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Mailing out paper continues to be a major expense for every credit union in the land, and convincing consumers that their financial institution is the best filing cabinet of all might be the key to finally making the most of operational efficiencies inherent in electronic statements.That’s a takeaway from a new report by Forrester Research that said that e-statement adoption has remained steady the past couple years and takes a look at what’s holding some folks back.The report is based on a survey Forrester conducted online in March and April of this year of 4,630 Americans ages 18 to 88 as part of its North American Technographics Banking Online Survey series.It found that by some measures, consumers actually were receiving slightly fewer e-statements this year than last, 55% for checking accounts this year compared with 58% in the same months in 2008, for instance. Credit card accounts have the widest adoption; mortgage accounts the least.“What’s holding back wider adoption of e-statements? Across product types, almost 50% of consumers blame it on needing a paper statement for their records,” the think firm said in the report authored by analysts Emmett Higdon and Elizabeth Davis.“The time has come to show users how they can find last year’s statement and then save or print a copy,” the researchers said.That especially goes for the large number of consumers who bank online and still get paper statements; in other words, they want it both ways. Forrester recommends financial institutions follow the lead of their peers who already have put an end to that.“We’ve seen it again and again, year in and year out: Consumers are convinced that they need copies of statements for ‘record keeping’ or to file taxes. It’s time to set a deadline for your online bankers,” Higdon and Davis said, “and tell them that paper will be going away as of that date.”Before doing that, Forrester recommends the following:Educate your consumers about their ability to access statements from your site.Give them the option to turn paper back on in the future.Enroll every customer or member in your alerts services.Forester also advised stressing the environmental benefits, something half or more of the members of some consumer segments cited as important to them, of paperless statements. And cite the security aspect: e-statements means that documents are secure back at the credit union and not sitting as paper in your house or trash.And be sure to help your members understand that those e-mail and text alerts are reminders of their bills-so they’ll not feel the need cited by many in the survey of getting bills in the mail so they remember to pay.The education effort also should include some things that are perhaps obvious to credit union managers but not so much to their end-user members.“Go a step further,” the Forrester report advises. “It’s not enough to offer a stored PDF; it’s time to explain to your customers that the PDF, printed out, is a legal document, just the same as a mailed statement.”A relatively inexpensive financial inducement also just might make the difference.“A $5 credit would convince one-third of consumers to turn off paper,” the Forrester report said. And that number rises to 44% for Gen Y and $39% for Gen X. The holdouts? The 42% of older boomers and 41% of senior citizens who told the Forrester surveyors “I will never give up the paper version.”–[email protected]

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