Pen to check; the next buggy whip


Buggy whips are a humane device used to make a snapping noise to encourage the horse to move faster. The buggy whip is often cited as an industry that died because it did not adapt to the advent of the automobile. Today any line of business facing the fundamental challenge of the digital age might be characterized as a contemporary buggy whip maker. I argue, without question, that we are in a new era of structural change in the way we pay our bills. Unlike cyclical changes that we observe in the climate or stock market, structural change is a deep-reaching change that significantly alters the way things are done.

According to a Fiserv Inc. survey, four out of five households pay bills online. The remaining fifth are being extremely resistant to this structural change. I suggest that it will not be long until banking online is as much a part of our lives as using a credit card is today. Online bill payment has so much to offer with little downside. It saves us time, money and is extremely convenient; certainly more convenient than writing checks, buying stamps, licking envelopes and dealing with the mail.

I have used the online bill paying service for over 15 years and cannot believe the old way still exists. With a few clicks of the mouse, my bills are paid quickly and conveniently. Every client that followed my advice of utilizing our online bill-paying service loves it! Like me, they would never consider going back to the buggy whip days of buying stamps, stuffing envelopes and writing checks. Now, I can almost hear your mind saying, “What about the learning curve to get the bill paying service up and running, and the risk of online identity theft”? I am sorry to rain on the naysayer’s parade, but both issues are a myth. Let me explain. If you have access to a computer, it will take me about 20 minutes to make you an expert in online bill paying. Furthermore, there is an incredible amount of evidence that argues it is safer to pay bills online versus the traditional approach. Legitimate financial institutions, such as Wells Fargo, go to great lengths to protect their customers. According to many studies, most identity theft occurs from your mailbox, so transacting online with the latest encryption and security technology arguably helps assure a higher degree of safety. While concerns about online security will always be there, rest assured that your bank has a very, very large stake in making you feel comfortable about the level of security. While it may be true in this world that nothing is perfectly safe, online banking is certainly as close as offline banking in providing safety for your financial transactions.

Nevertheless, I accept that no matter how much I preach about the benefits of paying bills online, it will continue to be ignored by the majority of the buggy whip makers. The fact is that the pull of the past and busyness creates a resistance of incredible influence and power that it overpowers one’s attempt for change. In the final analysis, I argue that more and more folks will begin to recognize the “power of one.” There is overwhelming evidence that people want the entire financial process simplified by having a one-stop shopping experience. In other words, investors want a go-to person for their investments, credit card, debit card and yes their online bill paying. When something goes wrong, these talented individuals have one number to dial to get their issues resolved. I put forth that the power of one will be the foundation of prudent financial planning. I encourage you to get in touch with your financial advisor to discuss his or her online bill paying services. Tell your advisor that you want to begin experiencing the power on one! Consumers want the entire process simplified. In other words, clients want one-stop shopping and one single point of contact, so they know whom to hold accountable. If you do not have an advisor, or you are considering a change, I know a good one I can refer you to.