Breaking Consumers' old habits and getting them to use less paper may be difficult, but it's not impossible.
The key is getting people to go paperless at the onset, says Inca Kaya, an analyst for TowerGroup. While the industry consensus says about 70 percent of account holders still transact via paper, Kaya says about 50 percent of new accounts are now paperless. "If you can catch them at the point of acquisition, you will have them for years to come," she says, adding no financial institution has of yet seized a solid leadership position in terms of removing paper.
But some early successes have emerged, such as PNC's recent successful migration of 15 percent of its 3 million retail customers to PDF statements, as well as electronically filing 80 percent of internal company reports, moves that sliced the bank's paper usage by 20 percent. Other active institutions include Wells Fargo, which has saved more than 30 million envelope over the past two years by deploying "envelopless" ATMS, and Bank of America, which won raves from a number of green blogs by reportedly cutting paper use by a third in the past decade.
And Kaya says Citizens Bank recently increased a 2008 electronic bill payment incentive from 10 cents per bill to 20 cents, with savings of up to $240 per year. It's a move that was expected to the bank about 700,000 pounds of paper in the first year alone.