For Bank of the Wichitas in Snyder, Okla., picking a handle for its new Internet bank was not as simple as attaching "direct" to the end of its own name, because the owners wanted a unique name that would play both inside and outside its home state.
It chose Redneck Bank, and the early results have been promising, according to Todd Huckabay, the president and chief executive of the $115 million-asset Bank of the Wichitas.
Depositors from 45 states and the District of Columbia have opened checking or money market accounts with Redneckbank.com since its launch in early January, and the Web site has received "hundreds of thousands of hits," said Huckabay's brother, Wade, a director at the family-owned bank.
Redneck's slogan, "Where Bankin's Funner," captures the tongue-in-cheek brand that the Huckabays — along with their father Gary, the chairman — developed to market a bank from a town of only 1,500 people.
"We didn't feel like people, on a national basis, would open a bank account with a small community bank in Snyder," Wade says. "Our target market is people with a sense of humor."
Redneck Bank provides more than a laugh — it offers a rewards checking account with a 5.25% annual percentage yield, a money-market account paying roughly 3.1% and a "second-chance" zero-interest checking account for people with a history of bouncing checks.
The site, featuring a laughing donkey and outhouse icons, plus a "yep, we're a real bank" disclaimer, is corralling consumers who may be disenchanted with larger banks.
"Historically, people didn't like you joking about their money," said Robert Passikoff, the president of the New York consulting firm Brand Keys Inc. However, "in this economic environment, where there's a distinct lack of trust and a loss of faith" in the banking system, "trying to create a doorway for a particular group that will have resonating value for them makes a lot of sense."
Aside from a pair of billboards, Redneckbank.com has been advertised only through word of mouth. There are no plans for a broad marketing campaign, Todd says. "I'm not sure that we have an ability to control how fast we grow."
The Huckabay family owns large stakes in two other Oklahoma community banks, both of which have separately branded Internet banks. Last fall All America Bank in Oklahoma City, where Wade is the president and CEO, launched AmericaNet Bank, which uses patriotic themes.
Todd, Wade and their sister, Shawn Cochrane, a vice president at All America, also sit on the board of Southwest State Bank in Sentinel, which has put forward a technology-oriented theme for its Evantage site. Their father is the chairman of the banks.
Cochrane says the family established three separate Internet banks partly to cast a wide net but also as a test to see what would work.
The family would not say how many accounts or deposits the fledgling Redneck Bank has generated, except to say it has met expectations so far. (Bank of the Wichitas reported $76.2 million of total deposits at the end of last year.)
In a weak economy, Todd said, any deposits the site brings in could help offset a potential drop in traditional deposits.
"We don't take for granted the idea that a bank is going to be viable next month or next year, so we're always trying to think of ways to keep the bank … healthy for years to come," he said. "We didn't feel like we were risking a lot by doing something a little bit crazy."