To: ALL TENNESSEE STATE CHARTERED BANKS
SUBJECT: Use of Unofficial "Operational" Names for Branch Locations
Dated September 5, 1996
The Department of Financial Institutions has received numerous inquiries recently into the permissibility of using names, other than the corporate-chartered name of the financial institution, at branch locations. The purpose of this Bulletin therefore is to clarify the Department's position on the use of unofficial "operational" names.
It has been the Department's policy for some time, and will continue to be the policy, to allow financial institutions to use unofficial names for branch locations, provided the signage bears the legal name and location of the principal institution and that this facility is a branch thereof. (i.e.-"The Bank of Any Town", a branch of The Bank of Every Town). The Department will not authorize the registration of such unofficial "operational" names with the Secretary of State's office as they do not constitute an "Assumed Name" as provided in T.C.A. Section 48-14-101(d)(1)(B). These names may therefore not be protected from use by other parties. Some protection may be afforded by applying with the Secretary of State's office for a "Reserved Name" using a corporate version of the unofficial name, as outlined in T.C.A. Section 48-14-102. However, the reserved status expires after four (4) months and would require continual reapplication. The use of unofficial "operational" names may also be protected from use by others through the laws against unfair competition or unfair trade practices or the right to acquire and protect trade names and trademarks.
To eliminate confusion and the potential to mislead the public into believing they are dealing with different institutions for deposit insurance coverage, the Department of Financial Institutions will henceforth require that when using unofficial branch names, not only the signage at the branch facility, but all official bank documents, including (but not limited to) checks, cashier's checks, loan applications, loan documents, certificates of deposit, and all legal documents must bear the official legal name and location of the principal institution. The official legal name may appear in isolation or along with the "operational" name shown as "a branch of the legal name and its location". Also, all advertisements, publications, etc. using the branch "operational" name must clearly show or state that the facility is a "branch of the legal name and its location". It is anticipated that letter sizing will be clear and legible and will not have to be mandated by this Department.
To accommodate for minimal waste, those institutions currently using documents not meeting these disclosure requirements will have one year from the date of the Bulletin to exhaust existing supplies and purchase conforming documents. Advertisements, publications, etc. should be amended immediately. Non-confirming signage must be corrected within six (6) months from the date of this Bulletin.
Compliance with this Bulletin will be verified by the staff of the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions at all future examinations/visitations of your institutions. If you have questions regarding this Bulletin, please contact Executive Administrative Assistant Marian Carrier at 615-741-5069.
Bill C. Houston