Banks' move to electronic statements offset by greater flood of junk mail

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 November, 2009, 12:00am

Earlier this month I received two similar letters from the banks I have accounts with in Hong Kong, HSBC and Standard Chartered.

Both informed me that I would soon be relieved of the burden of receiving pesky paper statements for my accounts, and that I could look forward to the convenience of only receiving my bank statements online.

Both letters, buried deep in the text, told me that I could change back to receiving paper statements if I so wished. I decided to return to paper copies in both cases, because there are a number of reasons why it is good to have an official record of my dealings with banks.

In the same week that I received this exciting news heralding the new era of paperless banking, the same banks sent me two leaflets and a letter offering me a loan, a large, glossy postcard inviting me to acquire another credit card and an invitation to buy mutual funds, also richly printed on several sheets of paper.

So, as well as throwing away the letters telling me I would soon not receive bank statements unless I asked for them, I have discarded a range of beautifully designed, richly printed advertisements on thick card and high-quality paper, for services that I don't want.

If I did want to know about a bank's products and services, all I have to do is go to its website.

I applaud the bank's decision to offer customers a choice to receive less paper in the form of bank statements.

However, if the two banks concerned are really as committed to environmental protection as they say they are, perhaps they could do a mass mailing to give customers to chance to opt out of receiving annoying and unsolicited offers of loans, credit cards and other financial services.

Even better, they could invite customers to opt in for direct mailing.

I wonder if the banks took the same discretionary approach that they have taken with bank statements, how many of their customers would actively choose to be relentlessly bombarded with advertising in the way they are now.

Jane Parry, Shek O