After considering seven others, Jeff Boudreaux decided the name for his Jennings, La., institution would be simply the Bank.
"We just kind of struggled to come up with anything else," says Mr. Boudreaux, president of the $23 million-asset bank. "We wanted a generic name so we could expand later."
Mr. Boudreaux isn't alone. With so many new banks being formed, organizers around the country are struggling to come up with original and easy-to-market names.
Perhaps something like Your Community Bank. That's what Martinsburg, W.Va., investors finally settled on for their proposed bank. "We wanted to portray that it was a down-home bank where you could come in and sit down and talk to someone," says director Robert T. Eckels.
But a listing of 157 start-up banks granted Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. coverage this year shows that most stuck to the ordinary-First Federal this, Security National that. Marketing experts who reviewed the list say that could be the new banks' first big mistake.
With competition increasing and a wave of start-ups continuing, several marketing consultants say bankers who go with the old standbys are missing out on a great opportunity.
"The name, first and foremost, is a bank's most important asset," said Brannon Cashion, director of the financial industries group at Addison Whitney, a Charlotte, N.C., corporate identity firm. "Coming up with a unique name that conveys something to the customer is a good idea."
Kevin Tynan, president of Tynan Marketing, Chicago, said he doesn't think banks pay enough attention to the names they choose. He urged bankers to take risks.
"'First National Bank' is an absolutely horrible choice because there are so many of them," said Bruce Webb, a bank marketing expert at McGladrey & Pullen, Pasadena, Calif. "The name needs to be distinctive so customers know who you are."
The experts said banks would be wise to choose names with regional connections to promote hometown spirit. But they warned bankers to stay away from naming their institutions after a city or town. If the name is tied to a single community, it may be tough to market the bank in a rival town.
"If they hope to grow, they should not limit themselves to a single geographic location," Mr. Tynan said. "Then you're stuck with the dilemma of selling First National Bank of X community to Y community."
Banks named after plants or animals, such as Peachtree Bank, Duluth, Ga.; Pelican National Bank, Naples, Fla.; and Phoenix Savings Bank, Lynnwood, Wash., all lend themselves to great name-based logos, according to the consultants.
Some new bank names praised by the consultants are Syringa Bank, Boise, Idaho, and Magic Valley Bank, Twin Falls, Idaho.
Syringa Bank, which is named for Idaho's colorful state flower, gains a homegrown quality. The unique name gives Syringa an edge over regional and national competitors, said Mark Houston, a senior vice president at the bank.
"Clearly, with a name like Syringa we stand out," he said. "It gives us a local feel."
The same is true of Magic Valley Bank in Idaho's Magic Valley, a rich agricultural area in the southern part of the state.
"There is no other truly independent bank in Twin Falls. We tried to pick something that sounded local," said Phillip D. Bratton, Magic Valley's president and chief executive.
Bankers who played it safe defended their choices, however, explaining that traditional names connote security or familiarity.
Neighborhood National Bank in San Diego was almost named simply Neighborhood Bank, but a director persuaded the board to add National, said Robert McGill, the bank's president.
"He felt in this community, people watch their money very closely," Mr. McGill said. "'National' gave a certain stability and a solid appeal" to the name.
Of course, federal regulators require that a national bank's official name include the word national or that it tack on an N.A., for "national association." Banks don't have to use these designations in advertising.
The founders of a start-up bank in Bolivar, Mo., had several meetings before deciding on, simply, Bank of Bolivar.
"We wanted to project a hometown image," said Brad Gregory, president and chief executive. "There wasn't anything really innovative about it."