July 10 2017

FAQs about .BANK Domains

dot bank domainYour institution may already have one or more .BANK domains or you may be thinking about whether it makes sense for your bank to register a .BANK domain. As of March 2017, more than 2,400 U.S. banks and savings associations had registered nearly 4,900 dot-bank domain names, and more than 300 are in use.1 Many institutions are developing plans around when and how to put these domains to use but there are many aspects to consider before taking the plunge. Learn more about the unique features and requirements of this top-level domain so that you can develop the right plan for your institution.

What is a “dot-bank” domain?

Today, most commercial entities in the U.S. use a web address ending in .COM or .NET.  A financial services industry coalition, fTLD Registry Services, LLC (fTLD) received approval in 2014 to distribute .BANK domains. This new top-level domain (tld) was introduced to more immediately identify Bank websites for the global banking community and their customers.

Are banks the only institutions that can purchase one?

For the most part, yes, banks are exclusively allowed to purchase a .BANK tld. Banks, savings associations and certain trade associations, service providers and government regulators can register .BANK domains.3  A rigorous process exists to ensure only legitimate banks and savings institutions and select others can register for a .BANK domain. It’s handled by Symantec Corporation, and re-verification occurs every two years.
 
Credit unions and credit associations in the U.S. are not eligible to purchase a .BANK domain, but a .CREDITUNION tld is now available from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

What is the point of a .BANK domain?

The primary benefit of a .BANK domain is to provide security and confidence for your customers, assuring improved protection from fraud. These are accomplished via two important .BANK implementation requirements:

  1. The process required to get and keep a .BANK domain makes it really difficult for a “bad actor” to masquerade as a real bank online.

  2. All email sent from a .BANK domain requires security measures that will make phishing and spoofing scams targeting their customers far less likely to be successful.

How will customers know these technical measures provide security and confidence?

  • Customers will be assured through strong communications from financial institutions using a .BANK domain.

  • Customers will come to expect a .BANK tld when enough banks begin using these as primary domains for their websites.

Is it difficult to implement a .BANK domain?

That depends on several factors specific to your institution. Core processors, online banking providers and other third-party vendors must be able to support .BANK domains from a technical perspective. SSL certificates, hosting requirements, DNS settings for domains, email server settings and third-party email services are likely impacted during the conversion process. System administrators will need to know the implementation process for .BANK domains and collaborate with these key partners to ensure a smooth site and email integration.

Many financial institutions that have already converted have shared their success stories and some challenges encountered along the way. Highlights include:

  • Start planning early.

  • Make sure that IT and marketing teams are represented, however small your working group, since close coordination will be required.

  • Identify the contact details of all third parties involved to avoid snags during the conversion process.

  • Incorporate re-branding and/or redesigning the institution’s website as part of the conversion, if that is already on your to-do list.

Can’t the .BANK domain just point to our regular website, giving the benefit of .BANK without the conversion?

Pointing the .BANK domain to your existing URL can be done without the conversion, but doesn’t necessarily save any time or effort. The .BANK domain can get redirected appropriately to your .com or .net website, but don’t assume the task list is much shorter. Here are some considerations:

  • The security requirements for hosting, SSL certificates and other details are just as stringent for a .COM website receiving traffic from a redirected .BANK domain.

  • If your website is using an older content management system (CMS) or no CMS, it’s very likely the website won’t be able to meet and support the security requirements of a .BANK domain.

  • Moving to or upgrading a CMS system may also require or invite a website redesign. Since many banks are already considering a website redesign to make their site responsive, improve inbound marketing appeal and/or become ADA compliant, the timing might just be right for your institution anyway.

What’s the impact of a .BANK conversion to our email?

Switching to a .BANK domain will require customer correspondence to ensure that they are fully informed, understand the enhanced security and feel increased confidence. It’s important to plan for email and related communications as part of a .BANK domain transition. If email communications to your customers have been on the back burner, because of phishing or spoofing concerns, this presents another reason to move it to the forefront.

Converting to .BANK requirements for your email opens up one of the most tried and true marketing tactics available. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do transactional items like emailed receipts use different vendors than different business units such as retail banking and investments? Take inventory of the systems used to send email today. Consolidation may not be necessary, but you’ll need those details and contacts for the technical requirements.

  • Do we have other email communication needs that can dovetail with this conversion? While these wouldn’t be required for the .BANK transition, the goal is to ensure your customers know that emails coming from your .BANK domain are credible. If your current emails require a magnifying glass to read them on a smartphone, this may be the time the revisit them.

