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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Ron Daly has a lot of confidence in the future of electronic statements. Enough that he gave up his executive-level job to create a company specializing in the new service, which has gotten a boost in the year or so since federal regulators decided to allow credit union members to opt out of getting mailed monthly statements. Daly was chief financial officer at Northwest Federal Credit Union in Herndon, Va., and now is the founder of Digital Mailer (www.digitalmailer.com), which has signed up one client already – Northwest FCU – and has several others “test driving it,” Daly says. Daly has partnered with Northwest’s CUSO – Northwest Services Corp. – to use its servers and T3 lines to provide his company’s e-statement service. He’ll have plenty of competition as the major core processing vendors and other firms join the fray. The business of e-statements has just gotten under way. For instance, about six to 10 of the 400 credit unions served by USERS Inc. (www.users.com) have incorporated that company’s e-statement capability, says John Schooler, chief technology officer and senior vice president at the Valley Forge, Pa., core processor. The product has only been available for a few months, says Schooler, who expects that number to grow by 40 or 50 this year as the Fiserv subsidiary begins offering e-statements to its service-bureau clients. Cost savings and marketing opportunities abound, proponents of e-statements say. Northwest already is saving about $7,000 a month in postage alone with electronic delivery of statements and newsletters, says Joan Stroud, marketing manager of the $702 million, 56,000-member institution perhaps best known as the home credit union of the CIA. Stroud says about 6,500 members are now using the service, a pretty good number considering that’s done modem-to-modem with a dial-up connection. She expects that number to grow significantly after Web-based home banking is introduced in August. The credit union does, of course, have a Web site (www.northwestfcu.org), and Stroud is looking forward to increased usage of the site as a marketing tool. Northwest members visiting the e-statement site already have gotten a taste of that. Using MCIF files to target members who presumably had car loans elsewhere, the credit union put banner ads in front of 2,500 e-statement users in April. That netted 21 auto loans worth about $300,000, all moved over from other lenders, Stroud says. “We thought that was very impressive,” she says. The delivery comes in two basic flavors. Push technology means the information is e-mailed to the member as an attached document. A password is needed to open the encrypted file. Pull technology means the member goes to the credit union for the statement, generally through the Web site although some credit unions are using dial-up interfaces. Members are alerted by e-mail that their statement is ready. CUNA Credit Union (www.cunacu.org) in Madison, Wis., uses a combination of push and pull technology. The 41,000 members of the $210 million institution already can access their statements through the credit union’s ULTRADATA-powered home banking offering, and now they can also have their statements e-mailed to them through technology from Reed Data Inc. That service has been offered for about seven months and about 1,400 members have signed up so far, says Mary Cunningham, CUNA Credit Union’s president and CEO. “We wanted to offer our members a choice. We also wanted to build a database to do some push marketing on our own. When you send someone to the Web site, you miss out an opportunity to do some e-mail based marketing,” Cunningham says, adding: “We don’t send them spam. We only use that opportunity when we think there’s valuable consumer information we need to share with them.” Bret Weekes, CEO of Reed Data (www.reeddata.com), says many of his archiving company’s clients, especially smaller credit unions, like using the push technology because of its simplicity. “It’s one-way traffic,” he says. “They don’t have to have big glamorous networks and firewalls. It can be used on something as simple as a dialup connection to the Internet.” Weekes says about 25% of his company’s 350 clients have e-statement capability and that he expects that number to grow. Reed Data was a pioneer in the space, offering electronic statement delivery since 1998, along with delivery of tax statements, transaction slips “and about anything else you might find in the archives,” Weekes says. His company offers pull technology, too, but Weekes says it may be alone in the push space. CUNA, meanwhile, offers e-statement capability to users of its Internet banking solution from Texas-based FundsXpress but is talking to other vendors who can offer that capability as a separate module, says Doug Benzine, the trade group’s vice president for electronic commerce solutions. That’s part of the effort by CUNA, which now has 180 credit unions signed up for core Web development, to offer an “an ala carte choice” of technology products, including basic Internet service, home banking and virtual private networks. That eclectic approach to technology also is offered at USERS. “We have all combinations,” Schooler says. “We offer it as an ASP through our service bureau and standalone in-house. We have in-house clients who have chosen ASP home banking and e-statements, and service bureau clients who have chosen to manage their own web site and home banking and link back to us to host their data.” Reed Data and other providers are including marketing capabilities, including interactivity with MCIF files, in their electronic delivery programs. Other credit unions have decided against marketing on the statement page but are equally optimistic about the potential for e-statements and the marketing opportunities Web site visitors can be offered in general. One of those is America First Credit Union, Utah’s largest at 290,000 members and $1.9 billion in assets. It already boasts about 115,000 registered home bankers, 90,000 of them considered active. About 6,000 of those now have opted out of receiving mailed statements and instead get e-mail each month linking them to the Web site (www.americafirst.com) for their latest statement. “We expect that number to continue growing. It’s already substantial, considering we haven’t really marketed it on its own, just as a feature of Web access and Internet banking,” says Casey Christensen, public relations coordinator at America First. Meanwhile, aggressively marketing e-statements is something Boeing Wichita Credit Union (www.bwcu.org) has in its plans. “Our members have been asking us for this. Especially the small business owners, and we’ve been gearing up for them. We’ve just started doing business services,” says Stan Cowan, vice president of marketing at the 44,000-member, $280 million institution. Boeing Wichita has been testing e-statements for the past couple months and expects to launch the service, with ViFi as the technology vendor, in the next couple months. “There’ll be messages in the statements, branch signage and our member service reps will be telling members about it, too,” Cowan says. The marketing vice president said he expects about 10,000 members to take advantage of the convenience of e-statements within six months “or I’m not doing my job!” [email protected]

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