Battle of the Banks
In the past year, Bank of America has secured more than a few No. 1 positions. First, in early 2006 it purchased MBNA, making it the largest issuer of credit cards. Next, it acquired U.S. Trust from Schwab, garnering the title of largest private bank in the United States. And then, just a month ago, it scored a victory that CEO Kenneth Lewis has been aiming for since taking the company’s reins in 2001: Bank of America passed rival Citigroup to become the largest U.S. bank based on market value. These developments have prompted financial expert Michael Sivy to predict that the Charlotte, N.C.-based behemoth soon will claim the market leader position as the largest U.S. bank—period.
As the nation’s first coast-to-coast banking operation, Bank of America has more than 5,700 retail banking offices and close to 17 million ATMs that serve more than 55 million consumer and small business customers. Numbering 20 million, its active online banking customer base is likely the largest of any financial services firm.
And it’s in the online realm that Bank of America will be fighting some of its next important battles, looking for more top positions to claim. While many banks have strengthened their Internet presence through online banking services, upgraded Web sites and online advertising, the traditional brands have been beaten to the search engine marketing (SEM) punch by newer, more online-savvy financial services firms. According to a February 2006 Bank Technology News article by Glen Fest, “Search Engines: Out of Banks’ Plain View,” market leaders frequently have been outperformed by aggressive smaller players, such as financial portals and operations that specialize in the sub-prime market, especially when it comes to head keywords like “mortgage” and “auto loans.”
But the tide is turning, and Bank of America is one of those big brands leading the charge. Check out Google or Yahoo! search results today, and you will see names like WaMu, Wachovia, Citibank and, yes, Bank of America in the top echelons of the paid and natural search results.