How much have you thought about electronic delivery (e-delivery) of required documents for your clients? Do you casually bring it up during client meetings, or is it a focused initiative where you regularly monitor your clients’ adoption of e-delivery? The primary benefits of e-delivery for you are that it reduces paper and lowers costs. I believe the benefits are much more than this, though, and when you address e-delivery with your clients and your reasons for using it, it will involve you in more discussion about good habits than about technology.

Do you really think it is a good idea for your clients to receive their statements, reports and other detailed account documents via the mail? How secure is your home mail box? Chances are it is fairly easy for someone to steal the mail. Envelopes that contain financial statements are not very hard to identify. Why take the risk? All it takes is one statement to be misdelivered or stolen, and then you need to start thinking about changing account numbers to protect your client. 

Reducing the amount of paper your client receives should also be considered a competitive advantage for your firm. Clients complain frequently that they receive too much mail regarding their accounts. Whether it’s statements, confirmations, prospectuses, shareholder documents or performance reports, it all adds to clutter, and much of it goes into the round file.

E-delivery is especially important to set up for new clients. Think about how much mail your client receives when they first begin to do business with you. There is a lot of paper coming their way if you haven’t set up e-delivery. This is definitely not the best first impression. Therefore, take advantage of turning on e-delivery right from the beginning. For many custodians, e-delivery is something you can set-up as a default option on the new account application. You can easily set up a portal where you can post reports, agreements and other documents for your clients.

I have heard many times that clients want paper delivery of their account documents because they believe they will have more control over the documents. For example, the client wants to receive his monthly statements in the mail so that he can put them in a three-ring binder. He may believe that this is the easiest way to retrieve old statements. Let me be blunt: This is very outdated thinking. Today, many custodians offer clients access to at least 10 years of statements online, and the client has the option to download statements directly to his computer at any time and print out a paper copy. Furthermore, electronic statements are always available much sooner than a paper copy via the mail would be—assuming the envelope arrives at the right mailbox at all.

Overall success with e-delivery starts with knowing your clients’ habits. Try targeting certain segments of your client base. Anyone who frequently travels would be an excellent candidate for e-delivery and should quickly understand the benefits. Yes, you will have clients who refuse to turn off the paper. However, this group is becoming a much smaller minority when the benefits are clearly explained.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to e-delivery adoption is inertia. Without any action, documents will still come via the mail. Chances are good that your client will not even open the envelope. Most clients will throw away older statements, and another security issue is born: Identity thieves often gain information through old-fashioned dumpster diving. Hopefully clients who receive paper statements will shred the documents as opposed to just putting them in the trash, but e-delivery provides an even better option. It is simply too easy to set up e-delivery to pass on the benefits it affords.