As the number of banks with sites on the World Wide Web grows, so, too, does the number of Web sites designed to catalogue them.
Among the latest entries in the second category is a service called Findex, or financial index, whose creators say it will one day be a searchable data base of financial services companies categorized by geography, product offerings, and rates.
"Banks are the first ones we are really targeting," said Melissa Bostwick, director of marketing for the West Palm Beach, Fla-based company.
"If someone is moving to Kalamazoo, and wants to find a bank there, they can do that," she said. "If they want to buy a CD and are looking for the best rates, they'll be able to do that, too."
The site (www.findex.com) is still under construction, but the company has spent the last nine months entering a list of 15,000 banks and thrifts around the world into a data base that can be searched by location.
Now begins the start-up company's real work: coaxing banks to pay $1,200 to market their products and services on Findex for 12 months (the price is scheduled to rise to $2,500 a year on Oct. 15).
For that sum, Findex will list up to 20 of a bank's products and services and provide E-mail links and links to a bank's own Web site.
For banks that do not have Web sites or that request the service, Findex will build a separate area within its own site.
About 100 banks have bought into the Findex concept, Ms. Bostwick said, and the company plans a large advertising campaign to boost bank and consumer awareness.
"With a Web site, all you have is a billboard in a forest," she said. "With Findex, you have a central location that users will connect to."
Ohio Savings Bank has turned to Findex as a low-cost alternative to posting an independent Web site. The $3 billion-asset thrift gave the company a 100-word description of itself and a picture of its Cleveland headquarters to post on the site.
Sue Steigerwald, project manager for Ohio Savings, said it liked being able to post its rates on Findex and, when necessary, to change them with only a 30-minute lag.
Ms. Steigerwald said the thrift has additional plans for the service: "We're going to have our call center phone number all over the place, and from there we're hoping to generate leads."
Another Internet index and search engine for banks, Banksite Online, has posted a template on its site that enables bankers to design their own Web sites. The site is owned by Forms Group of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Using the template, "banks can create their own custom Web sites and put themselves on the Internet in just 30 minutes," said the company's president, Ira H. Aurit.