New Name, New Opportunity

Successful collaboration—Twenty employees worked in conjunction with a marketing firm to create CBI Bank & Trust’s new identity

Iowa’s Central State Bank changed its name to CBI Bank & Trust. Here’s why­—and how

By Judith Sears

In the fall of 2015, Central State Bank of Muscatine, Iowa, became CBI Bank & Trust, giving a new name and brand to what had been a group of four banks with nine locations across eastern Iowa and western Illinois. It was the culmination of a three-year rebranding exercise for the $850 million-asset community bank.

It all started in 2012, when Central State Bank executives reviewed their various banks and branches. “We had four banks operating as separate entities in a 100-mile radius,” explains Bob Howard, president and CEO of CBI Bank & Trust. It made sense to give those banks a common identity, especially as the bank planned to continue making acquisitions.

It was a comprehensive process. About 20 CBI Bank & Trust employees, drawn from different banks and departments, collaborated on hammering out the new brand identity. An outside marketing firm, Mills Marketing, guided employees through many sessions, both in conference calls and on-site sessions. The firm also conducted employee and customer surveys for branding input and researched alternative names for the new entity.

The goal was to find a brand expression of CBI Bank & Trust’s fundamental values of focus, achievement, quality, and character, and its mission of “building mutually beneficial relationships on a foundation of integrity and respect.” Bank team members talked through several ways to sum this up, eventually agreeing on the tagline, “Aim High. Bank Strong.”

Part of a whole
Bank executives hope that this message and the process of gathering the various banks and branches under one name will communicate to the public that their local bank is part of something bigger. “I hope that means to customers that we can deliver at a higher level for them,” Howard says.

The rebranding process also involved a thorough review of each of the bank’s products and procedures. For example, different banks had different checking accounts with different names. A team of banking professionals from several departments, including retail, commercial, deposit and loan operations, compliance and marketing, trawled through the various offerings and selected the final product set.

“As we continue to grow, it’s going to be easier having one common name, one common brand.”
—Bob Howard,
CBI Bank & trust

“Just reviewing deposit products took six to nine months and a variety of meetings, research and planning,” Howard notes. “We didn’t have a decision in a moment’s time.”

The bank also standardized various operations and procedures, such as creating a new teller manual for use in all CBI Bank & Trust locations. The goal is to give customers a common experience. “They’ll have the same customer experience whether their checking account is in Muscatine or Washington, Iowa,” Howard says. “Everything should look and feel like this is who we are.”

Once all the product and process pieces were in place, CBI launched a marketing campaign of emails, letters and one issue of a proprietary magazine. The bank also created radio and TV ads and sent press releases to various news outlets.

Customer reactions have generally been positive, and Howard believes that the unified profile has opened doors for CBI Bank & Trust. He believes the bank has been invited to submit proposals and bid on projects of a size for which it might not have been considered previously. He also expects that the rebranding will make the bank’s future acquisitions easier, as the acquired banks will have a clear idea of the name and brand that will be rolled out.

He says, “As we continue to grow, it’s going to be easier having one common name, one common brand.”

8 steps to a new identity
How CBI Bank & Trust rebranded

  1. Start with nine locations, operating under four names.
  2. Develop a strategic plan for continued acquisition.
  3. Merge bank charters.
  4. Create foundational vision, mission
    and values statements.
  5. Translate these statements into
    a brand expression.
  6. Research and select a new name.
  7. Review and standardize products, processes and operations.
  8. Launch marketing campaign to customers and the public.


Judith Sears
is a freelance writer in Colorado.

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