The Internet-only bank plans next month to begin selling its financial services door-to-door through an agreement with Excel Communications, the Dallas-based subsidiary of Canada's Teleglobe Inc. The telephone company's network of 400,000 independent direct sales representatives would lead the national doorbell-ringing brigade.
By working with Excel, BankDirect can "get as close as we can to our customers in the vast world of the Internet," said Rose Hultgren, president of BankDirect, the Internet banking division of $260 million-asset Texas Capital Bank, which is privately owned and operated by Texas Capital Bancshares.
Excel's representatives would promote BankDirect's services when they make sales calls to pitch Excel's telecommunications offerings. The bank will pay a sales commission to Excel, which will pass it on to its representatives. The BankDirect/Excel partnership also provides direct deposit and other banking services to the Excel representatives. The representatives would bank through a co-branded Web site, excel.bankdirect.com.
Nicholas A. Merrick, executive vice president of Excel, said direct selling is a "phenomenal" sales channel because of the close relationships it develops between the representatives and the consumers. Direct selling is "the most reliable way to reach and retain the customer," he said.
Excel has been selling long-distance telephone service through its representatives since 1988, achieving annual revenues as high as $1.4 billion, Mr. Merrick said.
BankDirect will consider working with other direct selling groups, Ms. Hultgren said. She said the approach attracts more customers and increases loyalty by fostering personal relationships -- something otherwise lacking in Internet banking.
BankDirect, which was launched in May to offer depository products, insurance, and loans to consumers across the United States, said it would continue to join affinity groups and tailor its products to different customer bases, she said.
With the BankDirect relationship, the Internet will become part of the Excel representatives' selling routine, Mr. Merrick said. Representatives would each have a Web page on the Excel site and would invite prospective customers to visit the site, which would be linked to a site cobranded with BankDirect.
Mr. Merrick said Excel plans to build partnerships with additional service providers -- for products such as books, music, and electronics -- to position itself as the "creator of a virtual marketplace." The relationship with BankDirect will be the "glue" that holds its customers to its products and services, he said.