American Banker Outlines New gTLD Adoption Challenges, But One Bank Says It’s a "No Brainer"

Posted in: Domain Names at 14/11/2017 20:01

Adopting a new gTLD domain name, or even changing a domain name, is not without its challenges. There are costs for changing promotional materials as well as the transition of websites and email addresses for staff. And customer awareness of the change may not be so straightforward.

In an article in American Banker, it focusses on the challenges for .bank. The main bank featured, Farmers & Merchants State Bank in Archbold, Ohio, switched from a .com to .bank got a handful of phone calls wondering where there website had gone. One wonders if they did a redirect – the article doesn’t say.

There were also some customers that thought where a sentence ended with “.bank” in some promotional materials that “the last period was part of the web address, instead of perfect punctuation.”

“We had to rework the sentence,” J. Marty Filogamo, the bank's marketing manager, chuckling, told American Banker.

According to the article a few hundred institutions have made the transition to a .bank domain name, a new generic top level domain that became available in mid-2015.

According to the article, “as Filogamo sees it, the bank’s conversion — which also included changing employee emails — was worth the work because it sets the bank apart and will help assure customers the bank is what it said it is online. The subtle change, after all, is meant to convey credibility, much like a FDIC seal does.”

As Filogamo sees it, the bank’s conversion — which also included changing employee emails — was worth the work because it sets the bank apart and will help assure customers the bank is what it said it is online. The subtle change, after all, is meant to convey credibility, much like a FDIC seal does.

To be eligible for a .bank domain name, one has to be a verified financial institution, which is verified by the registry fTLD Registry Services and “its partner Symantec. The mandatory verification and re-verification of dot-bank domain registrations also requires those who switch to the extension to follow security safeguards, such as obtaining a digital identity certificate.”

There are a number of reasons that those that have registered a .bank domain haven’t started using it. According to nTLDstats.com there are currently around 2,900 registrants.

One that has registered a few .bank domain names is Mercantile Bank in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who “bought a few of the domains to lock down availability, but the innovative bank has no short-term plans to convert to a new address because of the marketing expense and concerns about customer impact.”

“I am not sure when and if we’ll do it,” John Schulte, Mercantile Bank’s chief information officer, said in an email to American Banker.

Shirley Inscoe, a senior analyst with the research firm Aite Group, told American Banker a number of bank execs are still evaluating whether to make the conversion. On one hand, the project has many potential benefits, including added security. On the other hand, the project requires training consumers on the significance of a visually subtle change, and even then, people could still fall victim to spoofing and phishing attacks coming from a dot-com address.

For other banks, converting the domain name may just be a matter of getting to it. Since dot-bank became available in 2015, Inscoe said, banks have been buried in major IT projects, such as EMV rollouts and faster payments. “It’s a prioritisation issue I think,” Inscoe said.

But fTLD is hoping this will change.

Drew Schiff, director of engagement services at fTLD, said in the article that early movers were motivated for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity to own a unique, shorter URL or strengthen security. Others who defensively grabbed domains have been waiting because of concerns about costs and time required on what Schiff describes as “perceived complexity.”

But in the last three to four months, Schiff said, there has been a substantial increase in interest from its registrants to complete their migration to .bank.

“It’s trending up and in the right direction and that’s what we want to see it,” said Craig Schwartz, managing director of fTLD Registry Services.

Farmers & Merchants viewed its .bank domain as an investment that would add one more layer of security as cyberthreats continue to soar.

“Bad guys are always looking for a way in,” said Mike Hess, the bank’s IT systems administrator.

So the bank tied its change to the new domain with the launch of its new website, which other banks have also done. Another to tie its move to a .bank domain was Lead Bank in Garden City, Mo.

The .bank domain was a way to help distinguish the community bank in a new market, Melissa Beltrame, director of marketing at Lead Bank, told American Banker. She also saw it as a way to boost Lead Bank’s security and prove that small banks aren’t tech laggards as some suggest. Beltrame likened her bank’s .bank investment to a flu shot — it may not stop everything, but it strengthens the bank’s defences.

One problem the bank faced was their emails with the new domain ending up in spam filters, which was fixed. But the bank didn’t lose SEO value and consumers weren’t confused. “If anything, it created a sense of curiosity,” she said. They also managed to shave a few characters off their original domain name.

The article concludes with Beltrame saying she realised bank silos may be one reason more banks haven’t converted domains, however she is perplexed that Lead Bank is still an early mover two years after flipping the switch.

“I can’t figure out why more banks don’t move to dot-bank,” she said. “It seems like a no-brainer.”

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