Over the last two decades email, messaging apps and the internet have had a profound impact on how people communicate and receive information.
This has had a profound effect on many industries including newspapers, magazines and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), or as many have come to call it “snail mail.”
Over the ten-year period spanning 2007-2016, total mail volume carried by the USPS fell 27% to 154.3 billion. Digging into the figures a bit deeper we find the real carnage was had with total first-class mail volume, which fell 36% over the same period.
The why behind those declines has been the growing adoption of digital communication that are part of our Connected Society theme. Per the Radicati Group, as of coming into 2017 there were 3.7 billion email account worldwide, which were expected to send 269 billion emails per day up from 205 emails per day in 2015.
We’ve seen banks, utilities, and financial services increasingly look to cut costs by migrating consumers to paperless billing through a combination of email and other messaging that include either a digital copy of the bill or statement, or a link to it on the service provider’s website. This allows the consumer to examine and pay their bills no matter where they are, while saving on printing costs for the company. Some banks charge a monthly “paper statement fee” for those who opt to stay with paper statements.
As impressive as that sounds, it looks like more information will be conveyed to consumers that way. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, the monthly consumption of consumer web, email and data traffic is expected to grow to 3,792 petabytes per month in 2021, up from 2,578 in 2016. For those unfamiliar with the term petabyte, it equates to one million gigabytes. What it means is consumers will be consuming even more content -email, messages, streaming audio and video in the coming months and years. This has companies ranging from Bank of America, TD Ameritrade and Citibank to Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and Apple to provide them pertinent account information, notification and content in the digital format they are opting for.
Some industries are a little slower to adapt to the changing times. One that is attempting to move into the 21st Century is the U.S. mutual fund industry.
Last year, Rule 30e-3 under the Investment Company Act of 1940 was proposed and it would give funds the option of changing their default mechanism for delivering shareholder reports from U.S. mail to online access.
This would put a considerable dent into the industry’s 240 million shareholder reports that are mailed each, which translates into printing and mailing cost savings. Lower costs could mean lower fees to consumers or at least fewer price hikes as a struggling set of industries look to pass along price hikes in order to survive on already falling volumes. In 2018, the postage rate for first class mail letter is $0.50 up from $0.41 in 2007 – a 22% increase.
Let’s remember those sharp volume drops in first class mentioned several paragraphs above.
Faced with a threatened outlook if Rule 30e-3 goes into effect, it’s little surprise some are trying to have language included in final spending bills Congress will soon consider. Such language would block the SEC from passing Rule 30-e3. Other industries have had to contend with the disruptive nature of the digital world, and while some have attempted to leverage Washington to obtain what some have called a stay of execution, it’s time for the mutual fund industry to move from the age of the horse and buggy into the modern age. That move will be an eco-friendly solution that will improve productivity and efficiency, saving money for both consumers as well as mutual fund companies. Most would call that a win-win scenario, which will likely happen if Congress stays out of the way.
Christopher (Chris) Versace is the Chief Investment Officer at Tematica Research, editor of the newsletter Tematica Investing, co-host of the Cocktail Investing Podcast and is a featured columnist to The Street.com as well as a contributor to Business Insider and Forbes.com
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