In these circumstances it’s best to be upfront. This is a stupid post. Keep reading only if you’re fine with that.
What happened was that on Friday afternoon, while half-listening to an earnings call, we began feeding bank names at random into an AI image generator. Nothing newsworthy came out of the call so rather than completely waste the hour, we’re showing you the images instead.
All pictures below were made by Midjourney. Each prompt was a bank’s name and nothing more. There were no cues given for style or context, no rerolls, no variations and no edits. The output might be thought of as a sort of Jungian word-association test for how the algorithm thinks about global finance. Maybe it’ll reveal something useful for the upcoming beauty parade of potential bookrunners to an AI bubble IPO rush, or maybe it’s just some pretty pictures. You decide.
The most common result when feeding a bank name into Midjourney is dark architecture. The examples below are Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas:
Citi’s dark architecture involves more of a suburban Unabomber’s cabin dystopia:
While Santander, Bank of America and Société Générale all stay local and cast back to some imaginary past:
Architecture turns surreal with Commerzbank and China CITIC Bank:
When there’s no “bank” in the name, the algo often falls back on marketing composites and alien corporate logos. Presenting along those lines are Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Standard Chartered:
Another recurring theme is animals. There’s an on-brand sturdy horse for Lloyds and, for Wells Fargo, a cowboy horse in an unusual hat:
The choice of animal sometimes strays quite far off brand. For example, Goldman Sachs has a fish:
UBS has some kind of ox, bull, or possibly shaved yak:
Barclays has a furious parrot:
And Swedbank has a disturbing pig:
The child above also turns up for HSBC, this time loitering in a council estate’s open-air launderette:
If a bank’s name is just too vague to work as an image prompt the machine has a fever dream. That’s what happened with ING:
Prompts can also be overly specific in unhelpful ways, such as with BONY Mellon:
After a few dozen of these it became difficult to avoid reading meanings into each vision. What does it suggest, for instance, that Credit Suisse is an antique loot box?
Or that Nordea is a pack of playing cards half-buried in barren flatlands?
Or that Peel Hunt is a travelling medicine man’s miracle elixir?
Airbrushed steampunk hyper-realism is Midjourney’s favoured style, but not uniformly. Asking it to imagine Numis, for example, delivered a Pixar cartoon about a boy and his oversized bread bin:
Nomura? Anime coffee:
Liberum? A perfume ad, or possibly an limited-pressing 12” of fey electronica:
Natwest? A made-for-Netflix movie starring Matthew Perry:
As for the dead banks, outputs for Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns proved unimaginative in strikingly different ways:
So in summary, though nothing has been learned, it involved AI so was pointless in a modern way. Have a good weekend.