World Wide Web Sites with a Down-Home Focus

Article excerpt

Small banks may have found a way to use their size to advantage on the Internet.

Several of them are setting up World Wide Web sites with links to businesses in their areas, public institutions, and events listings.

The banks view these enhanced sites as a way to carry community loyalty over to the virtual world.

"They want to be seen as an information provider and a place to bring the community together," said Mary Smolenski, director of on-line services for the Independent Bankers Association of America. The Web sites are designed to underscore smaller institutions' ability to make "personal contact that might be lacking from the bigger banks."

People who live in the League City, Tex., area can learn what is happening by checking out "Diana's Calendar of Events" on the League City Bank and Trust Web site, w hich also includes information about the $87 million-asset institution.

Some two-thirds of the visitors to the eight-month-old site click to the calendar, said Diana Dornak, the bank's marketing vice president, whose face appears on the site's icon. Because she is the bank's representative to the area, residents know to call her to advertise events such as the Clear Lake Amateur Radio Club meeting or the Martyn Farm fall festival.

"It's something (competitors) don't have the capability to do, because we've been working in the community for years," Ms. Dornak said.

Some community banks mirror their community outreach efforts on their Internet pages. Some list programs they sponsor, but a few add extra touches.

State Bank and Trust Co. in Brookhaven, Miss., sponsors a page for schools to trumpet students' accomplishments every Thursday in the local newspaper. The bank has translated this program into the School Bytes section on the $117 million-asset bank's Web site, which launched in April.

School Bytes features homework tutorials and links to other sites such as an on-line encyclopedia and area colleges. Parents can check out the Parent Teacher Association home page, while children can find links to music, movie, and game sites.

Banks are also using their Internet initiatives to teach the community about the Web. League City residents who do not have access to the Internet from home can surf on a computer in the bank's lobby. …