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CompuBank Archives

2002 Web Banking Planning Gains a Wide Following

By Jim Bruene on July 5, 2001 8:05 PM | Comments

With the free-flow of capital shut off, it may seem like the pressure to innovate is off. We don’t think so. Despite the bloodbath among consumer Internet sites and the closing of three prominent Net-only banks, WingspanBank, Security First Network Bank (SFNB), and CompuBank, end-user demand for online banking continues to grow at a phenomenal pace, even surpassing our last forecast made during the peak of the hysteria (OBR 59, April 2000).

Those banks each closed for unique reasons: Wingspan was doomed from the outset because of problems at its parent, FirstUSA/Bank One. SFNB, despite being the first mover in 1995, never gained a following online and was turned over to Royal Bank in 1998 as part of a larger licensing deal with SFNB’s parent, S1. With Royal’s recent purchase of Centura, it no longer made sense to support two U.S. brands, so SFNB was rolled into Centura. Finally, CompuBank never had the right mix to attract customers. They launched in late 1998 with a decent product set but an amateurish Web site, the kiss of death for an Internet-only operation. Having failed on the consumer side, it used Softbank money to remake itself into a small business bank, but time ran out before it communicated its new positioning to the world.

We think these failures have little bearing on your 2002 plans. If anything, they reinforce what you already knew: even with branches, it’s damn tough to move market share in the transactional checking space. But Web-based content can be effectively used to support a multi-media promotional campaign. For instance, Bank of America, which is blitzing our area with print and radio ads for its MyAccess checking, has added a prominent link to the product on its home page.

Focus online marketing efforts on products that consumers readily purchase outside the branch, namely loans , and to a lesser extent investments, especially high-interest savings accounts. We’ve updated the 2002 Strategy Matrix to help you make sure you’ve covered all the bases.

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Categories: CompuBank

Net-Only Bank Watch for July 2000

By Jim Bruene on July 4, 2000 9:36 AM | Comments

00-jun-obr.jpg

Despite the downturn in consumer Internet stock prices, the Net-only banking crowd continues to grow in number and funding. This month we add GE Financial Network  www.gefn.com  an impressive effort cobbled together from the product lines of CompuBank and PayTrust; and Umbrellabank, Chicago-based Argo Federal Savings Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of Argo Bancorp

 

Bank

Launch Month

Ownership

New Developments

1st WebBankDirect Sept. 1999 Sovereign Bank ·      Web site renovated to include spoken introduction of the product and an online brochure downloadable
American Express Membership Banking Aug. 1999 American Express ·      added PayTrust’s scan-and-pay bill payment service

·      revealed that 2.2 million cardmembers are using American Express online services, either statement access or online payment of their card bills

BankDirect May 1999 Texas Capital ·      raised $26.5 mil to spin off bankdirect.com in 1st quarter 2001, applied for a separate charter

·      plan to spend $50-100 mil over 12-18 months to build up bankdirect.com

·      current deposits at $210 mil

·      partnered with American Airlines to launch the BankDirect AAdvantage Program, with 5,000 miles for direct deposit as well as other deposit offers which provide lower rates in exchange for frequent flier miles

·      running full page ads in American’s in-flight magazine

Clarity Bank March 2000 private ·      added account aggregation through a venture with MyWay.com

·      mortgage offers include: (a) loan decision within 3 hours or $250; (b) will beat any lender’s offer or $250; (c) will close on agreed date or the rate will be lowered by 1/8%

·      opened commercial loan centers in Chicago and
Newport Beach

CompuBank Oct. 1998 private ·      Smart Money Magazine “Best Bank Online”

·      rated #1 in Customer Confidence and Saver categories of Gomez Spring 2000 ratings


 

Bank

Launch Month

Ownership

New Developments

DirectBanking Nov. 1999 Salem Five ·      offering free Internet access through Freewwweb program to give their customers “truly free checking”
everbank.com Jan. 2000 Customer One Financial and Wilmington Federal Savings ·      $100 million in deposits in June, five months since launch

·      rated #2 in Customer Confidence in Gomez Spring 2000

·      launched it’s human-based financial advisory service

NEW

General Electric Financial Network (gefn.com)

June 2000 General Electric ·      added GE Bill Manager provided through PayTrust to the financial management site to round out the banking services offered through CompuBank

·      offering $20 for opening first account

Juniper Financial Fall 2000 private ·      with it’s WingspanBank heritage this well-funded entrant continues to grab a lot of media attention
NetBank Oct. 1996 public (NTBK), IPO 7/97 ·      100,000 active accounts as of June 2000

