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Dot bank: information you may need

There have been several questions raised by member banks about “dot bank” [.bank] and what it may mean. Here's a quick summary, with a caveat to begin to develop a “.bank” strategy as soon as you can. Do not wait until the last minute!

In 2008, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) considered and approved the idea of opening up the Internet for literally thousands of new Generic Top Level Domain (GTLD) names, for use by various kinds of businesses. (These are the letters to the right of the “dot,” like .com, .org, .gov. and so forth).

A coalition of banks, insurance companies and financial services trade associations (including ABA and ICBA) from around the world gathered together to form fTLD Registry Services, LLC, for the purpose of purchasing and operating two domain names: “.bank” and “.insurance”. In late 2014 fTLD was granted the right to operate ".bank", and in early 2015 the right to operate ".insurance" was approved.

ABA Task Force Involvement
OBA's President and CEO Roger Beverage was asked to be a part of a task force to enable the association world to get its arms around the idea of “.bank” and what it might mean for our member banks.

“Our biggest concern at the outset was developing a way to keep non-banks from gaining access to the Generic Top Level Domain (GTLD) '.bank', Beverage said. “The other side of that coin was to keep that identification exclusively for use by commercial banks.”

Beverage said the “.bank” domain [GTLD] will designate a protected, secure and identifiable space for banks around the globe and the customers they serve.

“Importantly, the '.bank' domain will have significantly enhanced security while opening up a much broader avenue for marketing and branding opportunities,” Beverage said. “It's not going to be without some cost, but I believe it will be minimal. The OBA is not involved in any of the revenue that flows from this process, primarily to help keep the cost down.”

June 24, 2015 is the date on which the “.bank” domain will be opened. Banks will be able to purchase their “.bank” domain on a first-come-first-served basis. If your bank has “.com” URL today, it is not automatically assured that it will retain that same address substituting “.bank” for “.com.”

Domains can be purchased only from registrars that have been approved by fTLD. Currently there are nine such registrars but more are expected to be created as this new GTLD opens up. (Registrars include Digital Brand Services, Lexsynergy, MarkMonitor, Domaintechnik.at, comlaude, Entorno, EnCirca, 101domain and NamesBeyond).

“The question I get first is usually what does it cost?” Beverage said. “I'm guessing a “.bank” domain will cost about $1,000 but it will depend ultimately on which registrar the bank chooses to use as well as other factors that may be added to the services purchased. fTLD only sets the fee it charges to the registrars to participate, and it's the same fee regardless.

“The next most-frequent question is how does this all fit together? The request for a domain name must go through fTLD and fTLD must approve any request. fTLD has outsourced the verification process of the applicant (you are who you say you are) to its Registry Verification Agent, Symantec, and Symantec makes a recommendation to fTLD on whether to approve an application.”

According to Beverage, Symantec is a global leader in security, backup and availability solutions. Verifications are required every two years or at each renewal, whichever comes first.

One of the things that can be done to prepare the bank's filing early on June 24 is to get the necessary information required to register a “.bank” domain. This information includes:

  • Legal name of the eligible registrant (the organization name);
  • Registrant contact name (Note: Registrant contact must be a full-time employee of the bank seeking to register its organizational name);
  • Registrant contact address (Street, City, State/Province/Region, Postal Code);
  • Registrant contact email address;
  • Registrant contact telephone number;
  • Government regulatory authority (if applicable); and
  • Regulatory ID number (if applicable).

To expedite the process it's important for any bank applicant to respond to any requests from Symantec as soon as is humanly possible.

If your bank has a trademark it may be able to get a jump on banks that do not have one. Only trademark holders who have registered their trademark with ICANN's Trademark Clearing House (TMCH) by May 10, 2015, may register domains during the advanced opening period.

“It's my understanding that the ICBA has entered into a relationship with a single Registrar – EnCirca – and member banks are entitled to some sort of a discount,” Beverage said. “I don't know the precise details, but it's something worth investigating.

“When we were first engaged in this effort, I was under the impression everyone was going to stick together and offer bankers a choice of registrars, in order to keep prices in line."

That's not what's playing out, however.

“I can't speak for either of the national trade organizations, but regardless of which path a bank chooses, it's important for the bank to get its ducks in a row before June 24, at a minimum,” Beverage said.

Click here to see frequently asked questions about fTLD and the “.bank” process.

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