Small Business Banking on the Net

By SmallBusinessComputing.com Staff | Posted June 13, 2003

NetBank has launched a new online banking service designed specifically for smaller businesses. Self-employed professionals, service providers and other small business owners with limited cash-based transactions can reach out and touch their own dedicated banking manager.

In order to accommodate small business customers, NetBank's new online banking platform has been revamped to reach small businesses — what it considers to be an underserved market.

Douglas K. Freeman, NetBank chairman and chief executive officer, said the company's small business banking initiative is a natural extension of its current online services.

"We can provide tremendous value from both a customer service and pricing standpoint, and that's not something a large number of small business customers are finding today," Freeman said. "Our market research uncovered a high degree of dissatisfaction among small businesses over how their existing banking relationships were handled. In fact, 23 percent of small businesses with annual sales of more than $1 million said they have no key contact. Small business owners want high-quality service and dedicated contacts, and we can give it to them."

NetBank's service features for small businesses include:

  • Dedicated Relationship Managers: Each small business customer has their own banking relationship manager, reachable by phone or e-mail. Relationship managers will also make regular, proactive outbound contacts with each customer.

  • Dedicated Customer Care Unit: NetBank's small business customer service team acts as a "one-stop" contact for transactional needs. Representatives are trained to handle both the customer's small business and personal banking needs.

  • Enhanced Account Administration Features: NetBank's new banking platform allows customers to set up multiple account users and define authority levels for each user.

  • Online Bill Payment and Presentment: Small business customers can make 10 free payments per month and receive e-mail notifications when new electronic bills are posted to their account.

Initially, NetBank will offer small business customers deposit products such as checking, money market, and CD accounts, as well as business equipment leasing services. NetBank plans to introduce other banking services, such as credit cards and loans, later this year.

Leading NetBank's small business initiative is Bert Davis, director, Small Business Banking. Davis is a 23-year veteran of the financial services industry, with extensive experience in the personal and business banking segments for large, national institutions. Davis says NetBank has an opportunity to differentiate itself from current providers in the market.

"Our branchless model enables us to pass the cost savings to our customers in the form of lower fees and higher deposit rates," Davis said. "And the deployment of our new banking platform makes it even easier and more convenient to bank with us no matter where the small business is located."

NetBank had been averaging 150-plus inquiries per month from its existing customer base regarding small business banking services. One of those customers is Christopher Forsyth who owns Family Funtime, a wholesale provider of inflatable jumpers, slides and other play structures, and advertising and promotional products based in Evanston, Illinois. Forsyth took part in NetBank's pilot program in March and today has three small business accounts with the online banking service, in addition to his personal banking accounts.

"The application process was a snap," Forsyth said. "And I really appreciated how quickly I was contacted by a relationship manager and how helpful they were."

NetBank currently has $2.4 billion in deposits and serves customers in all 50 states and more than 20 foreign countries. Its full line of financial services is designed around the needs and lifestyles of its customers. Through a branchless business model, NetBank operates at a fraction of the cost of a traditional bank. Since its start in 1996, NetBank has passed its cost savings to customers through more competitive deposit rates and free account services, such as online bill payment. A complete listing of NetBank's services and associated fees can be found online.

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