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Banks: What is with All the Paper?

After yet another visit to my local TD Branch to attempt to extricate money from my daughters’ RESPs, I walked away with the same question I have every time, which is, what is with all the paper?

This time through the Bank Maze, I only had to sign 2 forms (but that is 4 signatures, because I have to get a copy of these forms too, and I must sign those), and then I had to sign two forms that had not been filled in, but would be done later (I kid you not), two more signatures for that. I wondered what might have happened if I walked in with a rubber stamp of my signature and used that, what the “Financial Planner” might do (my guess is, ask if she can borrow it and she might then bang out another 10 forms for various types).

Why did I need to kill so many (more) trees? I was closing two RESPs, and then asking about another one (you sign a form to get information?!?), that is all. I should warn the B.C. forests that I might be going to the bank (so they can fall a few more Giant Red Wood for all the forms).

Banks seem to be absolutely in love with paper trails, with:

  • Cheques, those alone must wipe out acres of trees every year
  • Forms for every kind of transaction
  • Pass Books
  • Receipts for every transaction
  • Paper Statements
  • etc., etc., etc.,

My guess would be that the banks don’t actually have thousands of Warehouses where all this paper is stored, what actually happens is the papers are scanned, and then destroyed, so we are now killing trees for no reason? Banks are also encouraging their clients to stop getting paper statements (where encouraging means charging you for paper statements).

Anyone working in the banking industry care to explain to me the love of paper, and whether all of these forms and such are actually stored in hard copy, or whether they are actually stored digitally?

Feel Free to Comment

  1. Great point, Joe. However, if the banks get wind they might be doing something useful, it will probably stop immediately. Banks do now digitize/scan everything. I work in law and paper just doesn’t exist anymore from the banking parties. It all comes on disk. The bottom line is this – if you have to sign enough forms, it’s a bad experience. People don’t like to repeat bad experiences. So while the banks raise fees, pay poor interest and make it five kinds of hell trying to get any money out that you have given them, few people do anything or delay as long as possible because it’s so much confusing paperwork.

  2. TimelessFinance – Canada – Joe Wood. Blogging at

    Note that growing trees, cutting them down, and stacking paper is a form of carbon sequestration. If you re-grow new trees then you’re actually helping the environment.

    In short, killing trees is good so long as you do it right.

  3. You have to remember that there are still people addicted to the paper trail. I can attest that my sisters and some friends have receipts/bank statement/tax returns/visa statements/… squirreled away in boxes, just in case FOR THE LAST 35 YEARS! Think of that commercial of two old guys sitting in front of the TD bank. That’s what 75% of the people I know are like. Me. I no longer even keep my VISA receipts for more than a month or two. I thought it was only my parents generation, but now I see that it has moved into my generation (boomers). Fear of not seeing the printed paper. Because there is that tiny fear of losing all the scanned stuff when a hard drive fails. Maybe when all the trees are gone, people will wake up.

    1. bigcajunman – Ottawa, Ontario – A simple blogger writing about his financial experiences as the Father of a wonderful son who is on the Autism Spectrum. Also writes about security and WordPress technology.

      I have lost enough paper to know that hard drive crashes are a little less likely than misplacing some paper.

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