Bonvenu Bank Wishes a ‘Good Welcome’ to New Brand

A business of 40 years rarely changes its identity, but it’s even rarer for an institution to be so woven into its community. That’s the bold move undertaken by Bonvenu Bank in Bossier City to own their brand and position them for the future. 

“This rebranding reinforces the bank’s origins while striving for growth for both the bank and our community,” said Jason Smith, president and CEO of Bonvenu Bank. “We want to be the rising tide that lifts all boats.”

Founded as Citizens National Bank in Bossier City in 1985, the community bank expanded to Shreveport in 1997, DeSoto Parish in 2009, and again to Webster Parish in 2011. They most recently set up shop in south Louisiana in 2021. Bonvenu is now the 8th largest bank of 109 in Louisiana.

“I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to Bossier,” Smith said. “I think back to the beginning of my banking career and how community banks were investing in northwest Louisiana. Now? They’re not here anymore. We’re filling a void by serving on community boards, supporting volunteer organizations, and providing resources to nonprofits. We’re only as good as the community we serve. The better our community is, the better opportunity we have to be a great company.”

Their latest milestone is the new brand and identity of Bonvenu Bank. 

“Confusion is part of the story with there being six other ‘Citizen-somethings’ locally and another 177 nationwide. It was time to evaluate that in terms of being able to own our brand,” Smith said. 

The idea came about several years ago, but Smith said the time wasn’t right. He finally brought it up to their board in May 2023 and was surprised at the receptiveness.

“I was told to expect an 18- to 24-month process, but my goal was to announce the change at our annual meeting, so I wanted to move quickly. We met with a company whose name change took five years,” said Smith. “I like one year better.”

The process of finding a unique name that still honors their roots was more difficult than Smith imagined. 

The bank found a company that specializes in the rebranding of financial institutions, jointly toured all their branch locations, conducted internal interviews, and then whittled down 1,200 names to five. An internal group with around 160 years of banking experience settled on Bonvenu.

The name change to a French-inspired branding underlines the bank’s profound ties to Louisiana. Bonvenu is a portmanteau inspired by the French words “bon,” meaning “good,” and “bienvenue,” meaning “welcome.” 

“I wasn’t aware of a person who didn’t have a healthy degree of apprehension about the name change. You have a whole universe of what it could be and can only do it once, so you don’t want to mess it up,” Smith explained. “What was curious is how hard it is to nail down a brand that can be uniquely yours. We had to find something that we could own and be respectful of our legacy.”

The new logo features a color palette of teal, gold, sky blue, and oyster. A crown-like symbol is an abstract representation of Louisiana’s culture and landscape.

“Louisiana is a boot, and the top of the booth is the crown to honor our northwest Louisiana heritage. You also see a bridge and there are important bridges in Shreveport-Bossier but also in Baton Rouge and New Orleans where we recently expanded,” said Smith. “But the bridge is also figurative because we want to be a bridge for bringing together our customers, community, and stakeholders for financial solutions.”

For current customers, not much will change. Their checks, deposits, and debit cards with the old Citizens National Bank branding will continue to work and future items will be replaced with the new branding.

“Our main hurdle is letting everyone know that we haven’t been sold. Then there are people who don’t like free ice cream — they are difficult to get buy-in no matter what. The unexpected positive of the rebranding has been our ability to tell the bank’s story dozens of times because people want to know more,” Smith revealed.

More importantly, the new change will not affect the institution’s fundamental values and operational principles. The bank remains focused on customer-first service and helping improve the communities it serves. 

“Northwest Louisiana is, and always will be, our home. This area has been very good to our company, but we have relevance in other areas of the state. We want to take what we’re doing here with customer service, technology, and our staff to the larger markets in southwest Louisiana,” said Smith. “We’re not leaving our community. We’re expanding our community to where there’s opportunity.”

Transferring the recognition and loyalty from the previous brand to Bonvenu will take time and patience, both of which Smith has plenty of. 

“It has been difficult to get away from the Citizens National Bank brand. Bossier and northwest Louisiana have done right by that name and what people think about it is positive,” Smith said. “We have to respect that legacy but acknowledge our aspirational goal of being Louisiana’s community bank.”

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