Signature Bank Goes Paperless

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Steadily growing a business during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression may not have been the plan, but that's exactly what Chicago-based Signature Bank has done. The commercial lender, which opened its doors Aug. 4, 2006 with just $23.8 million in private capital investment from 249 individual shareholders, today holds approximately $328 million in assets.

It achieved that growth by focusing on the lending needs of what the bank deemed an underserved market: small local businesses. The bank has also added new treasury management features to try to boost client retention and ease new client acquisition. In an initiative that ties in neatly with the bank's name, Signature has begun offering electronic signatures, so clients can tap treasury services by signing Web-based documents via their mouse or touchscreens.

The bank's founders, CEO Michael O'Rourke and executive vice presidents Kevin Bastuga and Bryan Duncan, are all former executives of Associated Bank who left in 2005. The three colleagues found they shared the same strong opinion: That larger banks and even regionals were ignoring some of the boutique credit facility needs of small- and middle-market clients to pursue larger customers. They decided to start their own bank by raising funds from small area business owners they knew, so as to better serve them.

"We're owned by a group of shareholders that are Chicagoland business owners who believe in relationship banking," explains Anne C. Doligale, senior vice president and certified treasury professional at Signature Bank. "So we've picked the best technology to enable businesses to maximize and efficiently manage their cash flow. So our customers have the same experience they would at a large institution, yet they get the benefit of the small bank relationship."

About a year ago, Signature tapped e-SignLive from Silanis to enable electronic signatures for treasury management customers so they could sign documents online using their computers or tablets. The bank aimed to trim the time and expense it took to onboard the services for clients, a previously prolonged process in which customers had to apply their wet ink signatures to paper documents received via Fedex or print out, sign and return PDFs sent via email.

"We were printing a tremendous amount of paper and FedExing it to different locations," Doligale says. "Some of our customers have decentralized operations so they were signing it in one spot and sending it to the next person to sign; then it was coming back to us and we needed to get it to three different departments, but we were photocopying or scanning and faxing.

"That takes a minimum of three days," Doligale says. "And if you wanted to use a remote deposit scanner in your office to electronically deposit checks, we would have two setup documents we'd email via PDF that would have asterisks by the areas that needed to be printed and filled out. But they'd get returned with only a couple pieces of data filled in."

Now a user receives an email with a link to a Web site Doligale calls a "document room" that's secured with a unique out-of-band, one-time password. "We create that password each time we create a room," she explains. As with most electronic signature solutions, there's a workflow process with e-SignLive that doesn't allow users to sign a document and send it on until it's been completely filled out.

"They sign with a mouse, or if they're on an iPad, with their finger. Or they can click to sign or click to initial," Doligale says. "It's however the bank wants it completed."

The procedure has drastically cut the time it takes to get customers signed up for treasury management services. "Now they can get the email in a minute, and if they click and complete it, the whole process can take 10 minutes," Doligale says. "It just depends on how quickly they get it signed. And the documents are coming back 100-percent complete."

Other e-signing solutions include AssureSign, DocOnTime, DocuSign, EchoSign and RightSignature. All offer templates. However, the more nuanced the bank service, the less usable such simulacrums might be. For instance, treasury services are unique to the banking industry. Plus, they're novel to each bank that provides them.

"And they're really unique to each client," Doligale adds. "Everything that we offer to customers is customizable, versus a mortgage, where essentially everybody signs in the same spot. So we're working with e-Sign to make some improvements on being able to further customize those templates."




Bank: Signature Bank

Problem: The bank needed to shorten the time it took to add new services for its small corporate clients.

Solution: Digitize signatures to reduce paper-based errors and save the time and expense of couriers.

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