·      adding free bill presentment to bill pay program through CheckFree

OneCore.com March 1999 private ·      named by Fortune Small Business as one of 25 companies with breakthrough services in 2000

·      redesigned site and offered a free year of Earthlink Internet service with an account and free payroll for 3 months and $100 OfficeMax rebate

·      marketing to “Financial Professionals” who advise small business clients with offer of support and possible fee income

PCbanker.com Sept. 1999 service mark of American Bank (PA) ·      completed IPO of 1 million shares to raise $10 mil
Security First National Bank Oct. 1995 Royal Bank of Canada ·      Web site redesigned

·      retained rating of “best overall” for the 6th quarter in Gomez Spring 2000 bank ratings

NEW

umbrellabank.com

June 2000 Argo Bancorp ·      Internet-only bank from Chicago-based Argo Federal Savings Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of Argo Bancorp, $391 million holding company
USA Bancshares Feb. 1999 public (USAB) ·      total funded accounts at 27,000

·      Q1 report card: $365.6 mil in assets and 90 employees

X.com Nov. 1999 private ·      the company’s PayPal service launched a business account which for the first time included fees, 1.9% for receipt of emailed funds and an optional 0.6% fee for automatic daily sweep of funds into the business’s bank account (via ACH)

·      PayPal business accounts also receive $100,000 fraud protection for no additional charge

·      reset all PayPal user accounts with a new $2,000 lifetime limit of for free credit card charges

·      implemented a new online method for set-up and authorization of bank accounts for ACH transfer capability

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CompuBank Touts Number One Rating from SmartMoney

By Jim Bruene on June 19, 1999 11:48 AM | Comments

CompuBank

www.compubank.com

CompuBank touts its number one rating from SmartMoney. It’s also adopted a new slogan,
“Real-Time Banking Online,” much better than the old “get out of line.”

CompuBank (Houston, TX; $5 million) has made great strides since its launch nine months ago (OBR 10/98). They have corrected every major deficiency noted in our analysis, except a huge one, the lack of loan products. While we realize its burdened with a regulatory hurdle, the bank’s initial approval as a national bank precluded it from offering loans, it still needs to be corrected before the bank can move to the next level. And there is no reason why the bank cannot partner with a credit card company to at least offer overdraft protection on its well-priced checking accounts.

The bank earned the prestigious number one ranking from Dow Jones’s personal finance magazine, SmartMoney, in its third annual look at online banks (see table on right). CompuBank wasted no time putting out a press release and posting the logo to its Web. This should be worth about a million dollars in free publicity, as they can claim number one status for an entire year. Consumers won’t know that only 19 banks were reviewed. It’s one of the advantages of being an early mover. Given the criteria used by SmartMoney, we think the bank deserved its ranking.

Nearly every page carries the
VeriSign, BBB Online, and SafeWeb logos.

Besides a number of innovative and pioneering features outlined in our previous overview (see OBR 10/98), the bank has added the following:

Third-party security assurances: The first bank we’ve seen with the VeriSign Secure Site and BBB Online logos on most pages.

Call-Me Button: The first bank to prominently post a “Have a Question” button on its home page that allows users to schedule a call back with a bank service rep.

Contacts: Jonathon Lack is EVP Marketing, (713) 479-1074, jlack@compubank.com .

Smart Money Internet Bank Rankings

Bank

Smart Money Rank
(May 1999)

Gomez Rank
(Summer 1999)

CompuBank

1

9

Citibank

2

4

Wells Fargo

3

2

SFNB

4

1

Crestar

5

12

Net.B@nk

6

3

KeyCorp

7 (tie)

not ranked

USAccessBank

7 (tie)

14

Wachovia

7 (tie)

17

Bank of America

10 (tie)

8

Telebank

10 (tie)

20

Source: SmartMoney.com, 7/99; Gomez Advisors, 7/99

Note: For the complete article, go to smartmoney.com and search for “online banking;” only 19 banks were reviewed by SmartMoney compared to 58 by Gomez Advisors, www.gomez.com

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Categories: CompuBank

The Third Net-Only Bank Goes Live

By Jim Bruene on October 7, 1998 11:03 AM | Comments

www.compubank.com
www.ecommcenter.com


The nation’s first OCC- chartered Net-only bank bank opened Oct. 7.

As you can see from the understated home page (left), Compubank’s Web won’t win any design awards, but at least they estabish credibility right away with a list of regulatory endorsements (top of page).

