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Efficiency & Security on the Digital Highway

Mr. V. Srinivasan, Founder & Chairman of eMudhra, advocates digital signatures as the next level of digital transformation:

V.Srinivasan, Founder & Chairman,eMudhra

For the last several years, banking has been evolving in India from physical operations to paperless mobile interactions in an increasing number of departments allowing customers to access relevant systems through multiple Digital Identification methodologies like user ID, password, secure tokens, digital signatures, etc. However, a lot of these processes still involve paperwork and signatures which often act as an impediment to the progress towards Digital Banking. When we further put this in context of the Bank’s own back-end processes, one can imagine the magnitude of cost and efficiency savings that can be achieved, especially considering that an average bank may have anywhere from 300-700 forms that need signatures!
The value of leveraging digital signatures (or eSign) to go paperless has never hit home harder than during the past few months of lockdown. Mr. V. Srinivasan, Founder & Chairman of eMudhra, explains: “The global pandemic has taught us that going paperless is more than just being about efficiency and cost savings. It is a critical Business Continuity requirement that is instrumental in protecting enterprises from unforeseen scenarios like Covid 19. The good news is, technologies and legislations are already in place to propagate the progress towards a paperless society.”

The Impetus

The Information Technology Act of 2000 widely promoted the use of Digital Signature (and eSign) to replace physical signatures. While it has been in effect for 2 decades, a great amount of technological ease has been brought thanks to the progress of technology and the flexibility of the regulatory framework. Perhaps, this is the reason that adoption has been rapidly growing YoY over the past few years as compared to the previous decade.
The introduction of eSign, a remote signing solution that makes digital signing quick, easy, and efficient (1 or 2 step process) has been a critical catalyst for digital adoption in India. When you pair that with the flexible commercial models that are often transaction based for organizations, enterprise adoption was bound to rise.
While it is true that a lot of enterprises are actively going paperless, there are still quite a few banks that are behind the curve in promoting mobile and presence-less fulfilment of their various offerings. In the past few months however, we find more and more banks gradually adopting paperless technologies for client related documentation activities as a stepping stone into implementing a broader paperless strategy across the organization.
“Generally, we find paperless adoption in Banking to always start out to be more customer centric, with a special focus on SME & Corporate Banking. It’s probably because it’s a more addressable and manageable audience to drive initial adoption as compared to Retail Banking customer base, which is often quite sporadic and large.” adds Mr. Srinivasan.

Much More than a Signature

The key element behind digital signatures (or eSign) lies in non-repudiation, which is in turn driven by the cryptographic ‘behind-the-scenes’ element that ensures Data Integrity, Identity of Signer & Confidentiality in a globally accepted manner. One can argue that digital signatures are often more secure than physical signatures where fraud identification is more reactive once the fraud has already occurred. “Digital Signatures are based on cryptographic keys that are uniquely assigned to and solely in control of an individual/organization. Further, such keys are certified by a Certificate Authority who verifies the identity of the requester in a manner that is compliant with the laws of the country and establishes the identity of an individual with reasonably certainty,” adds Mr. Srinivasan.

Ease of Use

Remote Signing solutions like eSign have made digital signing, a very easy affair that anybody with a smartphone can do in seconds. eMudhra, as a Certificate Authority in India, a global trust service provider, and prominent global player in this space has been at the forefront of innovations on remote signing where some such innovations have resulted in awards from United Nations. Mr. Srinivasan adds: “10 years ago, applying for a digital signature was a cumbersome affair that required in-person visits and quite a bit of identity documentation. Today, it takes less than 2 minutes to apply for a signature, some of which, can be used instantly. eSign has further eased the process by removing the complexity of USB tokens that were typically used to sign thus enabling mobility with ease.”

Providing a Single Source of Truth

Banks generally are quite evolved technological organizations by virtue of their scale and nature of operations. Needless to say, there are multiple disparate systems that process different workflows for different banking units. Quite often, in the midst of this large-scale chaotic IT ecosystem, it becomes difficult to maintain a single source of truth by centrally managing all signatures and corresponding audit trails. “We conceptualized emSigner to enable paperless transformation in multiple scenarios, either a standalone application in some cases, or as a complementary system to an existing application, or both. Sure, the application comes with a robust set of APIs and a Signer gateway for easy integration, but to me, the most important element of integration, is really the ability to derive and manage a single source of truth across the organization. The consequent liability mitigation is of significant value to large organizations.”

Conceptualizing the Digital Journey

Conceptualization of a digital framework and the paperless flow and ecosystem is often the hardest part. Further, there are many use cases where the digitization must transcend the organization itself and operate across a network of organizations to support inter-organizational workflows. Then, there are large scale government use cases that are often quite specific in the unique necessities required to enable a smooth UI/UX. “We find that organizations that spend more time with us on conceptualization often end up with a more simplified deployment, and generally simpler user-journeys. Conceptualization from multiple perspectives is key to arriving at a balance between what is feasible, what is secure, and what is easy,” says Mr. Srinivasan.

emSigner for Customer Onboarding

Getting new customers is perhaps the most important element and at the top of the mind for any management team. It goes without saying, the easier you make onboarding, the higher the chances of a customer completing the onboarding journey. Further, this often resonates in the market and results in increased market share, which is central to organizational growth. Customer onboarding however, is generally a touchy subject because it involves data privacy, residency, identity assurance, evidencing, and quite a few other factors, and I must add, rightfully so! Nobody would let a stranger in the house without taking some precaution. For enterprises, these precautions are often paired with compliance requirements and organizational policies. “At eMudhra, we’ve always adopted the ‘customer first’ principle. We realize that no two organizations are the same. Deployment preferences often vary, as does the roadmap, features, and other elements of the application. To the most part, whatever the customer preference is, whether they want to deploy on-premise or avail a cloud service, whether they require custom features or don’t require all the existing features of the application, or even if they wish to consume our application only through integration, we support it all. This way, we ensure peace of mind for both parties,” says Mr. Srinivasan.

Paperless – It’s becoming a need

The industry has in general seen a robust growth curve over the past few years. It’s not different this year. In fact, the need for presence-less functioning has resulted in higher demand of applications that help promote the same. With the IT landscape already equipped to enable remote deliveries, location is also no longer an inhibiting factor to global scalability. “At eMudhra, we see 2020 as a pivotal year to the propagation of the paperless agenda where more organizations are starting to realize the value first-hand. The trend is being observed across industries and segments where we have a significant increase in lead-flow from across the world,” says Mr. Srinivasan.
As we evolve as a society, it seems only logical that more things will go mobile and paperless and presence-less will become a competitive factor for organizations to offer convenience, efficiency, and mobility to their stakeholders. The question is no longer whether ‘Paperless’ is needed or not, but rather, what will be the time frame for societal paperless transformation.

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