Yours free: my best-ever business idea

No joke, no strings – I just know I’m never going to get round to it.  It’s an idea of total simplicity, and although I think of it in the context of financial services I’m sure it would work in dozens of other markets.  And it takes just two words to describe:  brand brokerage.

In financial services, the huge number of mergers, acquisitions and restructurings over recent years has left dozens, if not hundreds, of brands superfluous to their current owners’ requirements.   But all sorts of other organisations – most obviously start-ups, but also businesses expanding into new market sectors or even just ones wanting better-known and more meaningful brands – would be happy to pay extremely good money for them.

As a brand broker, you could either simply introduce buyers to sellers on a matched bargain basis, or - better – become a market-maker in your own right, stockpiling brands and becoming an obvious port of call for anyone planning a suitable initiative.

The latter approach, I’m pretty sure, would be the more rewarding even if only because there would be no potential buyer on the scene to overheat the seller’s expectations.

And just think of the sort of stock you could put on your shelves.  In the space of a couple of minutes, I can come up with Save & Prosper (perhaps the best retail investment brand ever, now owned by JPMorgan and clearly surplus to their master-branded requirements), Scottish Amicable, Eagle Star, Allied Dunbar, London Life (like several others still technically in use as a life company closed to new business, but in fact very tradeable), SG Warburg, General Accident, Commercial Union, Equity & Law, Midland Bank, Bankers Trust, Mercury Asset Management and James Capel.  And the list gets longer all the time:  I would be surprised if, within the next couple of years, it doesn’t also include Abbey, to be replaced any day now by Santander;  PPP healthcare and Sun Life, finally eliminated by AXA; Newton, given the chop by Mellon;  and, at slightly longer odds, First Direct, looking increasingly unsafe and anomalous as part of another business, HSBC, which takes a master-branded world-view.

If you go for it as a business idea, good luck.  Send me a bottle of something when you make your first million.


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