Internet Start-Up in Alabama to Focus on Customer Service

Article excerpt, an Internet bank expected to open late this fall, says it plans to differentiate itself by emphasizing customer service.

Officials at Nexity Financial Corp. of Birmingham, Ala., said they would run core data processing and call center operations in-house to ensure customer satisfaction.

Like other entrants in the increasingly crowded Internet banking field, Nexity is aiming to distinguish its services.

Bank One's has taken a "best-of-breed" approach by offering products and services of competing financial institutions in addition to its own. Others, such as Sovereign Bancorp's planned 1st, are working to develop shrewd marketing ploys to attract customers.

Gregory Lee, Nexity's chairman and chief executive officer, said customer service will determine whether his bank reaches its goal of becoming the largest and most profitable Internet bank.

Internet banks have been hindered by their inability to respond quickly to the large numbers of interested customers, Mr. Lee said.

Ian Rubin, a senior analyst at Needham, Mass.-based Tower Group, agreed that customer service will be important on-line. "Sensitivity to customer satisfaction will really be a differentiation as Internet banking proliferates," he said.

Other Internet-only banks outsource data processing and call center operations. Net.Bank of Atlanta, for example, uses Bisys Group Inc. for core account processing and Customer Access Resources Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., for its call center. A Net.Bank spokeswoman said the bank turned to outsiders so it could better focus on core businesses.

Mr. Lee, who previously worked in Atlanta at Banker's Bank, a correspondent servicing institution for community banks, is building a team to address customer satisfaction. It includes Steven Jones, chief credit officer, who joined from Compass Bank, and Steven Powell, the chief operating officer, who for 11 years held the same title at Carolina First, the largest shareholder of Net. …