatever it likes for what ever service it says it renders to you.

This brings me back to the name business. These huge and enormously profitable institutions have changed their names to pretend to be all things to all people. They sell insurance, handle stock trading, investments, take your pay cheque, pay your bills and let you have some of your money to spend, with of course, the service charges they want to charge you. What bothers me is if they are fooling around with what they want us to think of them, by changing names and logos, are they really anything more than some company designed, yes designed, to maximise its profits at your expense?



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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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