Claritybank.com, an Internet-based bank that wants to cater primarily to small businesses, has opened its third brick-and-mortar office.
The bank, a subsidiary of Clarity Holdings Inc. of Purchase, N.Y., opened a second commercial loan center, in Chicago, last week. It already had one in Newport Beach, Calif., and a full-service branch in Uvalde, Tex.
Michael Szwajkowski, president and chief investment officer, said it is focusing mainly on the Internet and on acquiring online customers but also needed to have offices in different parts of the country.
"We think that the Internet is an important channel, but it is only a channel," Mr. Szwajkowski said. "Commercial loans are often multimillion-dollar deals and can be very complicated. You need the physical inspection of the real estate, as well as the appraisals."
Clarity also hopes to serve the consumer banking needs of its small-business customers, Mr. Szwajkowski said.
Clarity, which has 5,000 customer accounts, bought and renamed First National Bank of Uvalde in January. Deposits, $23 million at the time, have grown to $70 million.
Targeting small businesses may be the key for the small Internet bank to gain assets fast, said Octavio Marenzi, managing director of Celent Communications of Cambridge, Mass.
"Corporate customers are more likely to shop around for the best prices than retail customers," Mr. Marenzi said, "so Clarity may have better luck luring them away from their current banking relationships than they would with retail customers."
Clarity is not the first Internet bank to create physical branches. In 1997, for example, Security First Network Bank opened what it called a "city office" in its headquarters in Atlanta's Buckhead section.
Many Internet banks have considered opening branches, Mr. Marenzi said, because they have realized "that the Internet does not get them the number of customers they want."
On the consumer end of its business, Clarity is planning initiatives targeting Hispanic customers. The bank will introduce a Spanish version of its Web site in the next few months and plans to advertise through Spanish newspapers, radio stations, and Web sites.
Clarity is focusing on the Hispanic community because it is underserved, Mr. Szwajkowski said. "No one has made a concerted effort to bring these products and services into the Hispanic market," he said.
Mr. Szwajkowski said that his company is targeting niche groups - Hispanics and small businesses - because a bank cannot be all things to all people.
"We want to be true specialists," he said.