Survey: Banks Reduced Mail Volume

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Banks have reduced the volume of mail they distribute since 1996, according to the latest Postal Operations Survey conducted by the American Bankers Association.

The ABA, Washington, representing the banking industry, reported this month that banks mailed 7.92 billion pieces in 1999, down 17.7 percent from the 9.6 billion pieces mailed in 1996.

The association attributed the decline to a combination of factors. Some banks have implemented cost-reduction measures, such as combined statements, and some have incorporated more electronic communications, such as fax and e-mail.

Though mail volume fell in most categories, Standard-A volume more than doubled in the survey period, increasing to 426.2 million pieces in 1999 from 196.3 million pieces in 1996. Those figures represented 5.4 percent and 2 percent of total mail volume in each of those years, respectively.

First-Class and Priority domestic mail volume was down 20.4 percent, to 7.47 billion pieces, compared with 1996 levels.

The decline in volume more than offset the increase in U.S. Postal Service rates that took effect last year, the survey found. Banking industry expenditures on outgoing mail totaled $2.46 billion in 1999, down from $3.22 billion in 1996.

The survey did not distinguish between mail sent for marketing purposes and mail sent for other reasons, such as for transaction-account statements.

A spokeswoman for Summit Bank, Princeton, NJ, said that as much as 70 percent of its mailings were marketing-related. She said the bank uses either Standard-A or First-Class to mail product offers.

The study showed that banks are using various methods to reduce postal expenses. About 40 percent of the banks surveyed said they either had reduced the number of mailings they sent or were planning to reduce their mailings in the next few years.

About 72 percent of banks surveyed said they had no plans to use the Internet to reduce mail volumes. Only 9.4 percent said they currently used electronic means to reduce mailings, and the rest said they planned to implement Internet-based or electronic strategies to reduce their mail volumes in the next five years.

The survey results were based on responses from 438 financial institutions of various sizes.

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