Paper statements: an expensive habit

Britain’s banking industry has a paper problem.

According to research by high street bank TSB, three quarters (75 per cent) of Brits claim their day-to-day use of paper for things like letters, postcards, reading and research materials is becoming redundant. Despite this, British banking customers still receive more than 1.2 billion paper letters and statements from their bank each year, according to our recent survey.

To put that into perspective, that’s nearly 40,000 tons of paper. In fact, if stacked on top of each other, the letters would equal 6,200 times the height of The Shard in London, 437,500 stacked double-decker buses or the equivalent weight of 200 blue whales.

The British Banker’s Association (BBA) recently revealed that mobile and online banking transactions have reached almost £1billion every day, highlighting a transformation in the way customers access banking services. So why, in spite of these figures, do customers continue to receive such a vast amount of paper communications?

The continued need for paper statements as a form of formal identification appears to be the most pressing factor. According to our research, two thirds (66 per cent) of UK banking customers still opt in to receive paper statements as they are still needed to open bank accounts, apply for mortgages and set up mobile phone accounts.

Those who have opted to go completely digital are expected to pay up to £5 per hard copy requested, for something that we at Intelligent Environments believe should be free. We see no reason why online statements shouldn’t be exact replicas of the paper statements customers previously received in the post, available for customers to download, print and use for identification whenever and wherever they need them.

There are multiple benefits of providing digital-only statements for banks, as well as for customers. Not only would convincing customers to review all transactions online have significant environmental benefits, but it could also save UK banks £243m on stationery alone.

Paperless banking is the most logical solution for everyone involved. It creates lower costs for banks, less junk mail for customers, while considerably reducing the environmental impact of money management. UK banks need to inspire customers to change their habits by raising awareness of going paperless, as well as the associated benefits.