BancorpSouth of Tupelo, Miss., is saying goodbye to history and hello to a new identity.
After 33 years of operating its flagship as the Bank of Mississippi, BancorpSouth is preparing to adopt a new name in an effort to broaden the company's appeal outside its home state.
BancorpSouth officials would not disclose their chosen name. They are filing for trademark registration, the officials said.
The name change comes as the $4.4 billion-asset company has mergers on its mind. It plans to double in size in the next three years through acquisitions outside Mississippi.
Alabama banks, specifically companies in and around Birmingham and Montgomery, are high on the list for potential deals.
"We're working on a name that will allow us to have a multistate identity," said L. Nash Allen, chief financial officer.
In addition to Alabama, the banking company would like to be in Kentucky and possibly Arkansas, Mr. Allen said. Though most of the acquisitions BancorpSouth hopes to make would be of companies with $100 million to $500 million of assets, Mr. Allen said he is looking at some banks with as much as $1.5 billion of assets.
For five years, BancorpSouth has wrestled with two identities; it has used the Bank of Mississippi name in Mississippi but runs its smaller and younger Tennessee operations as Volunteer Bank. BancorpSouth recently consolidated the charters of the Mississippi and the Tennessee banks. The name of the single-charter subsidiary is BancorpSouth Bank, but the state retail networks continue to market themselves as Bank of Mississippi and Volunteer Bank.
Brannon Cashion, a vice president at Addison Whitney, a brand consulting firm in Charlotte, N.C., said BancorpSouth needs to change its subsidiary's name if it plans to enter new regions.
"When you have a geographically neutral name, you're able to build the brand for the essence of the brand, not a tie to a particular city or state," he said.
Kathryn Bissette, an analyst with Sterne, Agee & Leach in Atlanta, said BancorpSouth's new name might cause it to lose the value associated with being a local bank, but that the move makes sense.
"There is some value to be perceived as the local bank, but consolidation is taking place in so many markets it's something that is going on everywhere," she said. "At some point it can become cumbersome to use a local name or different local names if you are looking to expand geographically."
The name change is not coming easily. Last year, the company hired Lippincott & Margulies, New York, to help it devise a new name. But it found all of the approximately 40 names offered "useless," bank spokesman Harry Baxter said.
Another consulting firm offered the option of "Heartland Bank," which BancorpSouth also vetoed, Mr. Baxter said.
"It is causing everybody tremendous heartbreak to give up the Bank of Mississippi name," Mr. Baxter said, "but from a brand identity strategy, we're moving in the right direction, even if it is with some timidity."