While Babson Capital Management is the larger firm by assets in the coming together of four Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. affiliates, global brand awareness won out when it came to naming the new company.
Tom Finke, CEO of the new Barings LLC, said Babson “was a good brand, and very much a brand that our clients know, and is tied into expertise in fixed income. But when you step back and do that analysis, and you look not just at the U.S., but Europe and Asia, there is just a level of greater awareness of Barings — it is an iconic name.”
What also sold the branding to Mr. Finke was Baring Asset Management's “really strong following in Asia. The one absolute in all of this is we wanted to have one name. We wanted this company as one firm, one vision to sell to our clients, and one name. In the end, it wasn't that Babson is a bad name and Barings is good — it is more we looked at the analytics of name recognition.”
But there were two other serious factors in discounting Babson as the name for the newly consolidated money manager. And it is not that Babson did not have brand awareness — but more that it was sometimes recognized as the wrong brand. “Actually, in the U.S. we often get confused with the college,” referring to Babson College, Wellesley, Mass. He said the firm would be asked if it ran the college's endowment fund.
The other factor is an altogether more modern issue. “We own the URL barings.com — we didn't own babson.com. That's why it had to be babsoncapital.com,” said Mr. Finke.
But really, Mr. Finke would rather be known for running a global money manager, headquartered out of Charlotte, N.C., with a presence in 17 countries. “Names are funny things. I truly believe the perception of the brand comes over time, based on your experience with the people behind the brand. A name doesn't define us — we define the name.”