The financial services industry is in the midst of a “digital disruption.” As consumers increasingly turn to online portals for their banking needs, banks—especially those in China—are experimenting with an array of new financial services technologies known as “FinTech.” These technologies are designed to more securely and efficiently serve banking customers’ needs and enhance their online banking experience.
In this post we take an in-depth look at one type of FinTech—the new gTLDs .BANK and bank-owned .BRANDs—that is being used by financial services institutions around the world. We also discuss some critical and timely steps that banks need to consider with regard to their use of these new domain extensions.
New Online Banking Trends: .BANK and Its Mission to Create a Safer Online Space
Back in 2012, the fTLD Registry submitted an application for .BANK, a community gTLD.
The fTLD Registry is a coalition of banks, insurance companies and financial services trade associations from around the world. They are unified in their goal of providing an online space governed in the best interests of banks and their customers.
Per the application, .BANK’s goals include:
- Becoming the “consumer’s choice for information about the banking industry,”
- Serving as “a model or template for trusted online commercial transactions” for the community, and
- Providing an innovative online space for the industry.
It is fTLD’s claim that by using .BANK, verified members of the financial industry will be empowered to provide higher levels of security and technology to support their business services.
Those utilizing .BANK are mainly smaller banks and financial institutions. For example:
- Citizen First Bank, not the more famous First Citizen Bank, has registered 7 domains under .BANK, including:
- First American International Bank, another small entity, has also registered domains under .BANK, including:
Big Banks and their .BRAND Initiatives
Although bigger banks—that is, those that rank at the top of the list of commercial banks by their asset size—have only a relatively small presence in .BANK , they have invested in the New gTLD Program and acquired branded top level domains. By mid February, among the 94 active .BRANDs, 16 were from the financial industry.
These include, interestingly, a number of foreign financial institutions, for which new gTLDs may offer yet another new and exciting element of enhanced customer engagement—domain names in languages other than English.
Here are some examples:
1. Shriram Group
Shriram Group is an Indian financial conglomerate with 40+ years experience. Its business is mainly operated in India and covers banking, insurance, and real estate.
Currently, the conglomerate has some of their different business units registered under the .SHRIRAM umbrella, such as:
- http://lifeinsurance.shriram/ for their insurance company and
- http://capital.shriram/ for their financial services.
China’s biggest financial conglomerate was among the earliest adopters of .BRANDs. Both .CITIC and .中信 (CITIC in Chinese) are activated and house content.
Like Shriram, some of CITIC’s different business units have corresponding second level domains in .CITIC and .中信.
As the major sponsor of Guo An Football Club, CITIC Group also hosts the team’s website at .CITIC (http://www.fcguoan.citic and http:// 国安足球俱乐部.中信). The team is the highest-ranked soccer club in China and counts tens of thousands of fans, ensuring that a broader audience learns about and interacts with the .BRAND.
In total, .CITIC and .中信have a considerable 403 second-level domains registered, making it the most used among activated .BRANDs.
3. BNP Paribas
BNP Paribas is the world’s fourth largest bank and is also among the earliest adopters of .BRANDs, leading the way in online banking trends.
The bank has developed and hosted many functional sites at .BNPPARIBAS since its launch last July. For example:
- http://b2b.bnpparibas.com/ is set up for a business-to-business partnership campaign and
- https://mabanque.bnpparibas/, an online baking portal, holds the 3,357th position on the Alexa global ranking of website traffic, as of mid-February.
Barclays UK is unique among bank .BRAND registries, having fully migrated to its new extensions .BARCLAYS and .BARCLAYCARD.
As stated in their press release, Barclays is taking advantage of these top level domains for the full range of advantages they provide: “This clarity [of indicating to customers that they are engaging with a genuine Barclays site], along with the advantages of controlling our own online environment, enables us to provide an even more secure service, which we know is of utmost importance to our customers, and ultimately serves to increase trust and confidence in Barclays’ online entities.”
Big American financial institutions, in addition to French, Chinese, U.K., and Indian entities, are also riding this online banking trend and investing in .BRANDs.
We expect to see some U.S.-based registry operators from the industry launch .BRANDs in coming months. These include:
- Citigroup, with .CITI and .BANAMEX;
- Capital One, with .CAPITALONE;
- EverBank, with .EVERBANK;
- JP Morgan, with .JPMORGAN and .CHASE; and
- .BRAND TLDs for credit cards .DISCOVER and .VISA.
The Future of Online Banking Trends: Where Will .BANK and Banks’ .BRANDs Be In 5 Years?
New gTLDs are just one part of the ongoing digital disruption in the financial services industry, but depending on how registrants and registry operators make use of their new gTLDs, they could come to play a significant role in banks’ online reorientations.
.BANK and .BRANDs have demonstrated their appeal to thousands of registrants within the banking industry. Still, sites at these new top level domains have, by and large, not yet shown their potential as an essential part of banks’ new digital strategies.
We believe that these new domains can successfully be built out as trustworthy banking destinations for their consumers, and, as a result, become integral to banks’ marketing and operations. But, in order for them to realize this goal, several steps need to be taken along the way:
- Brands must build a council that engages internal stakeholders, who are relevant to the implementation of the .BRAND, in order to get internal buy-in, build up technical capacity, and lay out a long-term migration plan and marketing strategy.
- Such a council must then create a plan to gradually migrate over to the .BRAND site and offer full functionality at this new online destination
- Marketers among this council must focus on educating consumers, especially online banking customers, about the .BRAND and its safety and security features.
A full-scale move over to new gTLDs, as Barclays has shown, need not take years. However, adopting all these additional safeguards and promoting new gTLDs through targeted marketing could be a several-year long project, depending on the internal resources available to their owners