A community bank in Florida has started a separate Internet bank, embracing a concept that has fallen out of favor.

Landmark Bank of Fort Lauderdale opened giantbank .com on Monday. It opted against integrating the Web operation with traditional branch banking because it would have "compromised our objectives," said Perry A. LaCaria, president and chief executive officer of $55 million-asset Landmark.

In a mixing of online with bricks-and-mortar, "the overlap between the two businesses becomes confused," Mr. LaCaria said. "It blurs the lines of operation as to who does what. By separating the two, we can focus on that particular customer exclusively."

Landmark's strategy has failed at other banks, as customers rejected the notion of not being able to go to branches. Citigroup Inc. last month closed down its citi f/i. And Bank of Montreal last year shuttered mbanx after trying for several years to build a customer base.

Bank One Corp. still is struggling to develop an effective strategy for its Internet-only offering, WingspanBank.com. Bank One officials recently said they would continue to run Wingspan separately but would combine its back-end system with Bank One's Web site.

Landmark has only one branch, and does not have to worry about cannibalizing other businesses, Mr. LaCaria said.

"Our size gives us flexibility within the marketplace that others do not have," he said.

Landmark, which does not offer an online banking service besides giantbank.com, will try to reach a nationwide customer base through the Internet bank and plans a long menu of services and products.

Customers will be offered bill payment, direct deposit, wire transfers, and debit and automated teller machine cards. By yearend giantbank.com is to add small-business services, and bill presentment is to be added in early 2001. Services for larger companies also are to become available next year.

"We are trying to create a community banking experience online," Mr. LaCaria said. "Many of the pure Internet banks tend not to be full-service."

Landmark has been testing giantbank.com with friends and family members for several months and now has 100 accounts. It is advertising the online bank in local newspapers and plans to send broadcast e-mails to markets that have large percentages of Internet users.

Giantbank.com is using Santa Clara, Calif.-based Edify Corp.'s banking software and working with CheckFree Holdings Corp. to offer bill payment.

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