Here we go again!

Can you believe mailings are about to get even more expensive in 2014? Regulators approved a temporary price hike of 3 cents for a first class stamp, bringing the charge to 49 cents a letter in an effort to help the U.S. Postal Service recover from severe mail decreases brought on by the 2008 economic downturn.

What’s even harder to believe is that very few credit unions focus on efforts to ditch the paper and move members to electronic documents as a way to save money or grow capital. When was the last time an eStatement adoption promotion was run in your CU? I know that in this world of millions, billions and trillions of dollars, saving pennies is not “sexy,” but consider this:

  • If you mail 100,000 statements a month, the 8.7 percent rise in postage will DRAIN $36,000 of your credit union’s capital every 12 months.
  • On the other hand, if you sign up just a third of 100,000 members receiving paper statements for eStatements, you’ll save about 60 cents per month each – and ADD $216,000 to your credit union’s capital every 12 months.

Need another New Years resolution?

How about “stop paying your members’ money to the U.S. Post Office altogether? On January 26, every statement you put in the mail is going to cost you more. Given the growing number of consumers who rely on digital devices to conduct their daily business – following the news, shopping online, paying bills, communicating with family and friends – the timing to focus on eStatements is spot on. Today, a record number of people prefer (and most expect) the convenience, ease and speed of new technologies. eStatements offer all three.

Room to grow

A Forrester Research survey released last month found that while eStatement adoption rates continue to trend upward for checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and loans, overall paperless adoption is still below 50 percent for all these products. Why? Even retail stores are going paperless and emailing receipts to their customers.

According to the Forrester survey, 48 percent of consumers haven’t made the change because they want paper versions for their records, 29 percent because they are used to paper and see no reason to change, and 26 percent because they aren’tt required to make the switch. Further, some financial institutions haven’t made eStatements a priority in light of other issues needing attention, such as loan growth, regulatory compliance and remote-banking features.

Steps to progress

For nearly 14 years, DigitalMailer has offered eStatement services to credit unions nationwide – and has helped them achieve above average adoption rates. We’ve seen a lot of progress … but there’s still room for a lot more. Here are some ideas the Forrester report offered to help financial institutions boost eStatement adoption:

  • Make online statements the default option.

Reg. E requires members to be given the choice between paper and electronic statements, but it doesn’t dictate which default option to use. With consumers now leaning more toward all things online, it’s likely most members would welcome the change. Just be sure to include the proper Reg. E disclosures and opt-out capabilities.

  • Add a charge for those who still want paper.

While charging fees is not the typical response of most credit unions, Forrester states some larger banks like PNC, Citizens Bank and U.S. Bank have gone this route. As a result, they have seen growth in eStatement adoption rates through this basic behavior modification. We’ve seen some of our clients charge a fee equivalent to the paper and mailing costs, while a few see this as a non-interest income opportunity.

  • Feature eStatements more prominently within a secure website for easier retrieval.

By highlighting security features and making eStatements easier to access and view, members are more likely to be open and use them. For years, consumers have found it convenient to open a paper statement received in the mail; make opening an eStatement just as simple.

One More Tip to succeed

Our own research of eStatement users suggests an additional tip to build eStatement adoption:

  • Include eStatements in your marketing programs.

Create marketing messages that remind members of the many benefits and savings associated with using eStatements. Make it simple to switch by including features such as a prominent sign-up link on the website homepage or a one-click enrollment option. If you need additional guidance on getting the program up and running, consider working with an eStatement provider.

As the New Year settles in, credit unions nationwide are revisiting priorities and establishing new goals. Consider eStatement adoption as your resolution for 2014. It’s a simple, cost-effective and well-timed strategy that can result in a positive impact to the bottom line and member convenience.

May you have a prosperous—and paper-free – 2014!

Ron Daly

Ron Daly

Ron Daly is the president and CEO of Virtual StrongBox, a secure, end-to-end member engagement platform that can be integrated into various workflow processes to provide high-risk Enterprise IT firms ... Web: Details