Why Not Send a Fax?

Editors choice

I love watching “old” movies that depict the 2000s as some distant future. Back to the Future: Part II, for example, depicts the year 2015 and includes visions of advanced technologies such as hover boards, self-lacing shoes, flying cars, and microwavable dinners for an entire family which start out the size of a quarter. In truth our technological development went in a different direction, but oddly enough one prediction they did get right is our continued reliance on paper as shown in the famous “YOU’RE FIRED!!!” termination notice delivered via fax.

Why are we still so reliant on paper? Receipts, statements, closing packages, notices… today, electronic delivery options are readily available for each of these printed documents yet the majority of us continue to use paper. Why has this been such a hard needle to move? What is holding this movement back?

There is no shortage of incentives to go paperless in today’s society. We have social expectations to be ‘green’, sustainable, and environmentally conscious. There’s an increasing frequency of identity theft and an increasing demand for security. And thanks to the Amazons of the world, we’re becoming increasingly accustomed to 2-day free shipping and the concept of near instant delivery and satisfaction. So then why do less than half of us utilize e-statements?

E-statements not only fit perfectly with today’s social agenda and public expectations, but they also make good business sense, cutting costs while increasing member service. How often does that opportunity arise? Back in January 2010, 15.6% of our community of members utilized e-statements. We have since improved this figure drastically. After 9 years of progress this penetration has nearly tripled, with our current usage exceeding 44% as of February 2019. Yet this is still less than half of the members we serve. Perhaps it’s time to try something other than passive persuasion and static email footers. When is the last time you asked your members to switch to e-statements, offered an incentive, or ran a contest? (And new members don’t count!)

Take a moment and pull up your most recent invoice. Between printing costs, postage, and paper expense, I’m sure you’ll see a cost around $1 per member statement per month. Imagine that your credit union is mailing 5,000 statements per month. That’s $60,000 per year in additional expense. If we can crack this nut, I see the potential for some Oprah-like giveaways in the near future. If you need help justifying a marketing budget, I would start with your statement invoice, I doubt you will need to look very far to find your potential savings.

I know change is never easy, but I have also learned that change takes a conscious effort. Have we truly tried to move this needle? Are their additional steps we can be taking? I believe e-statements are a win-win-win, not only for each credit union and the members they serve, but also in terms of sustainability and social responsibility. In my opinion, these triple win opportunities are far too rare to be taking such a passive approach. Where will this metric be in 2025? I hope then we’re not sending a fax.


  • Thomas Hull

    After joining the CU*Answers family in 2011 as a staff accountant, Thomas’ passion for data and analytics became immediately apparent, and he quickly grew to become the corporate resource for data trending and forecasting, financial analysis, and data visualization. In 2017, Thomas joined the Asterisk Intelligence team as a business intelligence analyst, playing a vital role in new service development.

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