Banking on a branded domain

January 29, 2018

Last year was the 50th anniversary of the ATM. What is now ubiquitous and commonplace – even under threat in some places – was then a technological miracle. It was Barclays bank that opened that first ATM, confident that it was the future. Their reputation as industry-leading innovators has only continued in the half century that has followed: they are now one of the most prominent financial institutions using a branded domain to mark their place in the online world.

A branded domain – such as .barclays rather than barclays.com – is not merely about embracing change and utilising the advances in digital technological to improve service. This unique domain name gives a bank complete autonomy over their online space, able to manage their own sites and create domains to support marketing or outreach. Most importantly, the branded domain name is a serious step up in terms of security.

In these times of cyber breaches and attacks, customer data – and potentially money – is becoming increasingly vulnerable. Branded domains such as .barclays or .barclaycard can’t be spoofed in phishing attacks and help increase the security of sites that handle our life savings. At the same time as reducing risk, it will boost customer trust in the authenticity of the websites they interact with and reassures all involved that their money is safe. This can retain customers and potentially attract news ones – a constant priority for any bank.

With all this in mind, it is little surprise that banks represent the largest industry segment to register branded domains when the application process was last open in 2012. Barclays was joined by another innovator, Brazilian bank Bradesco, in applying for and securing a branded domain. The bank perhaps had customers already primed to embrace new technology to keep their cash safe after recently introducing an ATM biometric reading system to scan a customer’s hand to verify identity. Their new branded domain is prolific; www.banco.bradesco is the most popular domain name across all branded gTLDs.

BNP Paribas also deserves a mention for being the first bank with a branded domain to move transactions to their new site. This is a complicated process that involves a lot of back end support in addition to customer education about how and where to access their money. BNP Paribas invested in adwords to spread news of the changes and created a site, www.livingthechange.bnpparibas, to offer details to ease the transition process. The increase in security for their financial transactions they now enjoy could become a major selling point as customers continue to worry over the safety of banking online.

In total, 74 financial institutions have invested in a branded domain name and are using them in different ways beyond the security provision for strategic gains. There are language-specific sites for different countries and sites that direct users to the site they need immediately, speeding the customer journey. Bradesco uses this strategy, with sites such as www.custodia.bradesco [custody]. Some banks such as Barclays use the domains to more clearly link their corporate site to their social media channels, uniting all communication platforms to unify the business and offer coherency in their interactions with customers.

It seems likely that many more banks will even now be preparing to apply for their own branded domain when the next application window is opened by ICANN, likely in 2021. Digital autonomy and security will prove incredibly attractive, especially as 2017 saw some of the biggest cyber attacks in history and in 2016 Tesco Bank saw £2.5m taken from customer accounts. In this atmosphere of concern over security, investing in a branded domain could be a smart move for a bank. In the battle against cyber crime, every little helps.

Read more about branded domains here.