As banks ponder how to distinguish themselves in the oft-confusing world of cyberspace, more and more firms are stepping forward to assist them -for a fee.
The latest service to help locate banks on the Internet is a Web site called Bank 2000, hosted by Financial Services Inc., of Glen Rock, N.J.
The company has been in the data processing business for 40 years and has 75 bank clients. Its Web site, which made its debut in April and began soliciting bank customers in September, is an on-line catalogue of bank locations, products, and rates.
"The goal was to bring the general public in direct contact with the banking community," said Frank Geluso, an assistant vice president and Web master at Financial Services.
The Web site grew out of the company's belief that finding information about banks through traditional Internet search engines had grown too cumbersome.
"If you do an Alta Vista search for 'Internet and banking,' you get 40,000 hits," Mr. Geluso said. "It's like chaos."
Several other firms have noticed the same phenomenon and have gone about categorizing banks in different ways. Financial Services decided to solicit memberships from banks and post a Web site that lists information about members only. Other companies that are using similar models are Findex of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Forms Group of Scottsdale, Ariz.
What distinguishes Bank 2000, Mr. Geluso said, is thecompany's experience in bank processing and the depth of its Internet service offering.
"We allow the customers to maintain their own data, branch locations, product descriptions, and rates right over the Internet via our secure site. So it's real time, and it's live, and they have full control over the content," he said.
Bank 2000 also includes calculators that enable visitors to figure out if they qualify for specific bank products.
The company also checks to ensure that the information banks post on its site complies with regulatory disclosure requirements.
Until Dec. 1, banks may become members of the Bank 2000 Web site service at no cost; after that, membership will cost $25 a month. So far, more than 50 banks have enrolled, Mr. Geluso said, including some that do not use the company's data processing services.
Among those banks, six have signed up to have Financial Services design and host their Web sites, which the company offers at extra charge. The two first banks to take advantage of the service, Yonkers Savings and Loan of Yonkers, N.Y., and Bankers Federal Savings of New York City, will be posted on the Web this month, Mr. Geluso said.
Andrea Pinto, marketing director at Bankers Federal, said her $500 million bank was "going out there for the exposure, with the hope that we will attract new customers."