Wells Fargo has begun re-branding all the local Wachovia branches after the banks’ merger two years ago.
At a Wachovia branch downtown on East Grace Street, an overhang has been painted Wells Fargo’s red in place of Wachovia’s blue and green.
The transition has been a slow crawl across the country as West Coast-based Wells Fargo has taken its time retiring the Wachovia brand.
“We’re slowly introducing the stagecoach [logo] to the east coast,” said Kristy Marshall, Wachovia’s Mid-Atlantic spokesperson.
Marshall said the company first rebranded Wachovia branches in states where both it and Wells Fargo had locations. The transition moved to some states in the Southeast, then the Northeast and now will finally begin at the 62 Wachovia branches in the Richmond area.
“They have started making changes to the branches as far as painting and furniture,” Marshall said. “But a lot of changes won’t really be visible to the customers until early to late fall,” Marshall said.
The bank has not set a concrete date for an official grand reopening of its branches as Wells Fargo branches. That date should be announced the next month or so, Marshall said.
Many of Wachovia’s other lines of business, such as business banking, insurance and wealth management, have already transitioned to Wells Fargo.
“Community banking and the branches is the last thing,” Marshall said.
The conversion process is more involved than changing the name.
In addition to the signage and color scheme, branches will get new layouts and furnishings.
“Wells Fargo has a different structure as far as how the stores look inside,” Marshall said.
Even using the word “stores” will change. Wells Fargo calls its branches stores.
The complex transition has also been a challenge from a marketing perspective, Marshall said, particularly because of two years of uncertainty around when the name would change.
“From a branding aspect, it gets very confusing,” she said.
“We will no longer have to say ‘Wachovia, a Wells Fargo company.’”
Marshall said there is also a need to educate customers leading up to the day when local branches open as Wells Fargo stores.
“The month of conversion, we’ll be out there,” Marshall said, making sure people, some of whom might have never heard of Wells Fargo, understand exactly what’s happening with their bank.
In the meantime, a Wachovia banner might still fly over a freshly painted Wells Fargo logo.
“A lot of the things we do now, we’ll put a Wachovia banner up so we don’t confuse people,” Marshall said.
Now that it’s on the verge of brand extinction, it’s time to ask where that strange name, Wachovia, come from anyway?
The answer: It dates to 1753, when European settlers bought about 100,000 acres in the North Carolina Piedmont. The land shared many geographical characteristics with the ancestral home of the settlers’ Austrian benefactor.
They called the land Wachau, which combined names of a German stream and meadowlands. Once the English language got hold of the word, it became Wachovia.
Michael Scwhartz covers banking for BizSense. Please send news tips to [email protected].