Jun 9, 2014
Broadridge Financial Solutions and Pitney Bowes announced today that they have formed a joint venture and launched a new technology platform named Inlet. Inlet is being billed as a platform “that will make it easier for companies to distribute statements, bills and other documents to consumers via participating online channels.” Essentially, this means that the approach is to act as a behind the scenes secure digital mail aggregation service that will be made available to businesses seeking expanded online services functionality for their customers.
The Wall Street Journal preempted the press release and reported on the announcement last Friday.
The logo has been deliberately designed to be scalable, clash-free (all black or all white) when presented alongside partner brands, and named to convey a sense of exchange and security. When I first saw the logo my immediate reaction was “Inlet Inside,” but there might be some trademark infringement issues with that one (especially with the dyslexics among us).
Here is what you need to know:
- Inlet, Inc is a 50/50 joint venture between Broadridge and Pitney Bowes
- It is designed to help businesses increase paperless adoption, with a primary focus on the U.S. today
- Chuck Cordray–former President of Digital Mail Solutions (and Volly) at Pitney Bowes–is the CEO and has chosen New York City for the headquarters
- The principal content channels include Broadridge, FileThis, and Pitney Bowes
- FileThis is a San Francisco-based consumer-facing digital mailbox service that is similar to Manilla in its technology approach, but differs on business model
- iPay Solutions from ProfitStars (a division of Jack Henry & Associates) will begin offering the Inlet platform to some of their 4,000+ financial institution clients starting in early 2015
- The technology platform will be delivered through Amazon Web Services, as reported last year
- Consumer identity verification will be provided by ID DataWeb
- Companies only have to integrate with Inlet once to benefit from distribution to all Inlet partner channels
- Inlet will securely archive consumer documents for up to 7 years
- Inlet has created an advisory board consisting of two major wireless carriers, three major banks, three wealth management firms and a major healthcare provider
For those of you who have been tracking this space, you may remember that Pitney Bowes announced Volly in 2011, with Broadridge as its first strategic partner. Many factors have come together since then and now that kept Volly out of reach for consumers in the U.S. (that could be for the better, as we recently saw both Manilla and Zumbox announce they were closing down). Today’s launch of Inlet makes it clear that both companies remain committed to the market, albeit with a new strategic approach. We have seen other companies launch with similar strategies in the past, including Systemware’s Digital Mail Gateway and Eco-Mail’s EMX Solution. Neither has made substantial inroads in the market. Broadridge’s own Fluent platform edges on this model, but is designed more for the Financial Services industry (existing clients) than the digital mail market at large.
This joint venture has been in the works for close to a year now, which is partially why both companies had gone quiet on the topic. Even with the work that has gone into establishing the joint venture and content/channel partnerships, my expectation is that few consumers will see much content fed through this platform until the second half of 2015. I say this because the integration cycles of the financial institutions and other consumer destinations that adopt Inlet will dictate the timing of content availability for consumers.
Preliminary findings from our 2014 Customer Communications research show that a majority of consumers are open to the idea of online account consolidation, with banks and credit union websites being the primary channel through which consumers want to access this content. Accordingly, the iPay Solutions partnership is an important component of this press release and I expect other large banks to explore expansion of their existing bank bill pay services to include increased functionality. It is important to note that many other companies have the desire to be that consumer destination for consolidation services.
With Inlet, Broadridge and Pitney Bowes are giving all companies a chance to be a distributor, and the consumers will decide where they want to go for the content. Note that our previous research in this market also showed an opportunity among eCommerce providers. While the financial institution category scored highest overall, Amazon was actually the single most desired location for consumers to consolidate these accounts.
Hurdles to market growth in the U.S. persist, as the senders of customer communications still need to buy into the concept of expanding distribution to partner channels. Even so, many consumers are seeking a better experience relative to managing their statements, bills, payments, and other business communications in a digital environment. While Inlet will not be the consumer destination, Broadridge and Pitney Bowes are banking on billers and service bureaus buying into the idea of the platform as the content aggregator that helps the digital mail consolidation market succeed.
Director, Advisory Services:
InfoTrends tracks the customer communications delivery and payment markets via ourÂ Customer Communications Channels & Trends advisory service, as well as through research studies such as The Future of Multi-channel Transactional Communications.
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