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Fee-Based Features: Document Registration and Storage Services

By Jim Bruene on July 26, 2012 9:40 AM | Comments (1)

image Consumers hate fees, of course. But that doesn't stop them from paying $1,000 per year for their iPhones. It's all about perceived value. 

No one will ever confuse a bank with Apple. But there are hundreds of value-added services that financial institutions could offer customers for a fee (note 1).

For example, document registration. There couldn't be a more mundane service than document registration. Yet, it fills a real need for the constantly unorganized, and their heirs.

Four years ago (see May 2008 post), we wrote about FindYourPolicy.com, a startup that had created a service to help people keep better track of their life insurance and beneficiaries. According to the company $1 billion in insurance policies go unclaimed each year due to unknown or lost beneficiaries. Although it sounds simple, tracking down beneficiaries can be a timely and expensive process. Outsourcing some or all of that is an appealing idea.

In 2008, the company was trying to get consumers to pay $25 to $50/year for the service. We didn’t expect that fee to stick and later that year the company abandoned that model. Now they allow users to register life insurance policies free of charge, then assess heirs $9.95 to search the database for potential policies. It would be a good business if it gained a critical mass of users, but that won't be easy.

However, life insurance recording would be an excellent value-add for online banking. It's a bit of a stretch to think you'd be able to get a fee for just that. However, if you expand the service to include more document types such as wills, titles, and contracts, it begins to have more potential for fee income.

imageBut to really bring value to the service, you'll likely want a storage piece as well. Although Wells Fargo shuttered its vSafe service in March (post), several large credit unions are moving into the storage space, including Northwest Federal Credit Union which is providing its 68,000 e-statement users with 100MB of free storage space powered by DigitalMailer (note 2, 3, 4).

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Northwest FCU showcases its new My Virtual Strongbox storage service in a homepage ad (15 July 2012)

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Notes
1. For info on fee-based financial services, see the Online Banking Report (subscription) on fee-based online services (May 2011); paperless banking and online storage (late 2010); and lifetime statement archives (2005).
2. We looked at DigitalMailer's new My Virtual StrongBox in our April report (subscription).
3. Members using e-statements get 100 MB free storage and can pay a fee for additional space.
4. DigitalMailer will be demoing VirtualStrongbox at FinovateFall 2012.

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FindYourPolicy.com does have storage space available for other assets that can be misplaced or forgotten. Simply register the location of Safe Deposit boxes, wills, contracts, storage units etc. We do not store documents due to security reasons, we only store the names or where the documents can be found. Registering is a free service where a fee is only charged when a search of the database is done.
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