Online Bank Targets Newlyweds, Engaged Couples

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Pointpathbank.com's partnership with The Knot, an online wedding and gift registry, enters the realm of direct marketing this week when The Knot encloses calculators emblazoned with the company's Web site address to engaged couples who register at the wedding site. The effort is the start of a marketing effort in which the Internet bank is seeking to hitch itself to the 2.5 million American couples who get engaged each year.


The cyberbank, which is scheduled to begin operating in June, is looking to control its marketing costs by focusing on a single niche of consumers that it can easily target on the Web and through print advertising in bridal magazines. Pointpath, Columbus, GA, hopes to service these couples' financial needs throughout their lives by offering both financial content and an assortment of products ranging from basic banking services to insurance, mortgage financing and investment vehicles.


Blair Carnahan, director of business development at Pointpath, which is a division of diversified banking and financial services firm Synovus Financial Corp., also based in Columbus, GA, said the company examined some of the critical stages in consumers' lives and decided that engaged couples would be the prime beneficiaries of a diversified financial-products Web site.


"If you look at college, that's when people might look for a checking account or maybe a credit card, then you are single and you start to make some investments, then you get married," he said. "They are coming a little later in life, so they are coming with more money, with higher incomes, between the ages of 28 and 34, they are tech-savvy, not afraid of the Internet, and they are time-strained."


He said that all those characteristics create a profile of a customer that will benefit from having around-the-clock access to an array of financial services at their fingertips.


Pointpath is still in the process of finalizing its marketing plans and is awaiting regulatory approval on its bank charter from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The company selected ad agency Bayless Cronin, Atlanta, to create its advertising. A spokeswoman for the agency said it was too early to discuss the bank's marketing strategies.


The bank's multimillion-dollar partnership with Web site The Knot, New York, that is seeking to become an online destination providing content and services for engaged couples, will include financial planning advice on the wedding site sponsored by Pointpath.


"They've done a lot of work on their end to create content and an appealing storefront for our business, not just a banner ad," Carnahan said.


Pointpath also will seek out other wedding-related sites to partner with, according to Rob Ward, a spokesman for the Internet bank.


"We're looking at getting them through the door that way, and then serving them for their entire lives as they move through different financial decisions," he said. "One of the primary ways to reach these folks is through various affiliations with these wedding portals."


Pointpath started banner advertising on The Knot a few weeks ago and is one of the charter sponsors of The Knot Box, the wedding-planning kit that The Knot expects to mail to about 400,000 engaged couples this year, starting this week. The gift box will contain marketing materials from several Knot sponsors and is designed to drive people to the site to obtain more wedding-planning information.


The pocket-sized calculator Pointpath is enclosing bears the bank's Web site address and is wrapped in a cardboard foldout that directs recipients to www.pointpathbank.com.


Until the site begins operating, people who visit the site are being asked to register, and Carnahan said the site would contact them via e-mail when it launches.


"We decided this was a great way to stay in front of the couple even after they are married, because the calculator stays with them, hopefully," Carnahan said.


He said the bank has not yet determined how much it will spend on marketing, but he said the fact that the company is focusing on such a narrow niche will help it keep its marketing costs in check.


The company also hopes to distinguish itself from the increasingly competitive online banking field by offering 24-hour live customer service. Synovus is the 81 percent owner of a customer service call center provider called Total Solutions, which will provide phone and online support in what amounts to a semi-outsourced environment.


"They are located close by, so we will have much more of a presence in the call center," Carnahan said.
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