The Rise of the Undead: E.F. Hutton Returns

E.F. Hutton is set to return to the brokerage world, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.  Backed by former Hutton executives, the long-dormant name is being revived and the firm is set to launch later this year.

E.F. Hutton’s return is a measure of how badly damaged major financial brands are in the aftermath of the financial crisis.  Although Hutton was tarnished by a check-kiting scandal in the 1980s, the brand retains wide public recognition and favorability.

Given the public’s dismal regard for financial firms today, it wouldn’t surprise me to see other dormant financial brands resurrected.  Could we see Paine Webber once again? DLJ?  Dillon Read?  AG Becker?  (Ok that last one’s a reach.)  Morgan Stanley worked hard to bury the Dean Witter name, but it wouldn’t surprise me if imaginative marketers are hatching plans for its revival.

Beyond the search for an unsullied name, the return of these brands also speaks to a desire for greater clarity in the financial services industry.  Everyone knew what firms like E.F. Hutton did; they had a clear business focus and a mission that was well understood by clients.  Nowadays, it’s hard for customers – large and small – to be sure if a giant bank really knows their business and is committed to them.

E.F. Hutton might become the first hot start-up with a hundred-year history.

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