During the mid-1990s, NatWest embarked on an ambitious expansion plan to become a leading global investment bank, acquiring a number of boutique advisory firms and fund managers around the world. With each acquisition came an independent reputation and a growing need to create a single firm from the collection of Wall Street star names, including Gleacher & Co, Greenwich Capital and Hambro Magan.
Nucleus was appointed to define a practical way forward that would enable the investment bank to present a single identity without losing the equity in the acquired brand names, which it needed for market credibility. We undertook an international review including interviewing 105 managing directors around the world, which concluded that imposing a single name on the group was not viable in the short-term. Instead, we recommended a more ‘federal’ approach, creating a design system that integrated the acquired names, allowing them to maintain some level of awareness that clients could still identify with.
The resulting concept of ‘one firm’ allowed a gradual integration of the businesses without compromising their key client relationships which led to combined transactions during 1997 of more than $100bn.
The design system was implemented with some success, but senior management changes resulted in a strategic about turn, with NatWest exiting global investment banking in 1999 to concentrate on UK retail banking.