Redoubling its efforts to woo customers to the Web, Bank One Corp. has begun putting bankone.com kiosks in some branches - just months after having put dozens of WingspanBank.com kiosks in others.
For the moment, at least, customers will not face a confusing choice between the two types of kiosks. They will be placed in branches in different parts of the country, the Chicago company says.
The Wingspan kiosks are meant to attract new users to the company's Internet-only bank, while the bankone.com kiosks are meant to prove to current Bank One customers that Internet banking is easier and more convenient than branch banking, the company says.
A few other banking companies have been installing kiosks here and there to prod customers toward lower-cost channels. But Bank One is the only major U.S. banking company that is promoting a separately branded Internet banking subsidiary in addition to an Internet banking service that it runs under its own name.
So far Bank One, under the regime of chief executive officer James Dimon, has committed itself to keeping Wingspan, and argues that having two online brands draws in more customers rather than perplexing them or causing conflicts of allegiance.
Over the last two weeks the company has placed bankone.com kiosks in eight Chicago area branches, and by yearend it plans to have 100 kiosks in its home market and 400 in other parts of its 1,800-branch network.
"Our plan over time is to roll out the kiosks in as many banking centers as it makes sense to," said Bruce Luecke, general manager for bankone.com.
The Bank One-branded kiosks are "a public way for our customers to see how easy it is to use bankone.com, and they give our employees tangible evidence of this great service to cross-sell or sell other services," he said.
In September, Bank One put Wingspan kiosks in 71 branches in the Phoenix area. That was part of an effort to use different methods to sell Wingspan products, and to experiment with different combinations of pamphlets, kiosks, and Bank One staff members, Mr. Luecke said.
So far there are no plans to put Wingspan and Bank One kiosks side-by-side. "We most likely would not have two kiosks in the same branch," he said. "It's hard to do that in most banking centers, because they are not that large."
Bankone.com will pay attention to some of the early lessons learned from the Wingspan kiosks as it rolls out the rest of its kiosks, Mr. Luecke said. "We have certainly gleaned lessons from Wingspan from a usability perspective."
The eight bankone.com kiosks all look alike and provide access to bankone.com's full suite of financial services, including online banking, bill payment, investing, small-business, and commercial services.
"There will not be a dedicated Bank One staff person at the kiosks, and the rest will really depend upon what the banking centers themselves like to do to make the kiosks most effective," Mr. Luecke said.
Bank One does not charge a fee for accessing an account over the Internet, but it charges most online bill payment customers a monthly fee of $4.95.
"We will find out with experience how people in the banking centers use" the kiosks, Mr. Luecke said. "Today it's for showing customers what's there."
Paul Jamieson, director of financial services at Gomez Advisors, called the strategy "a great plan." Bank One "has learned from Wingspan's experience over the last six months that kiosks can be an effective way to attract customers to bankone.com," he said.
Mr. Jamieson also applauded the economics of the strategy. "Kiosks are a lot cheaper than a full-blown branch, and they are mobile, so they can move around as interest ebbs and flows," he said.
E-Trade Group and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce have tried to use kiosks to attract customers to their online financial services, but E-Trade is deploying them in Target stores and CIBC is putting them in supermarkets. Other brick-and-mortar banking companies that have tried to add a high-tech spin to their branches failed to attract customers.
A few years ago First Union Corp. inaugurated a high-tech branch concept called Future Bank, which was meant to get customers to use more self-service machines. The idea was that branch employees could focus on selling products and training customers to use the Internet, instead of handling the mundane tasks of handling deposits and withdrawals. But the project did not impress customers and was scrapped.
Mr. Luecke said Bank One's kiosks are "not comparable" to the Future Bank project. "The kiosks are just another distribution channel, and are not meant to replace the banking centers."