Originally created 03/10/02

Virtually no users of virtual safe deposit boxes



Online safe deposit boxes were being billed just a year ago as the latest, greatest financial offering in cyberspace.

For as little as $2.50 a month, customers were told, they could store a digital copy of financial records, insurance papers, house deeds, tax returns, wills, photos and other documents inside their own electronic box. No more trooping to the bank to dig through old papers stored in clunky metal boxes.

Problem is, people apparently prefer those clunky metal boxes. Whether because of concerns about online security, poor marketing or a weak idea from the start, cyber safe deposit boxes are fizzling.

Consider BankAtlantic of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which trumpeted itself in a news release in May as the first Florida bank to offer an online safe deposit box. No such release went out again when the bank decided to drop the product. Bank spokeswoman Sharon Lyn was tight-lipped about the reasons, but her bank is hardly alone.

FleetBoston Financial Corp. recently said it was getting rid of its online safe deposit offering, called fileTrust, because of lack of interest.

Ditto the online NetBank, which began offering online deposit boxes in 1999. The company did not say how many customers signed up but in an interview with trade publication American Banker last week, NetBank president D.R. Grimes acknowledged it was a case of more hype than reality. "It just never caught on," he said.