The end of January should be a little less taxing for Star One Credit Union from now on, thanks to some outsourced automation technology.
The $5.5 billion credit union in Sunnyvale, Calif., used a document portal solution from Xpress Data Inc. of San Diego to offer electronic tax forms for the first time this year in addition to mailing paper forms to all members.
Next year, Star One members who have opted to receive electronic notices will receive only an electronic tax form, and the rest will receive only paper forms.
Star One began using XDI's XpressNotice service in the fourth quarter of 2008 to send out overdraft notices, late charges and billing coupons, among other things, according to the credit union's Web services manager, Fred Shuherk.
Members sign up for the electronic notice service using a single sign-on through the credit union's online banking site driven by Intuit Financial Services. They can then choose to receive e-mails or text messages indicating that they have a document waiting for them online.
Behind the screen, according to XDI CEO Mike Cooper, it works like this: "The online banking program passes an authentication token to our servers and we pass an XML snippet back to the home banking program telling it what we know about the member, ?such as whether there are any new or high- ?priority documents. We then send an e-mail invitation to view to the member and record whether we believe it was successfully delivered or if we got a bounce notification."
Based on that information, the credit union can decide what to do, potentially helping the member save face while it saves money. (For its part, Star One said it will soon provide e-alerts only, since paper overdraft notices are a courtesy and not required by law.)
Shuherk said electronic notices cost the credit union a dime, compared to 45 to 59 cents for paper notices. "And then there are also the speed and convenience factors, as members can go online to check balances, pay bills and get their tax notice, for instance, all at the same time," he added.
Another XDI customer, Nevada Federal Credit Union, is seeing similar savings. Chief
information officer Chuck McCluer said he appreciates the system's ability to distinguish between online and non-online members and deliver either paper or electronic notices accordingly.
"Taking these manual processes out of the credit union and having them done by a company where it's their core competency has really worked well for us," he said.
Star One and Nevada Federal are two of 113 credit unions now using XDI's services, Cooper said. The company began operating in 1995 as a print specialist and said it is now the only operation in the country that focuses on print and electronic delivery of notices and other event-driven correspondence strictly for credit unions.
Depending on the nature of the document, Cooper said XDI's customers generally see a 50% to 80% reduction in costs for electronic vs. paper delivery and experience varying view rates for the documents that are electronically delivered.
"View rates on routine statements are typically single digit but when you look at those that the credit union has classified to the member as high priority, we see view rates go to 40 to 60 to even 80 percent," he said. The credit union also can choose to mail a notice after a set amount of time, say three days, if the document is not viewed, he said.
Other options the portal platform provides include messaging without an invitation to view an underlying document, enabling such activities as validating e-mail addresses.
"We have one credit union that does this with about 10% of their members every month," Cooper said. "We report back to them about successive failures and then facilitate follow-on actions, such as mailing a hard copy notice to [the members] asking them to contact the credit union about their e-mail address.
"Our best ideas come from our clients. In fact, our whole portal was designed after 100 interviews with nearly 60 credit unions across the country, all running on different cores and home banking platforms. We really designed this around their needs now and in the future."
he company's newest offering is a blast service that can be used to let members know via e-mail or text message whether they have opted to receive notices, tax forms and statements electronically.
More and more members are expected to opt exclusively for electronic delivery in the future, something XDI customers said they are already experiencing.
McCluer at Nevada Federal said his credit union enjoys a very high penetration rate for electronic services-66,000 of its 80,000 members get e-statements and 72,000 use home banking-and that he believes members appreciate getting notices electronically now as well.
Shuherk at Star One said his credit union's members have also responded well. In fact, some have "taken the time to thank us for the service, which is something you don't hear when people just get notices in the mail that they have an overdraft."
He also said the green aspect of expanded document delivery has garnered praise from his Northern California membership base.
"We have a lot of environmentally conscious members," he said. "We had one tell us, 'Way to go, Star One, for helping me save the planet.' I know it sounds funny, but that's a quote."