Aug. 15 — Banks have registered thousands of .bank internet addresses since the new top-level domain launched last year, but Lead Bank of Kansas City, Mo., is among the few hundred that have made the new address its public face.
“We migrated not just for security,” Melissa Beltrame, the community bank's marketing director, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 11 in a telephone interview. “Using .bank, marketing .bank really allows us to present ourselves to our clients.
“It says we’re special; we’ve got something different,” she said. “It created a marketing opportunity.”
The .bank domain so far has attracted 2,883 banks — which have collectively registered 5,933 .bank names — since it was launched in mid-2015 as an alternative to the risky .com world.
The new domain employs safeguards to minimize the ability of fraudsters to engage in cyber squatting, typo-squatting, phishing or pharming. Chief among those safeguards: Only “verified members” of the banking community can obtain a .bank name under the control of fTLD Registry Services LLC, a private company owned by the American Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, as well as corporate banking and insurance investors.
“Within the U.S., we’ve got a slightly better than 40 percent market penetration of banks that have bought .bank domain names; so there are 60 percent of the banks in the U.S. that haven’t,” fTLD Managing Director Craig Schwartz told Bloomberg BNA in an Aug. 10 telephone interview. “We are very much focused on connecting with them and seeing them move into the space.”
So far, though, only a fraction of registrants have started using the new domain. “We’ve seen a couple of hundred banks that have actually turned on and migrated to their .bank presence,” Schwartz said.
One early innovator was Lead Bank, which made the switch to a .bank online presence about one year ago. The three-branch bank made the transition “to provide our clients with better digital tools,” Beltrame said. “.bank simply provides an additional level of security for client information, and it clearly indicates that we are a valid bank,” she said.
There were other factors behind the switch. Beltrame said, from her perspective as a marketer, “.bank allows differentiation of the bank from a branding perspective, a strategic perspective and a technology perspective. It’s the market perception that community banks lag and have less technology than national banks. It’s to our advantage to adopt .bank, which helps us to start changing that perception.”
Schwartz said he's heard from several institutions that marketing was an important motivation for the .bank switch. “There were quite a few banks that said they did this because they got a way better domain name than they ever got in .com, a much shorter and more memorable domain name than they were ever able to get on .com.”
“So what some of these banks with new names have done is tied the migration to .bank to either the launch of a new website or rebranding,” Schwartz said.
That fits Lead's experience, which went from a uniform resource locator (URL) of leadbankonline.com to lead.bank.
“One of the concerns I had heard was that there was so much brand equity established in whatever URL you already have in .com,” Beltrame said. “But I did not find that to be true. The clients understood why we were making the migration and came right along with that.”
Lead Bank's migration from .com to .bank took three to four months and cost about $7,000, Beltrame said.
Asked if it has prevented cyberattacks, Beltrame said that’s hard to verify. “But it’s providing our clients with peace of mind, and that’s priceless,” she said.
Of the banks that have registered through July 31, 2,595 are U.S. institutions, and 288 are foreign, Schwartz told Bloomberg BNA. As the one-year anniversary for .bank domains roll around, banks are renewing at rates ranging from about 94 percent in May to a preliminary number of 89 percent in June, Schwartz said.
“Reports from our registrars are that there are very few institutions that have dropped out completely,” Schwartz said. Nonrenewals “are largely based on institutions trimming their domain name portfolio.”
One example of the slower pace of .bank usage is Premier Community Bank of Hillsboro, Ore., which applied for three .bank names in June 2015 (124 BBD, 6/29/15). Premier President and CEO Rick Roby told Bloomberg BNA at the time that there are a lot of variations on the Premier name around the country, “so we wanted to make sure we were locked in.”
In an Aug. 10 e-mail, he told Bloomberg BNA, “We locked up a few .bank names but we have not gone “live” so to speak to date. We plan to use a .bank domain sometime in the future.”
Asked about the pace of migration, Schwartz said, “We are actively working to help banks develop a plan for migration.
“We know it's going to happen,” he said. “At some point, there is going to be tipping point where the industry is simply going to move in that direction. Our vision is that it is going to happen sometime in 2017.”
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