Sovereign Bank of Wyomissing, Pa. is the latest of a handful of banks to offer direct Internet access to customers.
Sovereign, with $8.1 billion in assets, has hired Netcom On-Line Communication Services Inc. of San Jose, Calif., as an Internet service provider for the bank and its 500,000 customers.
Customers who connect to the Internet through Sovereign will pay $5 for the first month and $19.95 for following months, with unlimited access time.
"We thought that this would be a one-stop solution for our customers," said Marshall Kern, Sovereign Bank's "Webmaster," or custodian of its World Wide Web site.
By joining forces with Netcom, Sovereign has become one of the first major financial institutions to form a strategic partnership with an Internet service provider.
Netcom is providing its software - which incorporates the Netscape 2.0 browser - and Sovereign is in charge of the content for its Web site.
"All we're really trying to do is provide another delivery channel for customers to interact with the bank," Mr. Kern said.
Sovereign introduced its Web site as well as the Internet access service at the bank's annual meeting on April 18.
The Web site is permeated by a kitchy ice cream sundae theme, telling customers that Sovereign offers "banking in your favorite flavor." The page with information about the bank's holding company, Sovereign Bancorp , features a picture of a banana.
"We're trying to keep our site interesting and light," Mr. Kern explained.
On a slightly heavier note, the site also offers a mortgage calculator and information about lending resources. Later this year, Sovereign will offer customers the ability to check balances and perform a few banking transactions on-line, Mr. Kern said.