E-Signatures: The low-hanging fruit of digital transformation

By Tommy Petrogiannis | 5 July 2017

According to the 2017 Retail Banking Trends and Predictions report, the top strategic priority for banking institutions around the world is improving customer experience. To achieve this goal, banks need to offer consumers the flexibility to engage via their preferred channels at their preferred times, as well as engage with customers at each touchpoint throughout the journey - from account opening to onboarding and beyond as the relationship expands.

Paper-based processes remain one of the largest cost centres in an organisation, and there is more pressure than ever for organisations to fully digitise its document-based processes – both inside and outside the firewall. Digital transformation has been a buzz word in financial services for the last few years, yet many equate the term with large, organisation-wide projects that carry an all or nothing approach.

Rest assured, financial institutions can digitally transform the customer journey in an incremental way that helps banks and credit unions improve customer service and differentiate themselves and their offerings. E-signatures, while simple in nature, are an ideal tool to achieve completely digital workflows. They close the technology gap in most front and back-end processes, paving the way to enhanced customer experience as well as increased efficiencies and cost-savings for the bank.

Customer-centric approach

Omnichannel support: Today’s customers are looking for convenience and flexibility. Whether customers are engaging with their bank via a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, and whether they’re at home, in the branch or on the go, they need an omnichannel experience. An e-signature solution offers options for customers to complete document-based transactions, with a simple click or tap from any device. By giving customers the freedom to interact with their financial institutions when, where and how they want, the bank is already one step closer to building a lasting relationship.

Faster, easier transactions: E-signatures can help improve any process by shortening, speeding up or simply making it easier for customers to complete a task. Best-in-class e-signature solutions offer built-in workflow and automation options to capture intent, consent, data and signatures with zero errors in the process. The days of paper-based signing, mailing of forms and delays due to missing signatures are long gone. The obvious convenience and ease of use with e-signatures leads to high customer adoption. For example, when US Bank adopted e-signatures for customer account originations, the improved experience led to a 92 percent customer adoption rate across all 3,000+ branches. The next step was enterprise-wide integration for account origination and deposits, which processes an average of 460,000 documents each week.

Back-office savings

Error-free process: The single biggest benefit to deploying e-signature technology is that it provides an error-free transaction, reducing costs and accelerating the overall process. In the past, with paper-based systems, between 40-70 percent of completed documents contained some type of error, requiring the process to be re-established with the client, causing both inconvenient and costly delays. With e-signatures, every step is managed and controlled; the next step can’t be started until the current one is completed. When the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), one of Canada’s largest banks, implemented e-signatures for its 8,000 wealth management and investment salespeople, the error-free process eliminated 24,000 hours per week in administrative, back office quality control efforts. What’s more, the bank saved $8 million in hard costs annually by simply eliminating the need for paper to acquire signatures.

Effective workflow solutions: To achieve greater operational efficiency, Customer Communications Management (CCM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are often put in place to reduce time spent on administrative tasks. Unfortunately, the digital workflows generated by these solutions can become fragmented when a signature is needed, as the process often falls to paper. E-signatures can seamlessly integrate into these more complicated back-end systems, creating full automation and enabling employees to spend their time on higher-value work, like providing more personalised customer service.

Compliance: A well-engineered e-signature solution captures the entire signing process, allowing you to literally hit “rewind” and revisit each step of a transaction completed many years ago. These e-signatures offer comprehensive audit trails (which capture when, how and where a signature took place), strong authentication options, and anti-tampering controls that seal documents after each signature, offering a level of transparency and auditability not possible with paper. This level of documentation is beneficial for both the financial institution and the customer should a transaction ever be disputed.

Improving customer experience through predictive analytics: Unlike the paper world, digital processes provide direct visibility into how, when and where a transaction took place. This information represents a gold mine of data that can be leveraged by the bank to glean insights into customer behaviour. By studying the steps a signer takes within each document, one can measure the effectiveness of the customer journey and start to understand inefficiencies or unforeseen complications, and predict potential adoption rates. Taken a step further, this data can be analysed to develop a simplicity index for each process, with the goal to improve key transactions and the overall customer experience.

One example of how e-signatures benefit both customer satisfaction and the bank’s bottom line is the Bank of Montreal (BMO). The oldest bank in Canada, BMO recognized the importance a seamless digital onboarding experience would have on the retention and growth of its customer base, and implemented a solution using e-signatures and e-forms. It fast-tracked the deployment by building workflows that could be used enterprise-wide. The first phase of the initiative was launched across BMO’s mobile customer onboarding application and continues on to commercial banking, wealth management, capital markets and various internal processes.

In order to create a sense of urgency and to ensure buy-in and adoption across the organisation, BMO tracked and analysed the impact of its e-signature program for both internal and external groups. The results? Personal account openings from a smartphone in eight minutes, an annual savings of $132m through the elimination of paper and a 40 percent increase in efficiency – just to name a few.

Digitising a bank’s paper-based processes will enhance customer experiences, reduce costs and streamline processes. For financial institutions looking to take the first steps towards digital transformation, meet e-signatures, the seemingly little technology enabling big benefits.

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