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By Tommy Petrogiannis, President, eSignLive by VASCO

The saying “first impressions count” is a common truism but it holds particular pertinence in financial services. In financial services, huge rewards come from the cultivation of long-term relationships founded on great first impressions and sustained by fulfilling client preferences at every touch point.

But despite this reality, it seems like financial institutions still have some work to do before they can truly say that they always a good experience.A study by Forrester Research on the quality of the client experience, ranks investment firms and banks 6th and 7th among a list of eight major industries. Only credit card providers scored lower. This is hardly a ringing endorsement for an industry whose success depends on quality customer relationships. In order to thrive, banks and financial institutions need to understand the value of establishing excellence. Especially from the outset.

In today’s highly competitive market, banks and financial institutions cannot afford anything less than a seamless experience at any stage of the customer’s journey. Whether opening an account, or applying for a loan or retail credit, banks and financial institutions need to ensure that customers are not let down at any stage.

Part of the challenge is that banks still prioritise paper over convenience, which is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to digitising regulated processes and industries. For example, rules around the presentation of mortgage disclosures for years kept banks mailing out stacks of paperwork for signing. If a customer missed one of the ‘sign here’ stickies, the paperwork had to be mailed to the customer again. It’s easy to see how a transaction like that can get bogged down in paperwork and potential customer dissatisfaction.

Digitising the workflow provides a viable solution to this issue and the good news is that it is not as difficult or daunting as one might think. Financial service providers can improve the onboarding experience by introducing digital solutions at every stage of the customer journey.E-signatures, for example, can be used in every channel, so the technology is a great starting point for delivering a consistent omnichannel experience.

When done right, the introduction of e-signatures in the financial services industry has a great customer adoption rate. For example, within two weeks of introducing electronic signatures for customers opening a new deposit account or managing an existing account, U.S. Bank had a 90 percent customer adoption rate for e-signatures over paper.

Banks need to ask the question: for any given interaction, can I give my customers the choice to collect, complete and return documentation via their choice of channel and from any device? The introduction of e-signatures in the onboarding process allows them to do this. And when you consider the generation of digital natives and their affinity with everything digital, a reliance on paper must be done away with to effectively engage this new user base.

There are obvious and significant cost benefits in using e-signatures for the onboarding workflow, including time savings, paper handling and production costs, as well as reducing the cost of errors and non-compliance. However, the biggest impact for banks is most likely to be on customer satisfaction. A recent KPMG report showed that as many as 90 per cent of all millennials use mobile banking, and so expect all interactions with their banks to be conducted via mobile and online.

A number of financial services organisations in UK are currently undergoing significant digital transformation programs, with a real focus on customer onboarding. UK organisations want the same results as other banks globally: an enhanced customer experience, improved conversion rates, reduced churn and the ability to reconnect with customers who may have gone to other providers.

Amongst banks and financial institutions, the market is crowded and competition intense, with a lot of organisations vying for the same customers. The organisations that will win out will be the ones that can provide a fast, efficient, cost-effective and customer-centric processes. Failing at the first hurdle is certainly not how anyone wants to start that journey.

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