GDS International Ltd., a London company that organizes banking conferences, has launched a social networking Web site aimed at high-level bankers.
Spencer Green, the founder and chairman of GDS, said the site, MeetTheBoss.com, will provide a forum for C-level executives to discuss common problems, offer advice, and share their experiences.
"We are providing a Rolodex of who's who in the international banking community," Mr. Green said in an interview Tuesday.
The free site went live Sept. 8, after about 14 months of development, with about 20,000 registered users who were invited to join. It offers text messaging, instant messaging, e-mail, and videoconferencing links between users.
In the site's first week, he said, users spent an average of about three hours on the site and connected to 18 other users.
Because of the narrow niche the site is targeting, Mr. Green said he expects to cap the enrollment at about 50,000 people — a total that could take six to 12 months to reach.
"The goal is not the numbers," he said. "We are looking for the right level of people."
MeetTheBoss.com is receiving about 800 to 1,000 applications per day, and Mr. Green said it is rejecting about 75% of them.
The site is designed to facilitate communications, he said. "If there's someone I want to talk to, with just two clicks, I can set up a videoconference connection."
In addition, Mr. Green said, MeetTheBoss.com will provide users with information from experts. Each week the site will publish interviews with experts in several fields, followed by live chat sessions with these luminaries.
He said these sessions will be designed to facilitate discussion on various topics, with the experts and between users.
Social networking sites that are open to everyone are not very useful in the corporate world, Mr. Green said. "With Facebook, the hook is gossip. People like to comment on each other, but in the business world, you must add value," and the exclusive membership and he hopes that the high-level, banking-specific content will appeal to the world's top banking executives.
Adrian Danescu, an executive vice president and the chief information officer at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.'s Manufacturers Bank in Los Angeles, joined MeetTheBoss.com last month. He said that the site has connected him to his counterparts at other banks, and that the "real interaction with real people at the other end" could help him "avoid the pitfalls of other companies."
Mr. Danescu said that he particularly likes the fact that MeetTheBoss.com provides real-time connections with other users, and that talking to people in real time makes their answers more believable. "When they give you an instant reply, you know it's what they truly think," instead of a scripted reply that had to be vetted and approved.
Each user has a personalized profile page; Mr. Danescu said the details on these pages can be helpful in forging personal connections with other executives, but he also said the favorite sport section could be replaced with one for hobbies, since not all bankers like sports.
Christine Barry, a research director at Aite Group LLC, said specialized sites like MeetTheBoss.com are "a natural progression of social networking."
General-purpose sites such as Facebook Inc.'s remain popular, but there is growing demand for "niche sites" that can connect people with a very specific, shared interest, she said.
These specialized sites can save time for users, Ms. Barry said. For example, a MeetTheBoss.com user looking for answers to a specific question could connect quickly with someone who might understand the issue.
"Education is playing a big part" in these focused sites, she said. "That seems to be the direction these services are going."