How Santander UK cut customer onboarding from days to hours

The head of digital transformation at the bank, Jonathan Holman, discusses how Docusign helped improve business customer onboarding by consolidating 39 separate paper forms

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In the past, if you wanted to register as a new business customer with Santander in the UK, the bank would have provided you with one of 39 different editable PDF forms, which you would have to print off, manually sign, and then return to your local branch.

About three years ago, the bank decided that not only was this process unsustainable, it was also hurting customer experience. “So we put all the forms into one online dynamic form that changed depending on the scenario and we used that to create a PDF that was then executed digitally,” Jonathan Holman, head of digital transformation for corporate and commercial banking at Santander UK, tells Computerworld. 

“As soon as the form finishes, we start the back-office process to open the accounts and then it's like a race. If the customer signs slower than we complete the back-office work, when their last signature comes in, we instantaneously respond with: ‘Your account’s now open,’” he says.

There are several technology providers that offer editable forms with electronic signatures, including Adobe Sign, Docusign, Hellosign and Signnow.

However, when deciding which software to deploy, Holman said it was simple for the bank. Santander chose Docusign because it made sense to use a platform that many of the bank’s customers were already familiar with. Another advantage: Santander uses Salesforce as its CRM platform, on which Docusign was rated as one of the top integrated partners. 

How Santander streamlined the documentation effort for customers

Previously, Santander had digitised its forms into user-editable PDFs, which customers would download, fill in, print, sign, and return in person or via mail to the bank. That required a lot of paper management by the customer – on average, 12 days on the customer side to complete the forms and gather all the required signatures before returning them to Santander.

By moving to an editable form that could also be signed electronically, in this case using Docusign’s technology, Santander says the process now takes customers two days.

As well as being familiar to many of Santander’s customers, Holman explains that, when necessary, Docusign was also able to provide the bank with the ability to separate the process of filling in a form and signing the document. This is important, especially at bigger corporations where the individual who completes the form might not necessarily be the same person who needs to sign it, or with other documents that might require more than one signature before it can be actioned.

“You’ve got all these different signature journeys that need to go on and we could divorce the signature from the forms, which was elegant because [providing your signature] is quite different and quite idiosyncratic to who you are and what your role is,” Holman says. “Sometimes people have got multiple roles, they’re on the mandates of certain accounts or they might be a director and they're providing ID because they're an owner of the business as well.”

While it was possible to have multiple parties sign a paper document, when this occurred previously, the forms would have to be physically sent to the various parties, some of whom were based in different parts of the world. This made the process incredibly slow on the customer side, up to three or four weeks in some cases. Now, Santander can collect the signatures in parallel, matching up both the front and back office processes to provide the best possible customer experience.

The same paperwork but without the paper

The use of an all-digital process also helps reduce the physical paper generated and managed. The bank’s old way of working involved a lot of paper at all stages of the process and even though the back office was already digitised before Docusign was introduced, the customer-facing processes meant Santander’s efforts to combat waste weren’t having the wide-spread impact the company had been hoping for.

But now, Holman says, “We're eliminating paper left, right and centre. [Also,] we know that communicating backwards and forwards, envelopes aren't being used, which would be more paper, right? It’s not just what's in it but the paper that you're sending it in.”

Alongside the environmental benefits that are associated with going paperless, Holman says this new digitised process has reduced the amount of admin work employees were previously carrying out. Previously, onboarding a new customer would require the information on the paper forms to be inputted into a digital form in the back office, which would then have to be checked against the original, external form.

He says that now, instead of apologising about its onboarding process, the bank is now boasting market leading times and has developed a system that staff can be proud of.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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