The first page also provides buttons to the four important areas:

  •  Apply Online
  •  Contact Us
  •  Demo
  •  Log-On

The Company: CompuBank is a Web-based start-up headquartered in Houston, TX. Founder Frank Goldberg, a 23-year banking veteren, founded Security National Bank in 1985, serving as CEO until its 1994 merger with Compass Bancshares. CompuBank is the first all-Internet operation to be chartered as a national bank by the OCC. The previous two Net-only banks, Security First Network Bank (SFNB) and Net.B@nk (formerly Atlanta Internet Bank), used thrift charters. The company also operates eCommCenter, which links to a dozen other content providers.

Funding: The company was capitalized with $6 million from private investors and currently has 12 employees. Unlike SFNB and Net.B@nk, the company does not intend to go public in the near term.

Strategic Vendors: CompuBank uses technology from ProLogic www.prologic.com for core banking systems; Edify www.edify.com for the online banking platform (same as Net.B@nk); Online Resources for bill payment; and Deluxe for check printing.

Pricing: Basic non-interest checking is free of monthly fees, minimum balances, and ATM fees. The only fees are $5.50/mo for optional, unlimited bill payment and relatively high penalty fees such as $25 per NSF. Refer to the following table for a complete list. Interest-bearing checking carries a 2% rate and a $10 monthly fee if the balance falls below $1,500.

1998-October-CompuBank2.jpg

Source: Company, 10/21/98

*fee waived with $1,500 balance **fee waived with $2,000 balance


As we were going to press, CompuBank launched eCommCenter www.ecommcenter.com a meta-site with links to co-branding partners in various categories such as mortgages, weather, news, and so on.

Marketing: The bank is basking in the honeymoon period of free publicity right now. A search of the Dow Jones archives turned up 79 articles written on CompuBank, many in the past four weeks. The bank has been the focus of stories in The Texas Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek Online. Jonathon Lack, EVP Marketing & Planning, said the bank has also been on TV in 25 markets as well. He declined to provide any specifics on visitors or account openings.

Besides PR, the bank is using banner advertising, site sponsorships, and the eCommCenter (screenshot above) to drive traffic. CompuBank is the exclusive Internet bank for MecklerMedia’s internet.com; a major sponsor of GoCollege.com (screenshot right); and a sponser of a Beanie Baby/collectibles site in Houston beanie.collectica.com/guest/memberhome.cfm, where, according to the Collectica Web, you will soon be able to earn membership credits for opening an account at CompuBank. The bank provides exposure for these companies on its eCommCenter, likely reducing or eliminating the expense of parking its logo on sponsor sites.

One marketing challenge for the bank is that prospective customers searching for CompuBank on the Web will find three other banks using Compubank as a trade name: in Israel www.compubank.co.il South Africa www.absa.co.za/COMPUBANK and New Zealand www.united.co.za/electronic/compu.asp

Contact:

Jonathan H. Lack is EVP Marketing & Planning at CompuBank, (713) 479-1074, jlack@compubank.com Analysis

Home Page: We have mixed reactions to the first page, which is basically a site map plus four buttons. Site maps are great for finding information on large Webs, but don’t do much for the sales process. You don’t want to ignore the information gathering needs of Web surfers, but you also need to funnel newcomers towards the info that puts them into a buying mood before they get bored and move on.

CompuBank is a major sponsor of GoCollege.com including a pop-up window selling SAT practice tests.

Good Web sites do both by providing drop-down lists, search functions, and site maps for information seekers; and interactivity, free features, teasers, and special offers to turn browsers into buyers. CompuBank has none of the latter. In any event, the bank needs to modernize its first impression. This looks like a Web site built in March 1995, not what one would expect from “the first nationally chartered virtual bank.” As an Internet company, CompuBank is competing for users accustomed to the sophisticated interfaces of Schwab and Amazon.com.

Grade: B- informative but dull

 

Products & Features: The bank offers standard deposit account fare: interest and non-interest checking, savings, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs). Business versions of checking, savings, and money-market accounts are also offered. There are no credit products yet, but the bank does offer overdraft protection from other deposit accounts for $1 per transfer.

While its banking products may be plain vanilla, its Web-oriented features are first rate, especially interbank transfers, “call-me” customer service, layered security, and online check images.

These are nice-to-have features, but with no loan products, especially overdraft lines of credit, the bank is only offering half the product line desired by the typical Net-savvy consumer.

The bank is also missing the opportunity to leverage email communications. It needs email rate updates, balance notifications, deposit confirmations, and so on.

