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In light of dismal economic news and tightening budgets, many credit unions are switching to e-statements as a cost-cutting strategy. A December story in Credit Union Times highlighted a 2008 Forrester Research report, indicating e-statement adoption grew 11% over the past year. Since then, other media has cautioned that the federal e-signature statute, the E-SIGN Act, doesn’t allow institutions to just move all online banking users to eStatements. What isn’t being said is that there are ways to switch large segments to e-statements by following a well-established communications plan and allowing members to continue to receive paper statements if desired.Yes, E-SIGN requires that consumers be able to access information and give consent electronically, but all online banking applications require use of the Internet and a computer or other technology for access. So, with that E-SIGN hurdle out of the way, all that’s needed is communication about the change in terms and members’ consent.The communication and consent piece takes a little work, but the rewards are significant. Case in point: look at the communication measures banks use when they want to increase the default rate on members’ credit cards.We’ve helped a number of credit unions grow their eStatement programs by following a plan changing the terms to make eStatements the default option for online banking users. They didn’t automatically switch members from paper to online statements; they did put in place a process to guide members en masse to opt-out of receiving paper statements while providing an option for members who wanted to stay with paper.With the planned May 2009 postage increase and a proposal on the table to reduce mail delivery days, e-statements represent an excellent way for credit unions to save money.Ron DalyPresident/CEODigitalMailer Inc.Herndon, Va.

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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