It’s amazing what a difference a couple of dots can make to a bank’s image. As today’s post-meltdown banks rush to remind nervous clients of their stability, one of the global banking giants has gone back to its heritage to do so. Having taken a long look at what customers really want in a bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co has put the punctuation back into its investment arm. Thus we now have J.P. Morgan & Co, complete with the dots it started with nearly 150 years ago. It took a meltdown to make the parent company truly appreciate the importance of its history. It’s been a long journey for the bank built by the great Junius Pierpont Morgan and his son, John Pierpont.
In the 1860s, American Junius S. Morgan started it all off by taking control of the London-based banking house of one George Peabody, and renaming it JS Morgan & Co.
In 1871 his son, the legendary Junius Pierpont, joined up with Philadelphia banker Anthony J. Drexel to establish in New York Drexel, Morgan & Co, mainly as a branch office for the the London business.
In 1895 Junius took complete control of the naming rights and the shingle of J.P. Morgan & Co went up on Wall Street for the first time. The bank’s reputation was sky-high after “J.P.” saved the US gold standard in 1894. For most Americans, the bank was already simply the House of Morgan or sometimes just plain Morgan.
After Junius died in 1913, son Jack Pierpont became senior partner. Since his initials were also J.P., there was no need to change the shingle. For the next 20 years the House of Morgan was the pre-eminent global raiser of sovereign loans, probably the greatest banking house in the world.
In 1935, in the wake of the Glass-Steagall Act that forced banks to split investment and commercial businesses, J.P.Morgan & Co set up the investment bank of Morgan Stanley (no punctuation at all) with J.P. Jnr’s son, Henry S, at the helm.
In 1959 the parent company shed its historic dots for the first time when it merged with Guaranty Trust to regain market share and became Morgan Guaranty.
Nearly 30 years later, in 1988, the institution briefly returned to its roots as J.P. Morgan and Co. Within a few years it was one of the top operators in the business of investment banking, where Junius had first made his name. Soon, however, the logo got “modernised” to JP Morgan.
In late 2000, its heritage was further submerged into JPMorgan Chase & Co after the bank was acquired by Chase Manhattan for $30.9bn.
And now it’s come full circle as J.P. Morgan & Co, Chase’s major investment bank. Old Junius would be pleased.