Turning customers on to online banking is a high-priority goal because of the loyalty it engenders, but recent developments in the paperless statement arena have consumers bypassing bank sites to go directly to billers, a trend that endangers banks' loyalty play.

New research from Mintel Comperemedia found that banks have done a good job in getting customers to try online banking, and 78 percent of online bankers have also paid a bill online. The worry comes in this statistic: 45 percent of online adults have paid a bill directly at a biller's Website in the past six months. "I think that's a big threat to banks," says Susan Wolfe, vp of banking at Mintel Comperemedia.

Customers are being driven directly to biller Websites by the push to paperless statements, and the need to log in to view their bill. Research shows the average consumer receives 3.5 paperless statements. Once there and logged in, paying the biller directly is easy. And that's the problem. "The solution is setting up an e-bill system, allowing the bills to be sent directly to the banks for consumers to view there," Wolfe says.

The e-bill market isn't growing much in terms of overall delivery, though. Fiserv, one of the leading e-bill providers, says it delivered 164 million e-bills through the first six months of 2010, about two percent more than it delivered in the same period last year.

However, consumers do seem to be experimenting with the delivery mechanism. The number of online bill payers who reported that they received an e-bill at their bank site jumped nine percent between 2009 and 2010, Fiserv found, noting that 33 percent of all consumers who pay a bill at their financial institution Website also receive at least one e-bill there, up from 24 percent in 2009.

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