Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Keywords Banking, Financial information
The world of banking has become, like almost every other field, an online one. In today's E-commerce environment, businesses and institutions conduct their banking electronically, as part of standard operating procedures. Here are a handful of the best sites on the web to keep up-to-date on the contemporary banking scene.
Central and multilateral banking
The best place to start is with Mark Bernkopf's Central Banking Resource Center (http://www.patriot.net/users/bernkopf) which has been cited by the Wall Street Journal, MSN, and NetGuide as an excellent source for this topic. The highlight is a directory of central banks from Angola to Zimbabwe including all branches of the US Federal Reserve Bank, with links to web sites where applicable (Angola and the Fed - yes; Zimbabwe - no). Access is also provided to central bank research departments, mints, currency museums, banking associations, monetary research institutes, currency boards, and ministries of finance. Resources on the history of central banking and on general financial matters are also provided. Another good source for information on this subject is the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's Central Banking site (www.frbsf.org/system/index.html) which also includes the searchable Fed In Print: An Index to Federal Reserve Economic Research.
One of the interesting links on Bernkopf's site is the Joint Bank-Fund Library Network (http://jolis.worldbankimflib.org/external) which is the web address for the network of 14 World Bank and International Monetary Fund libraries. Their joint catalog, JOLIS, is available for searching.
The World Bank (http://www.worldbank.org) in addition to including information about its mission to alleviate poverty worldwide, provides a wealth of international data. There are statistics for countries and regions, indicator and sectoral data arranged by topic, environmental maps, and instructions on how best to use the data. Information is also provided on topics that may have a large impact on the success of World Bank investments: corruption, energy, gender, labor, laws, social development, transportation, water supply, and international economics. World Bank research and publications are also available. The site can be viewed in the English, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Russian languages.
Part of the World Bank Group is the International Finance Corporation, which promotes private sector investment in developing countries. On its web site ( http://www.ifc.org/), the IFC has regional and country fact sheets that detail investment financing information for the area with tables and graphs. Another useful resource on this site is the Emerging Markets Data Base, which is the world's leading source for information and indexes on stock markets in developing countries. The IFC began collecting data on emerging markets in 1981 for in-house use. In response to demand from the financial community for this data, IFC began offering the IFC indexes and underlying data. These indexes measure the day-to-day performance of developing stock markets. IFC calculates more than 225 indexes and provides an evaluation of emerging market performance. Indexes are calculated on regional, composite and individual country levels, and by industry.
Commercial banking and credit unions
On a more local sphere are the commercial banks that consumers and businesses make use of everyday. A place to begin is an online directory. CorpFiNet (http://www.corpfinet.com/bank_links.html) lists US commercial banks in two ways:
by state, and
They also rank the top 25 US banks by asset size. In addition, world banks are recorded by region, and the top ten in asset size are ordered separately. CorpFiNet offers a great deal more on its site: listings of investment banks, insurance firms, and mutual funds, as well as information on securities, markets, and finances.
BankSITE is another banking directory resource (http://www.banksite.com/index.html). US banks with web sites are listed by state, while world banks are listed by region. There is also information on investing, a place to order your credit report online, and an interest rate monitor. The rate monitor allows you to check the best interest rates available in your state for a variety of types of loans.
Qualistream lists commercial bank web sites, both in the US and in each region of the world, alphabetically ( http://www.qualistream.com/eng/index.html). They claim to cover 95 per cent of worldwide bank web sites and have a bank yellow pages database that is searchable by country, state, and whether a bank performs Internet banking. There are links to exchange rates, 105 worldwide markets, and a directory of over 6,000 financial servers. Not to mention the latest financial headlines. Qualistream also asserts that they are the world's largest online financial bookstore with over 1,000 book titles, plus periodicals and software.
