When less is more

An initiative to scrap paper that saves money and speeds up service has resulted in an important industry award for Intesa Sanpaolo, writes Caroline Dix

Caroline Dix


The paperless office has been a holy grail for businesses since the first desktop computers appeared in the 1980s. Thirty-five years on and progress has – in too many cases – been slow, as increasingly complex processes result in huge volumes of physical documents being printed and stored.

One notable exception is Intesa Sanpaolo, which has won a prestigious first prize at the 2015 Distribution & Marketing Innovation Awards sponsored by industry body Efma and Accenture.

The awards recognise the most innovative projects and best practice in the financial services sector, and draw entries from all over the world. The Italian bank topped the Physical Distribution category for its Zero Paper Branch initiative, which started as a pilot scheme in 10 branches in December 2014.

By the end of August 2015, more than 2,400 branches – around 60 per cent of the total – had gone paperless, ahead of a completion deadline of December 2017.

In fact, the impetus came when the bank realised that the need to print paper documents was causing delays for its retail customers, who had to be present to sign application forms for loans, mortgages and any number of routine activities – or do so by post. Furthermore, archiving the documents and retrieving them when requested was proving expensive.

So Intesa decided to completely rethink the in-branch experience. Massimo Tessitore, Intesa Sanpaolo’s head of integrated multi-channel, mobile payment and e-commerce, said: “Our drive to innovation is increasingly central to our strategy and the way we operate; it’s crucial in order for us to continue the transformation of our service model, which is built around our customers and our people.”

Key to the successful implementation of the Zero Paper Branch was the development of two new resources: the Remote Digital Signature, which customers use to access internet banking via an in-branch tablet device or at home; and the Advanced Electronic Signature.

Together they form part of an individual’s digital identity contract, protected by a PIN, and allow the bank to provide a single point of access for all relationships and transactions.

They have the same legal status as a handwritten signature.

At the heart of the transformation was an extensive programme of customer education, including online videos, one-to-one communications and brochures – all with the aim of informing the public about the project and its benefits.

They still have the choice to receive hard copies of any documents, but are encouraged to go digital and receive them via email or the internet banking service.

Branch employees also received intensive training to use and promote paperless operations.

As well as main banking transactions, it is also possible to digitise operations to do with cards, investments and mandatory questionnaires (such as those relating to money-laundering). Intesa’s copies are digitally produced, leading to lower costs and more secure archiving. Already the overall experience is one of smoother, faster and more streamlined service.

In accepting the award, Tessitore said: “This recognition confirms the quality of a project in which we have decided to greatly invest resources, training and energy. It is also significant that for the third consecutive year Intesa Sanpaolo has stood out thanks to an initiative which underlines our desire to save time and improve the quality of our relations with our customers.”

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