Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services is conducting a pilot application, part of its WealthCentral platform for RIAs, that allows investors to place an electronic signature on documents like new account forms, eliminating the need for printing, mailing, signing, and mailing back said forms. Ed O’Brien, a Fidelity Institutional senior VP, said eSignature could shorten the new-account opening and funding process “to minutes or hours from days or weeks.”

To apply their eSignature to electronic forms in PDF format–such as new account or other forms like an advisor’s investment policy statement–investors click on a link in an e-mail from their advisor which brings them to a secure site. There, the application walks them first through an identity-confirmation process, then displays the documents, which have been prepopulated with the investor’s information from the advisor’s existing CRM or front-end system, and indicates where on the documents that the investors need to electronically sign. Advisors can monitor the investor’s progress through the process, and should there be any hiccups, the investor would contact the advisor directly.

The application uses technology from DocuSign, but the e-mail and secure site carries the advisor’s brand, with “DocuSign working in the background,” notes O’Brien. Eight to ten advisors affiliated with Fidelity are participating in a pilot program to put eSignature through its paces; those advisors were specifically chosen to participate, says O’Brien, because they “generate a fair amount of volume” in opening new accounts.

The eSignature component is part of Fidelity’s WealthCentral platform, which will include Advent portfolio management, Oracel/Siebel’s CRM application, and NaviPlan’s financial planning software. The entire platform is expected to be rolled out to all of Fidelity’s RIAs by the middle of 2009.