A great interest rate monitor is the Bank Rate Monitor page (http://www.bankrate.com/brm/default.asp). The Bank Rate Monitor began as a banking newsletter in 1982 and migrated to the web in 1995. The monitor collects rate information on mortgages, credit cards, new and used auto loans, money market accounts and CDs, checking and ATM fees, home equity lines and loans, and online banking fees from 4,000 financial institutions in 120 markets in 50 states and Puerto Rico. Daily averages are posted on the variety of banking products previously noted, and all products and markets are searchable so that you can find the best rates available in your own community. Bankrate.com also provides financial data, research, and editorial information on non-investment financial products.
Credit unions are also easy to find on the web from a couple of different sites. Credit Union Land (http://wwwculand.com/index.shtml) tries to help individuals find a credit union to join and features a searchable index to enable you to search for credit unions in your area by zip code. Non-US sites are included. The site is also useful to credit union professionals with its plethora of links to credit union Internet resources. The credit union home page (http://www.cu.org/) does not list as many credit unions as CULand, but the database is searchable by city and state. Also provided is statistical data on credit unions, lists of national and international organizations, and features news and other links.
In addition to the CorpFiNet site mentioned earlier, a good source for investment banks on the web is put up by the University of Goettingen. Their investment banks page (http://www.wiso.gwdg.de/ifbg/bank_inv.html) also has links to stock markets, currency, and finances. In a parallel vein, Vfinance.com has an extensive listing of venture capital firms on their site (http://www.vfinance.com/ventcap.htm).
Funds transfer and other related resources
Credit cards are a major focus of banks. CardWeb.com (http://www.cardweb.com/homepage/) aims to give objective information to consumers seeking credit cards and reliable, strategic information to professionals involved in the credit card business. Consumers can search for cards offered to meet different criteria - poor credit, no fee and high limit, and so forth. There is also news and data aimed at both consumers and executives.
Electronic commerce itself depends on payment systems and security. The European Union's ACTS Project SEMPER (Secure Electronic Marketplace for Europe) has established a web page on this topic ( http://www.semper.org/sirene/outsideworld/ecommerce.html). Here you will find links to a range of payment systems and sites devoted to security and intellectual property rights and a site listing close to 100 payment mechanisms existing on the Internet: ( http://ganges.cs.tcd.ie/mepeirce/Project/oninternet.html).
An organization devoted to new technologies for payment systems is the Financial Services Technology Consortium (FSTC) who strive to enhance the competitiveness of the US financial services industry, including banks and other financial services providers. FSTC sponsors research and development on inter-bank technical projects affecting the entire financial services industry. FSTC's site (http://fstc.org/title.html) outlines projects involving authentication, electronic checking, and moving ATMs to the Internet.
With this worldwide electronic transfer of payment, you will still need to know the value of a dollar or pound or Euro. The universal currency converter (http://www.xe.net/ucc) provides a mechanism to do just that. Rates are updated almost every minute, and on the full site (http://www.xe/net/ucc/full.shtml) you can convert 180 currencies from over 250 geographical areas.
To bind it all together, Ohio State University established the WWW Virtual Finance Library (http://www.cob.ohio-state.edu/dept/fin/overview.html). Here you will find listings of banks, investment banks, exchanges, insurance companies, and stock quote sources. Market news is regularly updated as well. Of particular interest are the pages categorized according to user status. The page for educators includes online courses, textbooks and cases on the web, electronic learning materials, and market simulations. The page for researchers links to finance journals, working papers sites, research centers, financial institutions, and research software and data. There are also pages devoted to the interests of students, investors, and executives.
These are just a handful of the valuable web sites accessible in the evolving world of banking. As banking services continue to adapt to the electronic environment of the new millennium, the more our patrons and institutions will come to the web and make more of our fiscal choices just a click away.
Comments on this column are welcome and can be sent to email@example.com. Or visit my web page ( http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~maxymuk/home/home.html). Links to web sites referred to in this column can be found there.
John Maxymuk is a Reference Librarian at the Paul Robeson Library, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ, USA