Tuesday, August 23, 2011

5/3 Name? A Mild Disappointment

When the Fifth Third Bank expanded to the Detroit area market a few years ago, I thought it was a new bank and frequently said, to myself and others, that its owners must surely have had a sense of humor. I’d imagined the formation of a new bank from some bank mergers, and I’d also imagined a management group sitting around discussing what to call it—one after the other of the participants complaining that First Bank of This and First Bank of That was such a bore, dime a dozen, etc. But then one of the party, on a flash of inspiration, more as a joke than anything else, said something like: “What the hell. What we ought to call it something like Fifth Something—Fifth Third—or something like that.” Then a sudden silence around the conference room table. Laughter. Then an upsurge of enthusiasm. “That’s it!” “Go man! Fifth Third!” “Yes, yes!”

Well. That turned out to be my imagination. But the subject came up again as we were driving north for a small vacation. I told myself that I would look it up. So I did.

Turns out, first of all, that Fifth Third is old. It was formed in 1908 by the merger of two Cincinnati banks, the Fifth National Bank and the Third National back. But there was a slight humor in the naming after all, as it turns out. Back then the idea of a prohibition of alcohol was gaining popularity. It would take another twelve years before it became law in 1920—and held sway until 1933. But in 1908, the idea, as I said, was already in the air, and the owners didn’t want to name the bank Third Fifth lest they lose tee-total customers. Fifth Third therefore the bank became. I’ll drink to that!

1 comment:

  1. What a good story! No, the actual naming of the bank isn't as entertaining as your imagined naming but, it aint bad either.

    A harty toast to the old 5th and 3rd National Banks.