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Pitiful adoption of eStatements

In the recent Forrester report “Paperless Plight: Growing Resistance Outpaces Adoption” the survey of 3554 online adults revealed that only 24% had switched off paper bank statements.

This is a pitiful amount – by any standards.

But banks have been pleading, motivating, cajoling, bribing, forcing and greenmailing customers into signing up for online statements for over 10 years.

What’s inhibiting the move away from paper to the greener electronic versions that can save billions?

  • Maybe it's because online statements are only available to online bankers cutting out 60% of the banking base.

  • Maybe it's because customers have to register, remember a username and password, login and download their statements that currently arrive in the post with no effort required.

  • Maybe it's because the notification email is a perfect phishing attempt. 

  • Maybe it's because receiving a flat digital version of the paper adds no extra value.

A previous Forrester report on this topic suggested that customers “just needed a push”. I whole heartedly concur. Customers should be pushed their eStatements via email. No website to visit no registration  to fill in,  no new username and password to remember, no phishing risk.

Just send them an interactive document with graphing and sorting, feedback forms and personal loan calculators. Not a pipe dream – something that smart banks all over the world have been doing for a while with tremendous success.

Only once the banks start to offer added value in return for turning off paper will we see a growth in the adoption of eStatements and significant paper turn-off.


Comments: (7)

Kurt Staines
Kurt Staines - KJS Consulting Limited - Basildon 29 November, 2010, 14:51Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Perhaps it's because certain banks (e.g. HSBC) don't include the address of the account holder in the statement, which means the statement cannot be used as a proof of address.

A classic case of not providing the same level of service once it's moved on-line.

If the banks want customers to move across then they have to provide at least the same level of existing service, or preferably an improved level of service.

Michael Wright
Michael Wright - Striata | Secure Document Delivery - London 29 November, 2010, 15:01Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Kurt - Good point - many banks substitute a transactional history for the paper statement - which is not the same thing. 

However a bank statement is not a good proof of address - banks rely on utilities for their KYC requirements and hence the use of any statement as an indication of where one lives is very tenuous.

Everyone is relying on someone else and if the weakest link is proved incorrect the whole chain comes tumbling down like a house of cards.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 30 November, 2010, 12:01Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I'm a heavy user of online stock trading, e-commerce and Internet Banking. However, when it comes to statements, I've a very strong preference for paper - to the extent that I recently threatened a bank with canceling a credit card issued by them if they continued to avoid sending paper statements with the excuse that they were sending e-statements.

Resistance to change from my side is admittedly one reason, but my preference for paper statements is driven by many other factors that are beyond my control:  


  1. I recently went through an account verification process by PayPal for my business account. PayPal insists only on paper statements as proof of address - it even says that it won't accept scanned versions of online statements. If a web-based company like PayPal insists on paper, you can imagine the situation with brick-and-mortar ones - Kurt has a very valid point. And, almost all of them ask for proof documents not older than 3 months, so an approach of issuing a paper statement for one month, followed by 11 e-statements for the remaining months of the year, won't work. 
  2. Every time I receive an e-statement, I've to remember and supply some kind of account credentials - ex: last four digits of the account #, date of birth in a specified format, etc. - to open it.  There's simply no comparison with the convenience of tearing the envelope open and reading the paper statement.  
  3. With identity theft on the rise, banks and others keep advising us to check our statements carefully and spot any false transactions. Doing this is very easy with a highlighter and a paper statement. How do I do this with an e-statement that typically comes in the form of a non-editable PDF file?



Michael Wright
Michael Wright - Striata | Secure Document Delivery - London 30 November, 2010, 17:02Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Ketharaman - There will always be a segment of a customer base that wants paper for various reasons - and you may fall into that segment for you own reasons but let's look at each one:

  • Our clients realise that they can turn off paper if they provide assurance that when paper is needed it can be easily obtained. We add a "send in post please" button at the end of the eStatement. This means customers can always get the paper and allows them to switch to eStatements with confidence.
  • I agree that the process of registering and logging into a website is time consuming but clicking on an email attachment and entering your date of birth is just as simple as opening an envelop and has zero risk of a paper cut.
  • Some PDF products allow the use of a highlighter on screen - but I concede that a yellow highlighter on paper is the best in this instance. 
Overall, the convenience of receiving my eStatement in my chosen inbox and storing this in my own online vault outweighs the comfort of the old paper processes every time.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 01 December, 2010, 09:08Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes


Agreed. But, going by the following statement in the Forrester report, this segment seems to be in the majority :"Worse still, 37% of account holders who receive a paper statement today say they will never abandon paper in favor of online statements."

Your suggestion for "Send in post please" is an excellent feature for boosting adoption of e-statements. However, I haven't come across a single bank actually offering it and don't really trust a single one of them to invest in establishing processes to handle interruptions to their STP flows such exceptions would probably cause.

IMHO, herein lies the crux of the overall problem: Technology supports a feature, individual customers don't necessarily implement it for whatever reason, customer adoption is stunted. Given that customers have no way of influencing how a given customer will implement a given technology, they form wrong - and often negative - opinions about the technology as a whole. When that happens, it's not a great position for technology providers to be in. 




A Finextra member
A Finextra member 01 December, 2010, 12:19Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Michael, I totally agree - inbox delivery is what's missing.

I class myself as a fairly 'switched on' consumer.  I have a Twitter account, FB account, 3 different email accounts and quite a few more other social media accounts too.

I also consider myself to be 'green-keen'.  Put the two together and on paper I'm the perfect profile for online statements.  Yes?  No.

Although I've signed up for some eStatements I still prefer the paper version.  The reason - not enough time (or patience).

I just don't have the capacity to regularly go to every one of the banks where I  have a relationship and remember to get the statement - and then when I really do need it, I find the hassle of getting the old data not worth the effort.  

If however I got my statement delivered to the one place I am always connected to no matter where I am - my inbox - and have the ability to store it on my own PC, well then that would be a winning solution and one that would see me make the switch - completely.

Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 05 December, 2010, 08:42Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

The first thing to do should be transparent pricing. Customers pay every cent also for paper statements - even if it is not charged visibly. My experience is that when customers see the cost - they take logical action - in their own interest.

The problem is often that consumer organizations too often oppose these "sticks" (should be called negative carrots instead...) - so they act very much against the true interest of the consumer - and in this case also against reducing CO2 - in the case of paper invoicing the latest study end up at some 8m tons a year in EU...