Grade: B+ for checking/deposits; F for loans

 

Rating the Features & Benefits

 

Pioneering (industry firsts or seconds)

  •  Fraud protection from Travelers (OBR 9/97)
  •  Web-based form to initiate in-bound interbank ACH transfers
  •  Web-based wire transfer form (although the $15 fee will limit usage)
  •  multiple security codes for ACH/wire transfers
  •  eCommCenter co-branded content site

Excellent (top 10% of banking programs)

  •  online images (last 12 months)
  •  privacy statement and explanation of security features
  •  suggestion box on front page
  •  call-me feature to request a call from a service rep
  •  alerts shown at log-in (see screenshot upper right)
  •  tax information link from balance inquiry screen

Average

  •  core functions: balance inquiry, transaction detail, funds transfer and pay-anyone bill payment
  •  online demo
  •  pricing

Below Par (disappointing for typical users)

  •  customer service hours
  •  no service standards for email customer service
  •  no email services (e.g., balance notification)
  •  no bill payment guaranteees or customer assurances
  •  graphical interface, “look and feel” of Web
  •  no credit products

 

Pricing Strategy: Unlike Net.B@nk and SFNB, CompuBank does not expect to offer premium deposit rates to attract customers (see chart right). Like most banks, they prefer not to cater to the so-called “hot money” that only stays on deposit while premium rates are available. Instead, the bank intends to compete as a low-fee, high-service, feature-rich Internet bank. It’s a strategy that could work, but will require patience, a luxury the privately held firm can afford compared to its prematurely public competitors. Still, the bank will have to figure out a way to entice users to sign-up — free checking won’t be enough.

Alerts are shown on the top of the first Web banking screen, for example, “You Have Mail!!” and “GO TO Important Information about transactions concerning your account!,” which links to an explanation of a returned item fee. Note: “Tax Information” (lower left) links to last year’s interest paid.

“Statement Copy Request” is another valuable service. Users can look at the previous 12 statements online, or dig deeper into the archives by requesting a copy of any statement from the past seven years. Delvery options include email, fax, or snail mail.

Net-Only Bank Deposit Rates*

Product

Compu-Bank

SFNB

Net.B@nk

High in U.S.

Checking

2.0%

2.47%

3.93%***

n/a

Money Mkt.

3.0%

4.44%**

5.12%

5.30%

6-mo CD

4.50%

5.73%

5.16%

5.30%

12-mo CD

4.60%

5.83%

5.26%

5.46%

Source: Companies 10/21/98; Bank Rate Monitor, 10/20/98

*Interest rates for $10,000; **5.37% for >$25,000; ***Fee of $4.50/mo charged regardless of balance, no-fee option is available with rate of 3.0%

Security: CompuBank is the first bank we’ve seen layer additional password(s) on top of funds transfer screens, a security measure we’ve long advocated. CompuBank actually takes it one step too far by requiring three passwords to ACH or wire funds. First, the user must log-in to online banking. Then, mother’s maiden name is required to view the Wire Transfer and Direct Transfer screens (because account numbers are listed). Finally, in order to process a transfer, the user-selected “Fed Wire PIN” is required. Bill payment also requires a separate password.

Grade: A- three passwords might be overkill,
but it’s on the right track

 

Even when already logged in to online banking,
users must enter an additional password to access interbank transfers.

CompuBank makes it easy to change Overdraft algorithms. Choose the account to protect from the left column, and the account to protect it from the right.


 

Non-Financial Content: eCommCenter, CompuBank’s ecommerce Web site, was literally unveiled as we were going to press, so we can’t say much. But at first glance, it looks like a good way to drive traffic, deliver value-added services, and provide reciprocal links to content partners to reduce or eliminate the bank’s cost to advertise on partner sites. We’ll keep you posted.

Technical Information: The company does a great job posting comprehensive info about browser support (screenshot below), security, privacy, Y2K, and more. Although, it could be improved with a slightly more user-friendly style (see NextCard, OBR 5/98).

Grade: A- one of the best

 

Here is an extensive list of browsers supported — an excellent resource to head off that time-consuming and frustrating customer service chore.

Here’s an important feature missing from most Net banking programs, the ability to transfer money from other banks into CompuBank. Outbound wire transfers are just as easy, but cost $15 each.


 

Customer Service: Web-based customer service is full-featured, easy to use, and loaded with self-service functions to cut the bank’s costs. Users can access bank mail, change pass phrase, reorder checks, change overdraft protection algorithms, order deposit slips, check rates, and request copies of checks/statements for the past seven years with delivery by email, fax, or snail mail.

