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The kitchen table is out, e-sigs are in: NJ success story shared at ESRA conference

Industry Insights
|  December 5, 2011 Mary Ellen Power
ESRA held this year’s Electronic Signature and Records 2011 Conference in Washington, DC on November 9 - 10. I want to share one story in particular that came out of this event because it speaks to a universal theme: resistance to change. Not only did the organization in this story use e-signatures to cut their loan application and approval process from two weeks to one day – they saw their own internal resistors "fall in love" with e-signatures. This story was presented by Heidi Kovalick, Associate Director for the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) of New Jersey. HESAA is a state statutory supplemental student loan program that approves 28,000 loan applications per year. The issue for HESAA was simple. They happen to be in a very competitive market with other lending institutions, many of which already offered e-signatures on their loans. Although HESAA’s application was online, students still had to print all 14 pages to sign and mail it. On average, it would take HESAA two weeks to confirm if the student was approved for the loan—too long for students, who would often end up abandoning the process to go with another lender. Abandonment rates were not the only problem. HESAA received approximately 2,000 applications per week that were sorted into 13 large mail bins. Staff had to pull each file, match it, review it and often send it back to the student applicant because of missing signatures. To meet its service standard, HESAA staff was tasked with reviewing 28 applications/hour, which gave them just over two minutes to review each application – an impossible task. The result was overtime hours on weekends, additional budget for four temps, a lot of customer complaints, and an unbelievable amount of storage space for filing cabinets. To get onboard with e-signatures, HESAA first did a cost analysis, risk analysis and proof-of-concept trial. They rolled out Silanis e-signatures to their customers on July 14, 2011 at the peak of their loan season and within one day, e-signature adoption hit 99.9% with 335 applications e-signed. Only two of those choose to proceed on paper. Since electronic applications are now approved in minutes instead of weeks, HESAA staff no longer put in overtime hours, nor do they need temps or even filing cabinets. Customer and employee satisfaction are at an all-time high. These results weren’t what converted the resistors though. Among those offering the greatest resistance to change were HESAA personnel concerned with meeting the lending compliance requirements. Silanis’ Process Replayer™ convinced them. It saves web screenshots and collects data about what each signer sees and does during the online signing process. Plus, the IP address of the computer is included and everything is time stamped – which has already helped HESAA protect against fraud. "The Silanis Process Replayer actually provides better evidence than was ever possible at the kitchen table," says Heidi Kovalick. "When students used to print applications to sign at home, we had no idea whether signers even read anything before actually signing. Now we can prove they did, and from a lender’s perspective having that proof or electronic evidence makes a world of difference from a regulatory compliance and non-repudiation standpoint."