A consulting firm that evaluates corporate brand names according to a mathematical formula it devised said Citibank and American Express are the only two financial services companies on its list of the 75 most valuable brands in the world.
Interbrand, a New York consultancy, released the list Wednesday and posted it on its Web site. This is the second year that the company has tried to calculate the worth of brands. It says it takes into account current profits generated by the brand name, expected earnings based on the brand, and a risk profile of those earnings.
The list may seem somewhat mercurial - Cisco Systems and Nokia, for example, both ranked higher than Citibank (No. 16) and American Express (No. 19). Interbrand said Visa, which was on the list last year, was disqualified this year because it did not put out the information the consulting firm needed in order to make its calculations.
The survey said Citibank's name is worth $18.8 billion to the company and Amex's is worth $16.1 billion. But Interbrand also concluded that Amex's name pulls in 23% of the company's market capitalization, while Citibank's accounts for 9%.
Interbrand executive director John Grace said the financial services industry has been lagging because until recent years, having a big brand name didn't mattered much. Back when most customers banked at the community level, they cared more about handshakes than recognizable brands.
Moreover, he said, financial services company names have had an especially hard time gaining cross-regional currency.
Mr. Grace said financial services companies have been slow to respond to changes in the marketplace that have made brands more important. "Chase and Merrill didn't make it [onto the list]," he said. "If I were Merrill, I'd call me now."
Alan Bergstrom, president and chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Brand Consultancy, expressed skepticism about Interbrand's "mysterious equation," but said some companies on the list seem to have figured out how brands work.
"Amex clearly understands the power of brand," he said. "For it to succeed, it has to appeal to a certain segment of customers, and those customers have to know that [the brand] is not for everyone."
Mr. Bergstrom said it was disappointing that the financial services industry made such a weak showing. "This is the point for banks: You can't be everything to everybody," he said. "You have to pick a certain segment, and that's where you create a strength and affinity. If you want to be everything to everybody, then you can't have a single brand."