Another innovation is the “call me” function that allows users to request a call from a service rep (see Republic Bank, OBR 2/98). The user selects the call-me button from the navigation bar and enters their phone number. The next available call center rep then calls the customer. The rep already knows precisely which screen the customer was using when the request came in, so problem resolution can be accelerated.

Off-line service leaves something to be desired. The hours of operation, while suitable for the central time zone, are incovenient for users on the east and west coasts. Easterners won’t be able to get ahold of a live body until 9:00 a.m., and left coasters won’t be able to summon a human after 6 p.m. on weekdays, and 11 a.m. on Saturdays. The bank says they will expand hours as volume dictates.

Customer Service Hours

Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. CST
Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. CST
Sunday 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. CST

CST = central standard time

Another nit-pick: Prospects are not given any assurances that the bank will respond quickly to email questions. In our own testing, we received a response within the hour about a malfunctioning demo. If the bank is prepared to answer questions within 60 minutes, by all means, say so. Prospective customers at a virtual bank should receive a clear understanding about the quality and timeliness of email communications.

Grade: B+ needs expanded hours and more

emphasis on email

Bill Payment: CompuBank users actually pay bills on servers hosted by Online Resources www.orcc.com CompuBank charges $5.50 per month for unlimited pay-anyone bill payment with no free trial period.

Bill payment service descriptions need to be beefed up. A few benefits are listed followed by two long paragraphs warning the customer that they must have sufficient funds and the bank won’t be held responsible for any mistakes. The overall impression is of a service not ready for prime time.

Grade: C needs clear-cut benefits to

induce trial/usage

 

Online Application: CompuBank’s did a good job putting its account application online and on its first page. Unfortunately, the implementation is mediocre at best. After completing eight screens of data, the user must print out 27+ pages of disclosures with limited guidance on what is going on. The bank
needs to provide step-by-step instructions so the user is confident they are doing it right (see NextCard,
OBR 5/98 for a good example).

In testing, we spent about 15 minutes fighting through the application, and as far as we knew, never did get to the end of the process. The server would not recognize the “next” command after the EFT Agreement and we kept getting a cursory “timed out” message suggesting we log back in. When we tried that we got a message saying our account was inactive, please call customer service. That kind of run-around is exactly what Net users are trying to avoid from banks.

Postscript: Three weeks later, we finally did get an email, then a follow-up call, which confirmed that we had in fact completed the application process. That’s too long to wait. The bank should communicate immediately with anyone who applies online to see if they have questions.

Grade: C needs more guidance and

feedback

Summary: We commend CompuBank for winding its way through the regulatory and technical hurdles and actually launching the first de novo Internet bank (the previous two were originally divisions of thrifts before being spun off). There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of entrepreneurs working through the same issues, and CompuBank got out of the starting gate first — no small accomplishment.

The bank has an informative Web site, a solid deposit product line, and a number of innovative features such as interbank transfers and fraud protection from Travelers. But the text-heavy interface, lack of loan products, and a convoluted application process are going to hamper its initial efforts to grab a critical mass of customers.


 

The launch of eCommCenter, just 33 days after the bank opened, is a promising first step. But there are still three major problems to address:

1. No competitive advantage: Free checking from an unkown bank in Houston can only take you so far; maybe a few thousand accounts, just ask Net.B@nk and SFNB. The “stay out of line” tagline isn’t particularly meaningful to its prospective customer base, few of which have ever stood in line in a bank branch. This early adopter group has been using the ATM and phone to do their banking for more than a decade. The bank needs a unique selling proposition that captivates its target segments.

2. Outdated Web site: It’s difficult to understand CompuBank’s thinking on its Web design. Minimal graphics, outdated colors, no interactivity, no financial calculators, no search function, no reason to stay or return, and it’s slow. Perhaps the bank threw its development dollars into the new eCommCenter site. If so, they still need to invest in the critical pages on CompuBank.com where users make their buying decisions.

3. No easy way to buy: Soft sell is fine, but posting product features and an eight-page account application are not enough. Eventually you have to give users a reason and a means to buy. Net.B@nk and to a lesser extent, SFNB have been somewhat successful offering high-rate deposits. We don’t know CompuBank’s strategy, but if it hinges on people sitting through a 15-minute application process to earn 2% on their checking balances, the bank has a problem.

