Amount of Paper Statements Actually Increasing

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Despite the focus on delivering monthly statements electronically, numerous banks report the use of paper statements actually continues to rise.

The surge in paper, say analysts, stems from changes in the regulatory environment and a boost in marketing efforts following years of pull-back that started with the 2008 financial crisis, according to American Banker, an affiliate of Credit Union Journal.

"Paper is a key resource that a bank uses, and it has been very important to us for the last couple of years from an environmental stewardship and cost perspective to focus on paper reduction," Lisa O'Brien, SVP and director of environmental affairs for U.S. Bancorp, told American Banker. "But there are other factors, including regulatory challenges that require more customer communications, and which make statement lengths longer."

U.S. Bank has an e-statement penetration rate for deposit account customers between 35% and 40%, compared to an average around 24% for banks of its size, O'Brien says. Fewer than half of its statements are sent by mail today.

Many customers are so-called double-dippers – they consent to getting electronic statements, but don't ever switch off paper.

"Banks have successfully done the hard work of getting a lot of people to get electronic statements, but they have not been able to get that same group to let go of paper," says James Van Dyke, founder and principal of Javelin Strategy and Research. About a third of JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s customers fall into this category, Van Dyke says, the highest percentage of the top U.S. banks.

JPMorgan Chase said in an April 2011 report its paper consumption increased 55% last year, to more than 114,000 tons, even though the bank eliminated 203 million paper statements for retail and credit card customers.

Deutsche Bank reported a 7% increase of paper over the same period, to 4,000 tons, despite its goal of reducing paper use by 15% by the end of 2011. And HSBC Holdings PLC reported a doubling of paper consumption in the U.S., driven by increased correspondence with consumers necessitated by new regulatory demands, the bank said in its 2010 report. It did not say how much paper it used.

Banks and other businesses send nearly 50 billion pieces of mail to customers annually, according to the United States Postal Service, yet various estimates place total paperless adoption at 15% or less.

Paper consumption for some of the top 10 global banks has risen between 50% and 100%, according to the New York environmental consultancy Green Research.


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