The gay population got lots of attention from Internet banks this week.
G&L Internet Bank of Pensacola, Fla., opened on Monday, National Coming Out Day, offering gays and lesbians deposit accounts, small-business loans, and home mortgages.
Also this week, Gay Financial Network, an on-line portal of news and financial services aimed at the estimated 21 million gays and lesbians, began providing banking services through Telebanc Financial Corp. on a co-branded site called "GFN Online Banking Center powered by Telebank."
Telebanc Financial is the parent of the virtual bank Telebank of Arlington, Va.
Traditional banks view the gay and lesbian community as "risky and controversial," said Steven K. Dunlop, founder of G&L. This niche bank perceives "an untapped customer base."
Gays and lesbians spend $800 billion a year, Mr. Dunlop said. According to Computer Economics, the number of gays and lesbians on the Internet is expected to jump from 9.2 million today to 17.1 million by 2005.
G&L will tailor financial services to the needs of their members to counter what G. Kay Griffith, the chairwoman, president, and chief executive officer, called "rampant homophobia in the banking industry."
For example, at G&L, same-gender couples can use joint income to qualify for mortgages or loans.
Telebank is offering GFN Center customers the option of having the names of both same-sex partners printed on checks.
Mr. Dunlop said G&L also is committed to giving financial aid to various programs that support the gay and lesbian community, such as one that provides medication to children and adults with HIV.
Jeffrey L. Newman, president and chief operating officer of Gay Financial, said the private company selected Telebank because it had no "gay tax." Other banks proposed credit cards with "ridiculously high" interest rates, for example.
The Gay Financial portal has attracted 100,000 customers in its first few months of operation and with limited advertising, Mr. Newman said.
It has just hired a New York-based advertising agency and plans to spend more than $1 million on a six-month campaign.
According to Simmons Market Research Bureau, 89% of gay men and lesbians say they are more likely to buy a product if the advertising is targeted to them.
Telebank is prevented by its agreement with Gay Financial Network from providing banking services to other gay-oriented organizations for one year. Though Gay Financial can do business with other banks, Mr. Newman said the company does not plan to do so.
GFN plans to offer insurance and retail networks, an expanded mortgage area, mutual funds, and affinity credit card relationships, Mr. Newman said. It already offers on-line trading through U.S. Clearing, a division of Fleet Securities Inc.; mortgages through GMAC Mortgage Corp.; and annuities through Conseco Inc.