The bank's technology roadmap has it using e-signatures for credit card opening, mortgage originations, CDs, and most other transactions that require signatures by the end of 2014. The technology will be introduced not only in consumer banking, but treasury, mortgage lending and private banking as well.
As to what devices to support, Varrasso is a firm believer in device agnostic solutions. "We didn't want the tablet decision to hold up the progress of e-signatures," he says. "We're almost treating end devices like TV screens."
This calls for a change in the way developers write applications. Rather than creating for a website or a native app, Chase's developers are creating "native hybrid" programs that wrap a browser page written in HTML5 with the look and feel of an app. This gives the bank more control over what's being rendered, and the program can run on any operating system or browser. "You lose some things and it will require to you to implement other software tools to take advantage of the GPS or camera resident in a smartphone or tablet," Varrasso said. But the advantages far outweigh such shortcomings, in his view. "The delivery of the app experience is not a heavy lift but simple to do," he says. "The hardest part isn't the generation of HTML5, it's extracting the business rules and the complexity of the business operations from the user experience." If the business rules are intertwined with the user interface, the app becomes overweight and flexibility is lost.
Integrating the electronic signatures and the new workflows that of necessity must be built around them with a legacy platform is not easy. "It's a heavy lift and complex," Varrasso says. The electronic signature itself, in Chase's architecture, is a web service that can be plugged anywhere in a workflow. The capture and storage of documents is another service that can be called by other programs used at Chase.
The physical manifestation of the signature will vary. In some places, electronic keypads will be offered to let people sign their name with a stylus. In other cases, it will be a click. "Verification happens whether you use a tablet or keypad or not," Varrasso says. "Our legal teams have talked through the quality of the signature."
Chase's wealth management division is already using the electronic signature technology, and its private bank is starting to look at it. It's running in a couple of branches as a proof of concept and more will be added in 2013. "We'll get really aggressive in 2014," Varrasso says.
E-Signing in Canada
Royal Bank of Canada had a number of reasons to consider e-signatures. One was a quest for efficiency through operational improvements that could be assisted by electronic signatures. Another: regulatory barriers to the technology fell in Canada. And customer adoption seemed certain.
"Consumers are ready to embrace e-signatures," says James McGuire, vice president, digital strategy and experience at RBC Royal Bank, Montreal, who also spoke with us in an interview at the conference last week.
A prime use case for the bank is wealth management. "These people visit clients in their homes and do transactions there," he says.
RBC mortgage professionals, too, go to people's homes, often carrying a bag of peripherals with them such as scanners and printers. "This has not made a good impression on customers," McGuire says.
RBC has created an infrastructure to support electronic documents throughout the company, consisting of e-forms, workflow and content management technology. A 20-person team performed vendor evaluations, although 250 people wanted to be in on it. "We tried to manage the scope on this," he says. "As soon as you say something is going to run across everything, that has a connotation to it. We needed to keep it small."