While we’re planning internally, what can be done to prepare our customers, and to ensure we get the most benefits from converting to .BANK?

Once you have the approval of your bank’s key stakeholders to pursue a .BANK domain, it is essential to plan your communication strategy to realize a return on investment from your customer base. The following are some practical tips to ease the transition:

  • Start growing your in-house email list. This requires some planning and often updates to your website or to branch procedures on asking customers if they’d like to receive communications from the bank via email.

  • Develop a plan to persuade your customers who bank online to update outdated browsers. Really old versions have many security flaws and some won’t work with a .BANK site. Your SEO agency or web development shop can help you identify how big of an issue this is for your customers.

  • Ensure your institution does a good job of telling your customers, your communities and your overall market about the benefits of .BANK. Summarize the security benefits, including in flyers, a blog article, statement promos, a dedicated landing page, social media posts and other marketing tactics. Employee training and local media outreach are important components, as many banks begin communicating the transition prior to the public launch of the .BANK domain.

  • Consider adding pay-per-click campaigns to support key products during the conversion. If the .BANK domain needs some time to gain the same organic search traction, you won’t miss out on driving visitors to your site from search engines.

Is .BANK achievable for community banks that lack the budgets of larger institutions?

It’s not just the big banks that are converting to .BANK domains. In fact, community banks are embracing .BANK domains, and many have contributed success stories shared by fTLD. The smallest converted bank reported assets of $110 million, while most banks reported average assets of more than $900 million.  Below are just a few reasons that smaller banks are embracing the switch:

  • A .BANK domain offers the opportunity to stand out from larger competitors, thanks to the security and confidence measures.

  • A .BANK domain sometimes presents an opportunity to use a domain name that’s more memorable than the one they had.

  • Changing domains gives a great reason to reach out to customers via email and other channels, helping them understand the importance of these improvements. Helping consumers protect themselves digitally is its own education process, and financial institutions are now in a good position to become trusted thought leaders for their communities and their customers.

What should we do if we’re not ready to switch to .BANK?

If your institution has already registered a .BANK domain, absolutely consider keeping it while you sort things out internally. The renewal rate for these domains is 89-94%.4  This means another institution is likely to snap up any domains that lapse, leaving a small likelihood of later re-registering a .BANK domain you really like.
Read up on considerations of community banks and other resources that help identify costs. There’s no deadline or requirement to start using your .BANK domain, unless your institution has been notified of special timing needs. These are primarily institutions who received early consideration for a .BANK domain based on existing registered trademarks and other criteria.

What resources should we leverage if we are ready to use .BANK, but need some help?

Committing to .BANK is the first crucial step. Thankfully, there is plenty of support available to assist your bank throughout the process. These are some valuable resources that can help you make the switch:

  • fTLD offers guides for executives, technical staff and communications staff.

  • Web design and development shops with expertise in the financial services space. They may also provide website hosting services.

  • Core processor representatives and other types of vendors mentioned in this article.

  • Digital strategy agencies who routinely work with financial institutions.

.BANK on the future

While your bank may not be required to implement a .BANK domain at the moment, it is prudent to plan accordingly now. Securing your bank’s .BANK domain today is the first step. Next, familiarize yourself with the benefits of switching your site and email to the .BANK tld. Strategize for success with the right plan, people, process in place, budgeting time and resources properly. Get the right players involved, including board members, marketing professionals and IT support. If your bank needs assistance, seek out assistance from third-party resources or a digital agency versed in the .BANK implementation.  Then, once your site and email is effectively in transition to .BANK, communicate the security and confidence advantages to your customers on your timeline. If you take the right steps sooner than later, transitioning to the .BANK domain can be a proactive measure with recognizable benefits for your bank and its customers.
 
Sources

  1. Craig Schwartz, managing director fTLD Registry Services, personal communication, April 27, 2017, as cited by Kenneth J. Benton, “Considerations for Banks Thinking About Migrating to a Dot-Bank Domain Name,” Community Banking Connections, Early 2017 edition.

  2. fTLD Registry Services, LLC, n.d., https://www.register.bank/about/ (July 10, 2017).

  3. fTLD Registry Services, LLC, n.d., https://www.register.bank/eligibility/ (July 10, 2017).

  4. Paul Shukovksy, “Banks Flock to New .bank Domains for Security, Branding,” Bloomberg BNA, August 16, 2016,  https://www.bna.com/banks-flock-newbank-n73014446420 (July 10, 2017).

 
 

  • Banks
  • Regs & Legislation

posted by
Teresa Foreman
Teresa Foreman

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide.
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