So how paperless is your bank?

There was a time, not so long ago, when we were told that banks would become paperless.

There was a time, not so long ago, when we were told that banks would become paperless. Customers would sign everything digitally. All statements would be sent by email – just think of the saving in postage – though of course banks used this transformational change to stress their green credentials, writes Douglas Blakey. I can even think of one well known bank who would give updates on the number of trees that had been saved as a result of their drive towards a paperless environment.

Paperless bank branches did not quite come off for a number of reasons, mainly due to concerns on the part of lawyers and regulators.

But perhaps the time is coming to reconsider the scope for e-signatures. Take Royal Bank of Canada as an example. In my experience, RBC is generally a pretty good example to take at random as an innovative bank and one associated with best practice.

RBC’s eSignatures were first introduced on a small scale for use by Investment & Retirement Planners in December 2012, but by late January 2014, this new technology was completely rolled out to RBC’s entire salesforce.

With today’s customers shifting from paper to digital, the argument that banks need to adapt to have a competitive advantage is obvious.

According to RBC, its solution allows RBC employees to be more efficient – saving two to three hours a week in after–sales administration time.

That saving alone can be quantified in hard cash. Nor is RBC alone among major North American banks in promoting e-signatures with Chase and US Bank similarly enthusiastic.

The pitch from e-signature vendors goes something like this. For consumer loans, optimising the use of digital reduces customer transactions from 16 steps to four; for wealth management, three visits can be reduced to one; in mortgage closings, time expended can be reduced from 90 minutes to 15.

According to Gartner and tech vendor Silanis, e-signature adoption has grown 48% with the number of RFPs issued by banks quadrupling in the same period, all for enterprise solutions so RBC is in pretty good company.