"Zions Bancorp." stands out among bank monikers, but upon closing of the Salt Lake City merger deal announced this week, the company will adopt the more pedestrian First Security Corp. name.
The reason, according to Zions president and chief executive Harris H. Simmons, has to do with the decentralized way in which Zions operates.
Mr. Simmons, who would share the CEO title at the combined company with First Security chief Spencer F. Eccles, said that though Zions is a nationally recognized name within the financial services industry, consumers outside the bank's core markets may not be especially familiar with it.
"'Zions' is a great name, but I determined that 'First Security' was the more widely used name," he said.
The Zions First National Bank brand is used only in Utah and Idaho; in other states, the bank generally operates under the flags of acquired banks or names that have some relationship to the location of the subsidiaries.
"This decision was made in part because of the way we operate in other states," Mr. Simmons said.
For example, Zions also operates as Vectra Bank Colorado. It bought Vectra in January 1998 and folded eight smaller Colorado acquisitions into it during the year. After acquiring Sumitomo Bank of California last year, Zions merged it into its California subsidiary, Grossmont Bank, and renamed it California Bank and Trust.
First Security, on the other hand, "is a name that is not only very well established in Utah, but it's the largest bank in Idaho, has a big presence New Mexico, and the name has been used for long time in Wyoming," Mr. Simmons said.
It is unclear whether Zions' far-flung subsidiaries will keep their names or take on the First Security label. But observers applauded the company's move to drop the Zions name.
"The First Security name plays to one of the remaining advantages of banks: the sense that they are safe, stable, and secure," said Brian C. Hartzer, vice president of First Manhattan Consulting Group in San Francisco. "Many banks have tried to get away from the bank concept, but walking away from an inherent strength is not a decision to be taken lightly."
Others added that though the Zions name may be more unique-sounding, it does not have much significance outside of Utah.
"The First Security name is portable beyond geographic barriers," said James Cerruti, worldwide managing director of Future Brand. "While 'Zions' might have more potential for emotional engagement with customers, 'First Security' is already established more broadly."
David H. Winton, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., said the Zions name carried with it some religious overtones, which had the potential to be unappealing to some potential customers.
"Outside of the state, First Security appears to be a name with less ties to the Mormon Church," he said.