Late to Market but Right on Time for Small Business
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Late to Market but Right on Time for Small Business

How do you introduce an online bank into a sector filled with competitors, at a time when online banking itself is under heavy fire for issues such as security, privacy and end-user acceptance?

Paul Holmes

How do you introduce an online bank into a sector filled with competitors, at a time when online banking itself is under heavy fire for issues such as security, privacy and end-user acceptance?  In the spring of 2000, was readying itself to enter this fray alongside industry leaders like Wingspan, NetBank and CompuBank – three heavyweights that had helped to raise the profile of online banking, but had faced considerable resistance in furthering business and consumer acceptance of online financial holdings and transactions. 
In short, confusion, contradiction and skepticism surrounded the entire sector, posing substantial issues to this relative newcomer.  On one hand, analyst firms like International Data Corporation saw a rapidly escalating demand for online banking services, predicting that 32 million U.S. households will bank online by 2004. In contrast, myriad other analysts and journalists spoke of consumers and businesses failing to adopt online banking due to the security and convenience pitfalls associated with banking online.
Faced with this environment, it was imperative for to immediately establish an identity that would differentiate itself not only as an entity responsive to its customer needs, but as a technology-savvy online financial institution ready to usher in the promised era of internet banking.
Based on e-commerce research conducted by Gartner Group, Inc., that pointed to the dramatic rise in the number of start-up or burgeoning new economy companies as well as proclaiming that the worldwide B2B market will grow from $145 billion in 1999 to $403 billion in 2000, and $953 billion in 2001, Ruder Finn helped identify a niche market for small business.
Ruder Finn established a uniquely own-able launch campaign, positioning as the bank catering to the needs of small businesses and new economy companies.  This was accomplished, in part, by capitalizing on’s ability to operate at Internet speed and offer true solutions for the small business customer.  After all, who better to address the needs of the emerging audience than the small business owners of
With the overarching goal of generating national media awareness and coverage, Ruder Finn faced several challenges in developing a launch program for  This included:
  • Crafting an identity that would separate from the other online banks.
  • Communicating the legitimacy of a “pure play” online bank vs. a “brick and mortar” bank with an online presence.
  • Educating potential end users of the safety, convenience and privacy of online banking.
  • Generating positive media attention during a period when the future of online banks was being questioned.
  • Build and maintain brand awareness and a specific identity for as the “bank for new economy businesses and small businesses.”
  • Convince end users, particularly small business owners, of the convenience and safety of banking online in order to grow’s customer base.
  • Position as a leading, one-stop online banking and financial institution.
Given the strong focus on small businesses, Ruder Finn devised a program balancing the needs of that audience with’s strengths, augmenting all activities with executive commentary on current industry issues.  This included:
  • Positioning as a new economy bank poised to assist new economy companies and small businesses at Internet speed vs. institutional banking speed.
  • Leveraging the banking problems small business owners face and showcasing how understands the needs of this particular market segment. 
  • Establishing credibility with thought leaders and opinion makers in the banking and technology arenas.
The company’s own tagline “It’s About Time” proved a self-fulfilling prophecy as Ruder Finn had six months to define and introduce the to a vast audience.  Ruder Finn immediately worked to:
Define the corporate identity and branding to reflect’s mission to become a new paradigm in online banking - not just a traditional bank migrating online, but a ‘pure play’ online bank striving to be the bank of choice for the Internet generation and small business owners.
Create a comprehensive press package and outreach plan to more than 400 outlets, including top daily newspapers, local business publications, wire services, national and major market broadcast programs, monthly and weekly general interest magazines and trade publications.
Plan and execute a launch event for over 300 guests comprised of bankers and media targeting potential users including small business owners, including: Richard Breeden, former Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Alice O’Rourke, Executive Director of the New York New Media Association, and press representatives from American Banker, Bank Advertising News, Bank Technology News, Silicon Alley Reporter,, Business Week, Cosmopolitan, Financial Net News, News USA, Redbook, Seventeen, Standard & Poor, The New York Post, VentureWire, Wall Street Reporter, Web Finance, Working Mother and YM.
Developed an analyst presentation and conducted media training
Ruder Finn’s successful outreach to industry thought leaders in banking and the analyst community reached more than 25 million in media impressions in a four-month window.  Specific results included:
Media coverage in such publications as ABC News Online, AllNetDevices, AlleyCat News, American Banker, Bankers Digest, Chicago Sun-Times, Clarion Star-Ledger (MS), CNN/fn, Financial Net News, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Global Wireless, Globe & Mail, Greensboro (NC) News & Record, Houston Chronicle, Industry Standard, Interactive Week, Los Angeles Times, Money, National Mortgage News, Orange County Register, San Antonio Business Journal, San Antonio Express-News, Small Business Opportunities, Stock Smart, Successful Officer Call Strategies, Toronto Financial Post, Unstrung Magazine, Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money, Westchester County Business Journal, Yahoo! Finance, Your Money, ZD Interactive Investor.
Secured analyst briefings with the Gartner Group and Gomez Advisors.  Currently listed as top online bank on scorecard.
Promoted, developed and coordinated a business luncheon presentation at India House, a leading Wall Street Lunch Club, for more than 65 India House guests, showcasing and CEO David Arzi.  Among the companies represented at the event were: American Express, Bank of Yokohama, Ltd., Depository Trust & Clearing and Corporation, Deutsche Bank, Downtown Alliance, and Ernst & Young, among others.
View Style:

Load 3 More
comments powered by Disqus