An African-American Internet company is offering banks access to 250,000 potential customers.
NetNoir Inc., San Francisco, is supplying a handful of banks advertising, consulting, and market research services through its Web site, www.netnoir.com. The site mostly attracts affluent African-Americans 36 to 54 years old, and about 250,000 visit its pages at least once a month, the company said.
"We think we can be the portal for financial services to the black community," said E. David Ellington, chairman, president, and chief executive of NetNoir.
It was founded in 1995 to encourage African-Americans to embrace technology. A welcome by-product is that financial institutions are embracing NetNoir, said Joseph A. Mouzon, vice president of sales and marketing for the company's on-line division.
"Banks have not always had the greatest reputations for treating African-Americans as equal customers," he said. Using the Internet, "they could very effectively change that image."
NetNoir-which began courting banks in 1996-has run advertisements on its Web site for Chase Manhattan Bank, Bank of America, and Citibank. Wells Fargo Bank started working in June with NetNoir to reach potential small- business customers.
Through an eight-question test on NetNoir's Web site, small-business owners can determine whether they are eligible for a loan from Wells. Those who meet the bank's criteria are routed to a secure site where they can give contact information so that Wells can schedule a credit check.
"We have been receiving a lot of calls from people who have taken the test on the Web site," said a spokeswoman for the San Francisco bank, which has $93.1 billion of assets.
Meanwhile, NetNoir continues to attract financial institutions as clients, according to Mr. Mouzon. In October, it plans to run an advertising campaign for Merrill Lynch & Co., New York. The brokerage firm will also begin hiring African-American salespeople through NetNoir's site.
Mr. Mouzon added that NetNoir will run an advertising campaign and do market research for Equitable Life Assurance Society, New York, starting in December.
The company also has tentative agreements with financial companies such as Charles Schwab & Co., San Francisco, Mr. Mouzon said. This arrangement would let NetNoir visitors gain access to information about stocks and register as Schwab customers.
In addition, NetNoir is negotiating with Telebank, the on-line banking company based in Arlington, Va., to let visitors to NetNoir's site open savings and checking accounts.
"We believe it will be a profitable venture for both of us," said Steven D. Greenwood, senior vice president of marketing at Telebank, which approached NetNoir about four months ago.