From our conversation with Marketing EVP, Jonathon Lack, it seems the bank recognizes its weaknesses and will fix the glitches as it moves forward. The bank had to get started after nearly three years in formation. Lack promised quick improvements. For example, the issue of not offering 24-hour customer service has been raised in the trade press. Lack says the 12-person company can easily expand hours as customer demand warrants. The company is confident it can innovate at a pace appropriate for a bank, even an Internet-based one. Case in point: the recent eCommCenter launch.

When pressed to identify ways CompuBank will attract customers with no loan products, no high-rate deposits, and a relatively small amount of capital, Lack only hinted at innovative things to come, perhaps using affinity marketing techniques . (Editor’s Note: this was prior to the launch of eCommCenter.)


 

Recommendations: Here’s our plan to fix these problems and add some sizzle to the steak:

1. Install a new Web front-end using state-of-the-art Web navigation, graphics, and interactivity. For example, Digital Insight www.diginsite.Com offers a proven template that can be implemented relatively quickly.

2. Sell or give away non-banking service(s) that anyone can buy, without a long application process. The new eCommCenter may be just the venue to do that. Some other ideas: online credit reports, home value reports, mortgage rate alerts, and so on (see OBR 8/98 for more).

3. Leverage the innovative Web-based payment services to attract traffic and an initial customer base that can be used to attract more capital. For example, allow non-customers to use Web-based payments to wire money or pay a bill by charging it to a credit card. Another possibility, partner with an Internet company such as EBay.com that needs a way to smooth the flow of money between buyers and sellers (see Online Escrow Services, OBR 11/97; and Online Money Orders, OBR 11/97). Internet-based payment services provide two marketing benefits:

· customers get to try CompuBank services with little initial investment in time or money

· it’s viral marketing, meaning that the marketing message/link is innocently bundled into the payment notification so the recipient knows where to go for the same service

4. Add credit products, even just simple co-branded products such as mortgages from E-Loan (see Telebank, OBR 8/98).

A virtual bank no-brainer: eCommCenter provides state-by-state listings of free ATMs compiled by
The Surcharge-Free-ATM Network and others.

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Categories: CompuBank

First Bank to Win National Banking Charter for Internet-only Operations

By Jim Bruene on September 8, 1998 11:40 AM | Comments

CompuBank

www.compubank.com

CompuBank (Houston, TX) will open its virtual doors on Oct. 7. The bank, the first to win a national banking charter for Internet-only operations, has added a few twists to its product line to differentiate itself from the pack including online wire transfers and online overdraft protection. We’ll analyze its product line in detail next month. See also OBR 12/97.

 

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Categories: CompuBank

CompuBank is First Independent Bank Launched Directly onto Internet

By Jim Bruene on December 17, 1997 4:04 PM | Comments

Compubank

www.compubank.com

CompuBank (Houston, TX; in formation) will become the first independent bank launched directly onto the Internet. It will also become the first federally chartered Internet-only bank (i.e., national bank). The other two Internet-only banks, Security First Network Bank and Atlanta Internet Bank, were both spinoff divisions of traditional financial institutions (Cardinal Bancshares and Carolina First respectively) and were approved via the Office of Thrift Supervision.

The bank received preliminary approval from the OCC on August 20, 1997 to open an Internet-only financial institution. But the bank will be on a short regulatory leash until they prove themselves. For the next three years, the bank is required to seek OCC approval for each new product introduced. This will put quite a burden on management which will need to broaden Compubank’s product line relatively quickly if they hope to become a viable company. Prologic will be providing the online banking platform: its Ovation product running on Windows NT.

Initially, the bank plans to refrain from lending, hoping to earn enough of a spread collecting deposits online and investing in government guaranteed bonds. This is a contrarian strategy, but we won’t comment until hearing more of their business plans. They may have identified some unique transactional niche (such as online money orders) or vertical markets (ISP owners) that will allow them to turn a profit. At least it lessens their CRA burden. Given that the bank was not planning on becoming a lender, the OCC granted the bank’s request to be treated as “limited purpose.” The bank will satisfy CRA obligations by providing access to online banking services for low and moderate income individuals in the Houston area.

Contacts: Frank S. Goldberg is CEO. Mr. Goldberg started Houston’s Security Bank in the 1980s. Jonathan H. Lack is EVP Marketing and Planning, 713.871.1422, jlack@compubank.com. Robert Wilband is CEO at Prologic, www.prologiccorp.com, in Richmond, BC, Canada, 604.278.6470.

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Categories: CompuBank, Small Business

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