How Canada’s Affinity Credit Union digitized mortgage renewals

OneSpan Team,

Affinity Credit Union, the largest credit union branch network in Saskatchewan and the seventh largest credit union in Canada, is taking a methodical approach to e-signatures – keeping in mind the end goal, which is to have an e-signature capability that can be extended across all of its operations.

To demonstrate the capabilities of e-signature to the entire organization, Affinity selected their mortgage renewals process for the pilot. Affinity identified mortgage as an area of the business where moderate effort could generate high impact.

Affinity’s original plan was to automate their mail-out process for mortgage renewals. However, through speaking with internal business groups they realized the true need was to focus on early renewals.

"If the member walked into the branch or called in and wanted to renew early, they would have to contact our Loan Admin department and that process to generate a renewal was completely manual. So when we started looking at e-signature, we realized that what we needed to do was generate a mortgage renewal document in real time and do the calculations automatically. Then we needed to enable members to sign remotely to make it more convenient, to avoid trips to the branch or even trips to a member’s residence."

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The Legacy Process

The legacy mortgage renewals process began with an automated notice sent to a member 120 days in advance of the mortgage term expiring. A meeting would then be set up with the member to start negotiating rates and terms.

However, in cases where a member dropped by a branch unannounced, or just happened to be in a branch and willing to meet right away, the legacy process was not ideal. This was further complicated when joint borrowers were in different cities.

Prior to electronic signature, this was the paper-based process the credit union needed to improve: 

  • The lender would make a request for a renewal document from the Consumer Credit Support department, which meant a last-minute rush situation for the department.
  • From there, the manual document generation began (including manually calculating and entering information).
  • The document was saved to an internal drive, converted from Word to PDF format so it couldn’t be altered, and emailed to the lender to be printed and signed.
  • The lender would gather the signatures from the borrower(s). "If it’s one individual signing on a mortgage renewal, that’s not difficult. But if you have to coordinate among a number of joint borrowers or if there are joint borrowers and a guarantor who may not even live in the same city or province, then [on paper] it would take time."
  • Once the renewal was complete, it was scanned and sent to the back office for keying into the system.
  • The credit union then had to archive the documents manually in their repository.


Selecting an E-Signature Provider

The process of evaluating and selecting an electronic signature provider took more than a year. Affinity looked at the following before selecting OneSpan Sign:

  • Technical capabilities: "We were looking for a technically mature product, because we had to integrate e-signature with older applications. We needed an electronic signature solution with an established API, to be able to link it to our systems. That was very important."
  • Market presence: "We were looking for an established vendor. We see this as a long-term project and didn’t want to commit, but then find out they didn’t exist anymore. There are so many requests within our organization for e-signature that we were looking for a long-term partnership."
  • Branding options: "We wanted to make it unique. Our members know our name. There’s always a concern when you’re dealing with third parties – confusion about whether it’s a scam [if the email notification isn't branded to Affinity Credit Union]."
  • Security: "Security was huge for us. We had to make sure from the IT compliance side, that all the boxes were checked."  


Integrating Legacy Systems with New Technologies

After further research, Affinity decided it wanted to expand the scope of Renew, its in-house mortgage renewal application, so that it could be used in the early renewal process to essentially generate a mortgage renewal document on-the-fly and do the necessary calculations automatically. This proved challenging, as Renew was a legacy technology written in an older programming language, but needed to be integrated with the more modern e-signature platform.

"From the time we first started looking at OneSpan Sign to our first proof of concept was around two weeks. We were able to learn the API fairly quickly and get it working right away."

A Consultative Approach

With a bare-bones process developed and mapped out, Affinity focused first on staff renewals and collected feedback. Affinity took many groups into account:

  • the development team that was building the solution
  • multiple back-office departments
  • the compliance team
  • front-line staff

Incorporating this feedback all the way through resulted in a better end product. Affinity also collected valuable feedback from its members and implemented some important changes.

"In one of the first iterations, we had the members signing with a mouse or with their finger on a mobile device. This seemed like a great experience at the time, but this is one of the changes we made.

We moved to a click-to-sign because we got a lot of feedback that people were getting hung up on how, when signing on the computer, they couldn’t make the signature look like their signature. Because it didn’t look right, people didn’t think it was a valid signature.

So we moved to a click-to-sign model."

Affinity Credit Union has heard positive feedback from both lenders and members, with 25% of their applicable mortgage renewals now done via e-signature – a good starting point with plenty of room to grow. They are also pleased to see that lenders are repeatedly using this new process.

The excitement is building, and Affinity is looking at what more they can do with electronic signature technology, such as completely replacing paper with e-signing for online membership openings, pre-authorized payment forms, and more.

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