When employees arrived at TIAA-CREF’s Charlotte campus on Monday, they were greeted by new logos plastered on everything from parking signs to elevator doors to cafeteria walls.
The splash of blue around the University area campus was a celebration of a new name – it’s just TIAA now – and a marketing push that has been in the works for more than five years.
While the name change wasn’t dramatic, it was part of a broader effort to improve the customer experience and to highlight the organization’s wide array of products and services, said chief marketing officer Connie Weaver. The new website, for example, is heavy on illustrations and light on legalese.
Weaver said the organization didn’t seriously consider crafting an entirely new name. TIAA was already well-known, and it harkened back to the organization’s start in 1918 as the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association. The CREF was added after TIAA launched the College Retirement Equities Fund in 1952 to provide stock investments.
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“Our name stands for something,” Weaver said during an interview in Charlotte. “The amount of trust and the reputation within our name...if you went and changed your name, you’re starting over. You’d have to re-establish all of that.”
Industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie launched TIAA nearly a century ago to provide pensions for professors. While it still largely caters to customers from the academic, government and nonprofit worlds, the organization is also looking to appeal to others shopping for banking and investment services, Weaver said.
“It’s a natural progression for us, but we are still very much founded and dedicated to the core of who we serve,” she said.
TIAA is a not-for-profit corporation and does not release financial results. In the most-recent Fortune 500 listing, however, it ranked No. 92, with $34.2 billion in revenue, up 1.2 percent from the previous year. It says it has $854 billion in assets under management.
The name change announced Monday comes with a national advertising campaign that launches Feb. 29 in print, radio, television and digital venues. TIAA said it collaborated with marketing partners The Martin Agency, Frog, Weber Shandwick and Firstborn on the rebranding effort.
Weaver, who joined TIAA from The Hartford Financial Services Group in 2010, declined to disclose the cost of the marketing effort, but she said it would be a much larger investment than the organization has made in the past and “enough to be a player in the industry.”
New York-based TIAA opened its Charlotte campus in 2001 and now has more than 3,000 employees there, making it the organization’s employee hub. Last week, it held a grand opening for a new Ballantyne office.
“Charlotte’s been very good to us,” said Weaver, who is based in Connecticut but is a frequent Charlotte visitor. “We continue to expand in the area.”