Just a Click Away: NJBankers Launches New Web Site
By Timothy E. Doherty
Like so many other American technological milestones, the Internet can trace its origin back to the launch of Sputnik in 1957.
In response, the federal government formed the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to ensure that the United States would seize the lead in military science and technology and retain it.
In 1966, an MIT researcher laid out the concept for a nationwide “cooperative network of time-shared computers” called ARPANET, which went online three years later.
ARPANET gradually outgrew its initial purpose and eventually transformed itself by the late 1980s into a public wide area network (WAN) that we now know as the Internet.
Last June, the NJBankers board of trustees approved an ambitious, three-step plan that would finally put the association on the World Wide Web. One of the components involved replacing the association’s aging accounting system with a modern Microsoft Great Plains accounting package. The second component was replacement of the association’s limited homegrown Access database with a full-featured association management system called iMIS, used by thousands of associations worldwide and by 28 other state bankers associations.
Both of those programs, based on a Microsoft SQL Server platform, would interconnect and serve as the back office software for the NJBanker Web site. The ultimate goal of an association Web site was realized in early December, when www.njbankers.com went live.
AN INFORMATION PORTAL
NJBankers’ Web site is designed to be an exciting, timely and accurate portal to information about the New Jersey banking industry and the association itself. That is evident from the design of the site’s home page, which places the latest industry news and easy navigation to other information at your fingertips.
The most prominent feature of the home page is In the News, a constantly changing compilation of the day’s banking news headlines. Scoured from headlines and Web sites around the country, this news feed is assembled by and purchased from moreover.com, one of the Web’s leading Web site news content providers.
The service also allows NJBankers to add its own headlines and those of its member banks and affiliates to the news feed. As long as the news item appears on a web site somewhere, the link to that item can be pasted into the moreover.com feed. NJBankers used this feature extensively in January to post fourth quarter/year-end earnings releases from member banks. Members are encouraged to submit news for both the Web site and New Jersey Banker.
Another prominent feature of the Web site home page is a quick, at-a-glance scrolling list of upcoming NJBankers events. In the very near future, clicking on an event from this list will take visitors directly to the registration page for that event, where they will be able to register online. More on that later in this article.
If there is a red “X” in the upper left corner of this box instead of a scrolling list of events, site visitors will need to download the free Java Script program from http://www.java. com/en/index.jsp. It only takes a few minutes, and this small application will provide a more complete experience when viewing njbankers.com and other Web sites that use Java script.
Other prominent features on the home page include direct links to the American Bankers Association (ABA) in the lower right corner of the page and to the New Jersey Banker page on The Warren Group’s Web site.
WHAT’S ON THE MENUS?
Two menu bars on the home page help you navigate easily and find other features of the site. These menu bars also appear on all of the Web site pages and are consistent throughout the site, making it easy for you to return to the home page or go to a different page.
Some items on those menus are marked with an asterisk (*), indicating they are password protected and restricted to viewing by members only. Directions for obtaining a password appear later in this article.
The horizontal menu bar, located just under the pictures of New Jersey bankers “in action,” provides an easy way to return to the Web site home page from anywhere in the site simply by clicking on “Home.” To the right of Home are the About NJBA, Industry Info, Consumer Info, Site Map, and Contact NJBA menu headers. The items on these menus provide “big picture” information about the association and the industry.
Under About NJBA, there is a great deal of information about the association, starting with how to get to the NJBankers office. There is also a directory of officers, board members, staff and committees. Bulletins and legal advisories will soon be posted there, too. A media relations menu lists the association’s media contact and provides a link to downloadable portraits of NJBankers officers that reporters can use in stories when the officers are quoted in them.
Good statistical information is available under the Industry Info menu, all of it available without a login. A constantly growing list of links to banking-related Web sites is accessible from the Industry Links menu item. The Bank Holidays menu item takes you to a page listing state and federal banking holidays; direct links to the bank holiday pages of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia are also on that page.
FDIC market share data from June 30, 2003 — the latest date available — can be viewed by clicking on the Market Share menu item. The Banking Terms and Definitions menu item links to a wonderful feature on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Web site that explains the terminology of our industry from A to Z.
The Consumer Info menu needs to be expanded, but the one item that is listed on that menu is probably one of the most valuable tools NJBankers could provide consumers – how to find out what happened to a bank that is no longer in business under its own name. The association staff takes at least one phone call a week from a consumer that holds an old savings passbook from such a bank or has had such a bank come up as a lien holder in a title search. The Bank Search menu item links to a tremendous resource at the Federal Reserve National Information Center. Try it out for yourself. Enter the name of a bank that has disappeared from the New Jersey banking landscape and see what results from the search.
