Online Bank Aimed at Truck Driver Debuts

FRAMINGHAM (08/11/2000) - In a move that continued a trend in which online banks are targeting narrow groups of customers, Irvine, Calif.-based National InterBank this week launched an Internet-based banking service for truck drivers who want to process financial transactions from the cabs of their rigs.

National InterBank announced the online banking capabilities in conjunction with PNV Inc., a Coral Springs, Fla.-based company that operates a fee-based Web site aimed at truckers. Called PNV Personal Banker, the new service will offer checking and savings accounts and enable users of the Web site to pay bills, transfer funds and conduct other banking business online, the two companies said. PNV members also will be eligible for credit and debit cards issued by National InterBank.

In a statement, Ronald Hynes, vice president of strategic partnerships at National InterBank, said truck drivers and their family members "represent an ideal demographic for online banking" because they spend so much time away from home.

Services such as PNV Personal Banker "can make a lot of sense" for both the companies that provide them and their customers, agreed Richard Bell, an online banking analyst at TowerGroup in Needham, Mass. In this case, truckers "are on the road, not at home and probably not near a [bank] branch," Bell said. "And most of those guys are sitting on a quarter of a million dollars worth of truck, so they either have money or owe money." The move is the latest in a trend that has online banks seeking co-branding deals with other companies in order to attract customers, Bell added. Online banks "are scratching around trying to acquire customers at low cost with affiliations of one sort or another," he said. "Whether it's truck drivers or the gay and lesbian community -- fill in the blank." Earlier this year, for example, VirtualBank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of 1stVirtual Inc. in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., began offering a co-branded "house bank" to high-tech employers. Compaq Computer Corp. and EMC Corp. are among the customers that have signed up with VirtualBank thus far.

Online banks also have been busy making deals with online brokerages. The latest example came last week, when Alpharetta, Ga.-based NetBank Inc. announced an agreement to offer banking services to customers of Ameritrade Holding Corp. in Atlanta.

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