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LPL announces e-signature capabilities

Technology from DocuSign added to LPL's BranchNet platform and integrated with other operations; allows for multiple forms of e-signature including iPads, mobile devices

Nov 27, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

By Davis Janowski

LPL is heading down a paperless path, cue tree hugger applause.

LPL Financial LLC today announced the availability of electronic signature capabilities across their operations that are being powered by technology from DocuSign Inc.

That means DocuSign's eSignature technology is now available across LPL Financial's BranchNet technology platform and is just one part of improved workflow processes being rolled out at the firm.

Importantly, that technology will be available at no additional cost to advisers or their clients.

I should also point out what might otherwise be overlooked by the uninitiated or relegated to the fine print dustbin by those in the know: As most advisers will be aware LPL Financial LLC is the independent broker-dealer but the e-signature capabilities from DocuSign are being integrated into LPL's custodian operations and its institutional service provider operations as well — all of these being wholly owned subsidiaries of LPL Financial Holdings Inc.

In a nutshell DocuSign's eSignature system will be employed to do away with as much paper as possible and begin the process of streamlining document processing and, of course, “to enhance the client experience” as was pointed out in LPL's prepared statement today.

I had a chance to speak with Christopher Giles, senior vice president of advisor-facing technology at LPL Financial Monday afternoon.

“This is an integral part of a workflow not just introduction of e-signature technology,” he said.

Prior to speaking with Mr. Giles I was rather skeptical of the announcement when viewed on paper (well my screen actually).

After all, I have now reported on numerous bits of news related to document management implementations in financial services; these date back to 2007 for me alone. In fact among them are several announcements specifically related to DocuSign eSignature technology.

All four of the largest custodians, most recently Schwab a few weeks ago, have announced partnerships with the company and integrations of its technology.

And I have also followed rollouts at other broker-dealers of not only DocuSign technology but that of competitors too.

So I asked Mr. Giles: What differentiates LPL's project?

“If [documents] are signed in near real time that completed and signed form will be available within an hour typically,” he said, adding that this specifically refers to clients whose assets are also being held on LPL's custodial platform.

“This improves the client experience as well because they are taken out of the back and forth of e-mailing,” Mr. Giles added.

Principally, the announcement and the technology therein will help in the streamlining of LPL's account-opening processes but should also shorten turnaround time of documents that have been submitted.

That in turn raises the potential for eliminating traditional paper mailings or faxes (LPL still receives four million of the latter a year; that is your fun fact for the day).

Another facet is represented by the guts of the technology which provides the ability to automate the routing and tracking e-documents, even to multiple signers and makes it easy to set up things like reminder e-mails for those pesky documents that have gone unsigned.

Yet another improvement over some of those first announcements I covered — multiple electronic ways of signing. Early iterations, no matter the provider in question, tended to rely on electronic signature pads, like those all of us encounter at stores and banks.

DocuSign's relationship with LPL allows for three different signature mechanisms including click-to-sign (in overly simple terms basically a secure e-mail that allows signers to click and acknowledge), iPad (but also other tablet support to follow), as well as the least popular electronic keypad (not as popular due to the pads being an additional cost).

“A lot of our efforts are not just focused on delivering the technology but also extracting the value of it, this should help drive best practices to reduce the use of paper and save a tree here and there,” Mr. Giles said.

My final question was if and how he saw this being meshed with various other developments, including integrations with the various other approved applications and applications forming the core of BranchNet, including CRM systems.

“This is absolutely part of our roadmap to see how this fits into to the workflows of other systems including CRM, it is part of a continued evolution,” he said.

The eSignature features have been available to advisers for a few weeks prior to today's official announcement and already in that time 5,000 advisers have begun accessing or using it according to Mr. Giles.

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