What’s In a Name?

That which we call a rose by any other name might smell as sweet – but that doesn’t mean you can call it a rose.

This past week none other than the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) decided to back off the name it had chosen for the soon-to-be combined enforcement divisions of the NASD and the New York Stock Exchange (see the announcement). Less than a month ago NASD announced that the group would be called the Securities Industry Regulatory Authority, or SIRA. However, as it turns out SIRA sounds similar to an Arabic word that refers to the traditional biographies of Muhammad – and it didn’t take long for complaints about the similarity to begin flowing.

“We don’t want to give the impression that there was a lot of feedback, but we did get some,” NASD spokesman Howard Schloss said, according to the WSJ.

Schloss told the WSJ that the similarity with the Arabic word was brought to the NASD’s attention – but their branding advisers told them there wouldn’t be a problem.

Last week, NASD Chairman and CEO Mary Shapiro announced that because of the feedback, the agency had determined that it “was appropriate to select the alternative name of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, for our new organization.’

Not that NASD’s acronym challenge is unique – when the Securities Industry Association merged with the Bond Market Association, they also took some “grief’ for their new name, albeit from a different, and much less “politically correct’ tact. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association seems appropriate enough – but the acronym, SIFMA, struck some (including NYSE Chief Executive John Thain, according to published reports) as suggestive of “certain unpleasant diseases.”

Ironically, NASD’s Mary Schapiro at the time responded by saying, “I will simply respond to the ribbing regarding the new acronym by repeating the question from Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name?”

Or an acronym.