For all the press they get, pure Internet banks account for about 10 of the 1,121 transactional Web banking sites that were in place as of mid-December. A phenomenon since late 1995, Internet-only institutions have yet to make a material impact on the banking industry.

Their sluggish performance, overlooked until now, has recently become a source of widespread criticism. This may reflect something of a fashion in the analyst community, but also the fashion in banking whereby traditional banks are establishing Internet-only subsidiaries. That trend has prompted an inquiry into what the pure Internet bank has to offer.

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