Bank One launches Net-only business

The launch of WingspanBank.com--an independent entity--is unusual for a large bank.

Bank One today launched a separate Internet-only bank, an unusual strategy for a large bank.

With the long-rumored opening of WingspanBank.com, Bank One, the nation's fifth largest bank holding company, adds its name to the group of top-tier banks that are hip to the Net. However, unlike most other major banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase Manhattan, and Citibank, which are expanding their offline services online, Bank One is building a separate entity.

WingspanBank customers will be able to open checking accounts, pay bills online, apply for loans and credit cards from a single application, make and manage investments, and research mortgages and insurance.

Bank One, which has 70 million banking and credit card customers, is pursuing a multi-tier strategy, moving existing customers online via its recently re-launched Bankone.com site, while competing for new Internet customers with WingspanBank.com. The company also offers co-branded online financial services with Excite and America Online.

Recently online-only banks have become acquisition targets, as the lines blurs between banks and online brokers. E*Trade on June 1 bought Telebanc, and Royal Bank of Canada in October acquired the first Internet-only bank, Security First Network Bank.