I heard from a new company last week that has created a service to help life insurance and bank-account holders to notify beneficiaries periodically that they are named on the account. According to FindYourPolicy.com (see screenshot below), $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.
However, as a consumer-direct service, I don’t think FindYourPolicy.com will get a lot of traction. The list price of $29.95 plus $3.95 per month is a lot for twice-yearly postcards (see note 1) to your beneficiaries. But the company is likely more interested in setting a high retail “value” on the service so they can wholesale it to financial institutions for pennies on the dollar.
Using the same concept for safe deposit boxes
While the beneficiary notification is an idea deserving of a second look, I was more intrigued with another of its features, safe deposit documentation and notification service. I just spent 30 minutes last Friday making a trip to the bank to look in my safe deposit to see if my son’s social security card was there (note 2). Of course, it wasn’t. I could have saved the trip if I’d had good records on its contents. I’m sure I wrote it down somewhere, but it would likely take much longer than 30 minutes to find it.
Ideas to help memory-challenged customers like myself:
- Simplest: It would be great if my bank had a simple email-like software app available near the safe-deposit area where I could list the contents of the box and then email the info to myself AND store a record of that communication within online banking so I could access it years from now when the email is long lost.
- Harder: In addition to manually entering info, have a scanner available so that I can scan copies of the documents in the safe deposit box for a digital record.
- Hardest: Extend the service to the home/office and allow me either to store items virtually, using my home/office scanner, or by uploading/emailing documents into the virtual safe-deposit box. This is the core idea behind vSafe from Wells Fargo.
However, as Tripp Johnson at Gonzobanker so eloquently laid out in this article, there are serious questions regarding overall demand for virtual safe-deposit services, not to mention pesky compliance issues that cannot be ignored.
FindYourPolicy.com homepage (29 May 2008; see note 3)
1. Why TWICE yearly? Once per year seems like plenty. Or how about one postcard and one email message each year? (Update 1 June: The reason for mailing 2x per year is that the U.S. Postal Service forwards mail only for six months, so with this frequency the company ensures it gets the forwarding address. (See comment #2 from Michael Hartmann of FindYourPolicy.com)
2. My bank is requiring a faxed copy of my 18-year-old son’s social security card in order to add him to my account. I’m all for good authentication (who isn’t?), but that seems extreme. More on that in a future post.
3. Sometime during the past 10 days, FindYourPolicy.com added the “member of American Bankers Association” seal. It’s a reasonable touch, but it only means they’ve paid at least $1,250 for a service membership to the ABA.