Rounding out the horizontal menu bar are the Site Map and Contact NJBA buttons. Clicking on the Site Map button will result in a display of the organizational outline of the Web site. The Contact NJBA button brings up a quick, easy way to submit a question or idea to the association via e-mail. Those e-mails come to me, and I route them to the appropriate NJBankers staff person for action.
THE VERTICAL VIEW
The menus on the vertical menu bar, found on the left side of the screen, offer access to very specific information about the association. There are currently four menus: Seminars & Events; Publications, Products & Services; Membership Info; and Government Relations.
The Seminars & Events menu leads to three choices offering detailed information about upcoming NJBankers educational opportunities. The Calendar of Events feature shows upcoming events in a month-by-month calendar format, whereas the List of Events is a chronological list of upcoming events along with a short description of each event. The last option on the Seminars & Events menu gives site visitors the opportunity to sign up for the Seminar Notification e-Mail List. Online event registration is not yet available, but will be soon.
A complete catalog of Publications & Products is available under the Publications, Products & Services menu. Additional information about other association services, particularly the insurance services provided by the NJBA Service Corp., will soon be available on this menu as well.
All of the directories on the Membership Info menu are password protected. Employees of member banks and affiliates may access a Bank Directory, an Endorsed Providers and Sponsoring Companies Directory or an Affiliate Directory from the appropriate submenus.
The government relations section of the Web site, accessed from the Government Relations menu, will be greatly expanded in the near future. Currently a direct link to the New Jersey Legislature site is available. Legal questions from members can be posed to NJBankers Counsel using the Ask NJBA Counsel feature.
MEMBERS ONLY ACCESS
Why does njbankers.com have members only content? There are two reasons: NJBankers primarily wants to limit contact information to those who are members of the association to help them interact with one another, such as those serving on a committee. Committee membership lists, accessed under the About NJBA menu on the horizontal menu bar, are always up-to-date since the data is pulled directly from NJBankers’ iMIS database. This is a major improvement over a directory that is printed annually.
Secondarily, the association believes, to paraphrase a certain credit card commercial, that “membership has its benefits.” We believe that certain information is a benefit of membership. If a member company wants to market products or services to other members, we are happy to assist by providing contact information.
Obtaining a login name and password is very easy. Simply use the Contact NJBA feature of the Web site on the far right side of the horizontal menu bar to request access to the site. Such requests are usually processed within a few hours.
COMING SOON – ONLINE EVENT REGISTRATION AND PURCHASES
Having a login name and password will be useful for visitors when the next major phase of the NJBankers Web site is launched – online event registration and product purchases. NJBankers will soon accept credit card payments for events and products on its Web site. Prior to registering for an event or purchasing a product, site visitors will be required to log in. The login ties the registrant or purchaser to their record in the iMIS database, simplifying the registration or purchasing process.
Anyone registering or purchasing that does not have an existing database record establishs one at the time of the transaction so they can be set up to use the site in the future. Through this process, employees of member banks and companies will also get full access to the Web site.
Transactions conducted on the njbankers.com Web site will be secured by VeriSign. Credit card payments will be passed directly from the site and deposited appropriately.
The net result of this use of technology is a smoother registration or purchase experience for Web site visitors and greater efficiency and accuracy for the NJBankers staff when processing registrations and purchases.
HOW TO MAKE NJBANKERS.COM YOUR HOME PAGE
With all these resources, you can make www.njbankers.com your Internet browser home page. It’s easy to do. Start by directing your browser to the Web site.
If you are using Internet Explorer as your browser, pull down the Tools menu and select Internet Options. At the top of the dialog box that appears is the Home Page section. Be sure that the www.njbankers.com home page is displayed on your screen, and then click on the Current Page button.
If Netscape Navigator is your browser, pull down the Edit menu and select Preferences. In the dialog box that pops up, you should see a section in the middle called Home Page. Again, be sure that the www.njbankers.com home page is displayed on your screen, and then click on the Use Current Page button.
That is all there is to it. Now, every time you open up your browser, it will automatically take you to the NJBankers Web site for the latest banking industry news and many other resources.
Njbankers.com is a great new resource for members of the New Jersey banking industry. We invite you to take full advantage of it. At your convenience you are welcomed to contact me at my e-mail address below with your suggestions to further develop and improve the site.
Timothy E. Doherty is vice president and director of communications for the New Jersey Bankers Association. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.