Headquarters: Marshfield, Wis.
Asset size: $266 million
Project: E-signatures for mortgages.
Why it's cool: Mortgage borrowers only need to sign once.

Click-Through Mortgage Closings

Forward Financial Bank sees an opportunity to ply new electronic signatures to reduce the use of paper, pens, closing times — and erase a host of inaccuracies.

"A traditional mortgage document probably has 35 to 40 signatures. We want to take that and apply only one signature," says Todd Diedrich, senior vice president at the bank, an early adopter of electronic signatures among community banks.

Using an internally hosted digital signature capture software from Wausau, the bank has implemented an e-sign format that allows a consumer to sign once, with that signature applied to multiple loan documents. Once captured, loan documents for various steps in the processing chain are automatically populated with that customer's signature. Beyond mandated regulatory disclosure documents, most of the lending process, about 95 percent, is now paperless. Diedrich says the normal loan closing time of more than 25 minutes, has been reduced to less than 10 minutes.

There are other benefits as well. The bank hopes to reduce paper, ensure consistency of the documents through a reduction in manual processing, enable auto-indexing and perform archiving without the need for staff to comb through paper documents to locate a specific document for disclosure or customer service. "Loan processors, loan staff and support staff aren't printing paper, collating documents and taking other time-consuming steps," Diedrich says.

E-signatures also benefit overall document management, which helps with compliance. The e-signature software is integrated with each department's underlying tech system, providing consistency and a document trail. "We had a [regulatory] audit exam a few months ago, and the regulators used the software for the first time" to track forms and adherence to document processes. "We got a glowing report from the audit team, which didn't have to manually look through thousands of documents and paper records," Diedrich says.

Up next is an extension of electronic signature capture to mobile devices, which allow staff to meet with customers in the field to sign documents in person. Customers have the right to stick with paper documents, but Diedrich says so far buy-in from staff or customers hasn't been a problem. "We've never had a customer not want to use the electronic signatures. The customer can see the signature; it's secure and can get their documents quickly."