Not long ago, I wrote that Yodlee MoneyCenter was considering new features, including an “Environmental Impact Service” that tracked a user’s projected carbon footprint. I also noted Bank of America and Mint.com as possible adopters. Now, as FastCompany reports, Microsoft’s Hohm helps manage energy for users, but I think the next big trend will be financial institutions, like Bank of America, getting in on the game.
Already, we’ve seen Bank of America (which uses Yodlee’s underlying engine) pick up on features before either Yodlee MoneyCenter or Mint.com (which also uses the system), as with the bank’s implementation of PayToday which Yodlee floated as a possible addition to its service. But unlike Yodlee MoneyCenter or Mint.com, Bank of America has a real incentive to implement the feature.
Why? Because while adding the feature might cost a few hundred thousand in developer salaries (the data is already accessible in Yodlee’s management engine), it could save Bank of America millions in mailing costs each year. What is a more perfect reminder to switch to online-only billing than a helpful, cute carbon-minding polar bear reminding you how much gas, energy, and trees each letter depletes planet Earth of?
But how much would Bank of America actually save by implementing this feature? I asked how many customer Bank of America had, and their customer rep kindly <a href”http://twitter.com/BofA_help/status/2155913136”>Tweeted back</a> “one out of 2 homes,” or about 550 million homes, according to the U.S. Census’ 2007 estimate (I’m being conservative on my numbers here). We’ll also assume that each of those households gets only one paper bill, once per month (another very low estimate). Let’s guess they can get 2% of their customers to switch over to paperless due to a carbon emissions campaign: After all, it’s something even the most cash-strapped customers can do to help the environment. Recently, I spoke with an analyst, whom I know well and respect, who said that the cost per maiing, including all the materials, postage, handling, etc. is just north of $1/mailing.
So 550 million households * 12 bills a year * $1 per mailing * 2% conversion rate = $132 million in savings a year. Pop the champagne! Of course, all these numbers are rough, rough estimates except the cost per mailing, but I tried to be as conservative as possible.
This also doesn’t calculate in the good press that showing customers how to “go green” would generate, as well as the reduced churn a feature like this could provide, nor the possibilities for highly targeted advertising such a program could lead in to. In fact, this latter strategy alone was the basis for Microsoft’s Hohm, according to FastCompany, and tying the service into Yodlee’s backend would obviate the need for manually entering utility costs, which was one of Clay Dillow’s main gripes of the service. Other than that, Bank of America’s implementation might look quite similar to Microsoft Hohm: Time will tell if Bank of America will really roll out their “Environmental Impact Service,” but with a weak advertising market and a feature that’s almost assuredly under development already, I would say there’s good odds Bank of America will soon start helping customers go green – while saving quite a bit of its own at the same time.