Most bankers consider the Internet a delivery channel through which customers can access accounts, pull down product information, maybe even execute trades soon. Their sites are built like virtual branches; some banks use graphics on their sites mimicking brick and mortar. Not Citibank, which until now hosted a site that's more akin to an electronic billboard than a virtual branch. To Citi, the Internet is a global communications channel, and therein lies its Web banking strategy.

Citi, which has refrained from establishing a meaningful Internet presence during these initial "gold rush" years, is finally executing an Internet strategy. And while its much anticipated Internet banking transaction capability should air by year end, more important is the retail giant's multi-phase, potentially multi-million dollar relationship with The Mining Company. The objective: Build into a global community where chat rooms, forums, and Internet guides converge to discuss Citi's breadth of product. Eventually the site will be expanded to help visitors gather information around any area of interest.

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