Keeping tabs on the number of banks with sites on the World Wide Web is a bit like tracking the number of cable channels or following the national debt. By the time you've finished counting, the thing has grown again.
Most Internet watchers estimate that there are now more than 400 North American banks with Internet presences. And the number of nonbank financial-services companies on the network has grown so fast it has outstripped experts' cataloguing attempts.
Recently, in Pennsylvania, National Penn Bank of Boyertown finished building its first Web site, and CoreStates Financial Corp. of Philadelphia added enhancements to what had been a bare-bones site.
UMB Bank of Kansas City, Mo., which bills itself as one of the first Midwest-based financial institutions to stake a claim in cyberspace, has introduced a service it calls Branchnet, through which it plans to build Web sites for any of its 1,200 correspondent community banks that would request one.
Not to be left behind, bank-related government agencies are getting into the act.
While some banks pepper their Web sites with humor - Sovereign Bank of Reading, Pa., uses a banana-split theme, and the Savings Bank of Rockville, Conn., features a raccoon named Rocky- government sites tend to be fairly straight-laced. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's site includes a survey on manufacturing in the Southeast, while the Connecticut Department of Banking offers lists of mortgage lenders, consumer collection agencies, and debt adjusters.
The New York Federal Reserve Bank has recently added a new feature: ratings of Community Reinvestment Act examinations for state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal Reserve.
Among other nonbank entries: Olsen & Associates of Zurich has a Web site intended to help institutions measure the market risk of their investment portfolios; Home Financial Network of Westport, Conn., has put up information about the home banking market, and CMP Publications Inc. of Manhasset, N.Y., has launched Techinvestor, which tracks high-technology stocks.