When ICANN paved the way for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs), a group of banks and financial service trade associations formed fTLD Registry Services to run a new .bank gTLD.

The new .bank domain debuted last year and was billed as “a trusted, verified, more secure and easily identifiable location on the Internet for the global banking community and the customers it serves.”

Only verified banks and savings associations are permitted to register .bank domains, and registrants are required to adhere to “enhanced security” requirements, such as the use of strong encryption.

So how is .bank doing?

According to Bloomberg Law, 2,883 banks have registered nearly 6,000 .bank domains since the gTLD went live in mid-2015. 

fTLD Registry Services’ Craig Schwartz says that that amounts to ”a slightly better than 40% market penetration of banks that have bought .bank domain names” in the US.

Adoption versus use

Schwartz says that of the banks that have registered .bank domains, “a couple of hundred” have actually migrated to use a .bank domain.

One such bank is Lead Bank, a three-branch bank located in Missouri, which migrated its website from leadbankonline.com to lead.bank.

Lead Bank’s marketing director, Melissa Beltrame, explained the rationale to Bloomberg Law’s Paul Shukovsky:

.bank allows differentiation of the bank from a branding perspective, a strategic perspective and a technology perspective. It’s the market perception that community banks lag and have less technology than national banks.

It’s to our advantage to adopt .bank, which helps us to start changing that perception.

Beltrame indicated that there were concerns about the effects the migration might have on the bank’s brand equity, but that “clients understood why we were making the migration and came right along with that.”

She did not comment on any SEO effects.

Despite the fact banks have been slow to put .bank domains into real-world use, fTLD Registry Services’ Schwartz is confident that other banks will follow Lead Bank’s lead and believes 2017 will be a “tipping point.”

In an effort to speed the process, Schwartz says his organization is working with banks to assist them with migration plans. 

Low recognition of new TLDs a challenge despite security concerns

With hacking and identity theft on the rise, the security value proposition of the .bank gTLD is obvious.

But banks considering a switch from .com to .bank will have to contend with comparatively low recognition of new gTLDs.

While recognition is up in 2016 versus 2015, awareness in North America is still well under 50% according to ICANN’s latest study, a far cry from the 95% awareness of .com. 

What’s more, despite increased awareness, reported visits to new gTLDs have actually declined in the past year.

Large banks like Barclays, which actually has its own brand TLDs, .barclays and .barclaycard, might be able to overcome the recognition challenge.

But expect smaller institutions, which don’t have huge marketing budgets and may lack the technical expertise needed to ensure their website migrations go smoothly, to take a wait and see approach.