US bank-owned asset managers selling into Europe may be forced to rename a large swathe of funds to work around new US regulation.

But what impact will a brand change have on these funds and their standing among investors?

Large US banks have been said to be mulling a broad rebrand of products sold in Europe as a result of the Volcker rule – a section of the Dodd-Frank Act which will ban US banks from running so-called “covered funds” using their own capital.

This rule, initially affecting only hedge funds and private equity products has now been broadened to impact structures like Ucits products being sold by American players outside of the US.

The academic research found that investors tend to be influenced by a name change especially when this is done for ‘cosmetic’ purposes.

Funds that changed their name were found to have experienced improved flows a year after the event, yet this was not instigated by improvements in performance.

Non-surprisingly then this implies investors are open to influence by factors which are essentially superficial.

In some cases, this can be made to work for the product provider. Fund providers may change fund names to make them more current or more avant-garde and give investors the impression that something elemental has changed.

However, on the flip side where the asset manager’s brand is a strong driving force behind asset flows to date, removing an institution’s name from a fund may spawn a number of unintended consequences.

Existing investors may become confused as to who is actually managing a fund, while new investors may not make the link between a product and the parent company which is more familiar to them.

Therefore bank-owned asset management companies could lose some of the brand power they have built and in part rely on.

Captive asset managers are not typically considered to be the most nimble or the most innovative.

Therefore a rebrand of funds could work in their [the bank-owned groups] favour, making their products seem shiny and new when in fact nothing has actually changed.

Ultimately, though, which way the pendulum will swing depends on several variables including how a rebrand is communicated and how investors connect with the new fund names.

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