The name Kemper soon may become as synonymous with the Internet in Kansas City, Mo., as it is with banking there.
The city's two largest banking companies - $11.3 billion-asset Commerce Bancshares and $8.4 billion-asset UMB Financial Corp. - announced only a month apart that their top executives were relinquishing their day-to-day duties to spend more time on Web initiatives.
The two men also happen to be second cousins - each named Kemper.
"It's an interesting coincidence," said Jonathan M. Kemper, chairman of Commerce Bank, the lead subsidiary of Commerce Bancshares.
Mr. Kemper said last week that Commerce - founded by the Kemper family in 1865 - had promoted two executives to handle day-to-day operations so that he could devote himself to an eight-member Internet-projects task force.
Mr. Kemper heads the task force, whose plans include an upgrading of the company's year-old Web site that would let customers manage all their Commerce accounts by computer. He said Commerce - like other companies - is finding that Web development requires the attention of upper-level executives.
"Banks are realizing how important the Internet is," said Brian Harvey, a banking analyst at Fox-Pitt, Kelton in New York. "They're trying to develop their strategy and determine how to best allocate resources, dollars, and people."
A similar story is unfolding at UMB, which traces its roots to a different branch of the Kemper family. Alexander "Sandy" Kemper stepped down last month as president and chief executive officer of 87-year-old UMB to become CEO of its majority-owned subsidiary, e-Scout.com.
UMB gave the president and CEO roles to chairman R. Crosby Kemper, Sandy Kemper's father. Sandy Kemper's brother, R. Crosby Kemper 3d, was named chairman and CEO of the company's lead bank.
The eScout.com subsidiary is not focused on banking. Its Web site is more like a buying co-operative through which small businesses and community banks can get bulk discounts on office supplies and do business with one another.
Sandy Kemper said that if banks are to thrive "they must be in e-commerce."
"At some point in the future, the term 'e-commerce' will be redundant," he said. "We won't differentiate between commerce and e-commerce as we do now. There will just be commerce, and the vast majority of it will be done electronically."