Are You Really Ready to Go Paperless?


As a consultant to a network of credit unions, I often hear them say they want to go paperless, but they usually underestimate what that means. Frequently, when I ask if they truly want to go completely paperless, they reply with an eager and committed, “Yep, paperless! No paper!” To which I then say, “Great! What are you going to do with your copier, printers, file cabinets, and faxes?”

This is the point where reality usually hits them. After giving me a bewildered look, they acknowledge that maybe they don’t want everything paperless right away. I then confirm, that they’re looking to go mostly paperless, and from that point on in the conversation, we’re on common ground.

Now I must admit, this can seem like I’m picking on them a bit and crushing dreams, but I like to think of it as being realistic. Believe me, they’ll figure out eventually that it’s just not practical to be 100% paperless. The world just isn’t ready. Have you heard anything about checks going away? I bet you’ve heard that cash is going away too with the advent of plastics. Maybe you don’t use either, and you don’t know many people who do, but despite that, cash and checks haven’t gone away. Are they going away any time soon? Not likely.

So, let’s set our sights on something attainable. Going mostly paperless and where it makes sense. Here are some areas to jump at a paperless process and here are also some areas you may wish to avoid or at least put toward the end of the line and tackle last.

Where to Go Paperless:


These are low hanging fruit. Start by asking members if they even want them in the first place. Have you been to a store recently and been asked if you want a receipt? I’m guessing your answer was no. Society is getting (if not already) conditioned to not even want or need receipts. Typically, they just end up in the trash at the door or blowing around in the parking lot. If a member is really desperate for one, send them electronically. Lastly, provide paper if the member insists, but always keep your copy electronically.


Of course, credit unions caught on to this a long time ago; considering the cost of printing, postage etc., this is a very profitable move. But have you considered charging a fee for paper or offering incentives for moving off paper? Your credit union should have a continual campaign pushing eStatements.


Loans are the lifeblood of a credit union, but they are also paper intensive. There are huge gains to be had here by moving to digital documents. Through eSign, you can not only go electronic, but you can offer incentives to members via convenience and speed for doing so, saving you reams of paper! The same is true of membership forms.

Photo IDs

Not only do electronic images of IDs add convenience for your members by removing the hassle of presenting their ID at each visit to the branch, but it adds security to your line by allowing you to identify members easily. Furthermore, where requirements demand you capture an ID, not only can you can save on paper, but the image is usually better quality and more legible electronically than on paper.


These are almost exclusively kept electronically these days but if not, for sure you want to get off the paper. If you’re printing them vs. working with them electronically, you should be questioning the motive behind that. Do you need bigger or dual monitors to eliminate that? Better software tools? What’s the ticket to stopping this practice?

Where Not to Go Paperless (Yet):


These have several sticking points. Chattel paper is right up front. In other words, who owns the digital asset and how can it be transferred? If I’m buying a mortgage from you, how can I be assured I have the one, the only, the original loan note and it’s now my asset? If you do want to sell it on the secondary market, will they accept it electronically and understand that some do? What about recording the deed? More counties won’t accept them electronically than those that will. Many times, notarizations are required on various documents, how will that work?

Documents with complex workflows

If documents must travel through many steps with numerous people touching them, signing off, etc., trying to adapt these workflows to an electronic process can cause frustration, in turn causing the team to avoid electronic documents. In that case, you’ll find yourself “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” so to speak, with your project to go paperless DOA! Save these for when you have a good number of members already using your other paperless tools. They’ll be more vested and eager to adapt the process if needed as they understand benefits of being electronic.

Long forms

Avoid long forms that members must fill out electronically. While offloading all that data entry to a member is great for you, it’s not so fantastic for the member. Especially if they are working on a mobile device. Keep them in mind with whatever processes and solutions you adopt.

Back scanning non-permanent records

I recommend scanning permanent records, as they’re – well – permanent. However, scanning a consumer loan that will age off in 18 months isn’t worth the effort. Everyone always defers to hiring someone’s son or daughter over the summer and knocking these out! Well folks, this can be a formula for disaster.

I had some rank and file employees scan 30 years of board reports, and within the first four hours, they figured out that if they scanned the front side of the pages then flipped them and scanned the back side it was much quicker than scanning duplex. Fantastic! You’ve got to love the ingenuity…assuming you want to read the odd number pages before the even number pages. The point is this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It sounds simple, but is time consuming, error prone, and can bite you quickly if not supervised and quality controlled. Scan only the documents you must (think permanent records) and do that after you’ve got your new paperless process in place for the documents you’re scanning so you aren’t going after a moving target.

A day without paper will come…eventually

Before you give up hope that we will ever get to a paperless world, you should know we are steadily marching toward that eutopia! Did you know that as far back as 2015, Iowa started testing digital driver’s licenses? Today, about a dozen states are trying the same thing. How cool is that? With a digital license you could share only what you want to share. For example, if you go to a bar, the bartender only needs to know that your over 21, they don’t even need to know your actual age. What about that notary thing? Did you know that 36 states have laws on the books today that accept electronic notaries? If you want to understand how that works, there’s a plethora of information online. So, don’t give up hope with your quest to go paperless, but do start in the right spot, and have a healthy dose of reality that you might not get there right away!


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *