Is Email Principally Unsuited For Delivering Statements?

In the past, I’ve given several reasons to explain my preference for printed bills and statements. I’ve recently begun to feel that there’s perhaps a more fundamental and deep-rooted reason for my aversion for e-statements. It all began when I recently received an SMS which said:

Your password is a combination of first 3 letters of your name followed by last 5 digits of your registered alternate mobile number.

First three letters of my name … alternate mobile number … eh? I was wondering if this would grant me access to the deep recesses of Fort Knox but it turned out to be the instructions to construct the password required to open my mobile phone’s e-statement delivered as a PDF attachment via email.

Given that the e-statement is sent to my email address to which only I’m supposed to have access, I honestly don’t see the need for the biller – a leading telecom operator in this case – to insist on a password to open it. However, since many billers – banks, utilities, MNOs included – seem to be following this practice, I must be missing something here.

But that’s not the point.

The average email reader is accustomed to opening attachments with one or two clicks. By asking him / her to enter a password to open e-statement attachments, the point is, the biller is asking them to make a major change from their normal email usage behavior. This leads to me to wonder if email is principally unsuitable for delivering statements since it calls for way too much change in consumer behavior.

Which is why I’m not surprised to learn that e-statement adoption hasn’t entered the mainstream several years after it was introduced. According to this NetBanker report, “bill/statement delivery … has remained stubbornly paper-based, despite a decade of trying to coerce consumers to do without the paper security blanket.”  As for the environment-friendliness theme used by most billers to spur adoption of e-statements, this Forrester report puts it well when it says, “‘Green’ messaging is fashionable but less compelling to potential adopters.”

Simplifying the password doesn’t necessarily help. Let me take the example of this Top 3 bank in India where I’ve several accounts, which include the three primary savings accounts opened by me and a slew of secondary deposit accounts created automatically by the bank every time the balance in the primary accounts exceeded a threshold value. Since this bank hasn’t implemented relationship banking, I receive a separate statement for each account. Account number itself serves as the password to open e-statement attachments. For obvious reasons, the body of its email and the attachment don’t contain the account number. Now, since I’ve several accounts with this bank, I’ve no way of knowing which account number to use as password to open a given attachment.

Of course, every time I receive an e-statement from this bank, I could always enter all my account numbers one after the other with the guarantee that one of them will work. Or, I could simply open the envelope and read the printed statement without any hassles of remembering passwords. No wonder I belong to the 37% of account holders who receive a paper statement today who say they will never abandon paper in favor of online statements.

Every time someone from the aforesaid TELCO or bank calls me requesting me to opt for discontinuation of printed statements, I simply point them to my blog to find out why I won’t!

Furthermore, as high as “37% of account holders who receive a paper statement today say they will never abandon paper in favor of online statements” (italics mine).
Unless there’s a drastic change in e-statement technology and in the regulatory environment, banks can count me among the 37%.

One Response to “Is Email Principally Unsuited For Delivering Statements?”

  1. […] My biller adds passwords to ostensibly make me feel more comfortable with its eBills and eStatements but I go back to its printed bills and statements. This one needs a whole blog post to explain. Luckily, I’ve already written it here: Is Email Principally Unsuited For Delivering Statements? […]