E-Rent from Wincasa shows how digitization and optimized user experience can succeed in the real estate sector: with the e-signature solution from Skribble and technological backbone infrastructure from Swisscom Trust Services.
With 31 locations and around 1,000 employees, Wincasa is the largest integrated real estate service provider in Switzerland. The experts manage properties along their entire life cycle. One core area of the business is the rental of apartments and parking spaces. With its rental solution E-Rent, Wincasa digitizes and automates the entire rental process, eliminating the need for paper, hand signatures and mailing of documents.
Vision of a digital, end-to-end and fully automated letting process
As early as 2018, Dominic Hux, Product Owner E-Rent, then still in his role as Digital Transformation Agent, started developing the digital application portal and later the automated document out-put management. This still represents the important foundation of E-Rent today. With the arrival of Marco Kissling, Head of Business & Digital Excellence, in September 2019 and the associated establishment of the department, the ideas around application management, fully automated contract generation, digital tenant selection and the digital rental contract merged. In January 2020, Wincasa went live with its digital application portal. Meanwhile, the core team developing E-Rent also includes Julia Kramer and Chantal Friess in roles as digital transformation agents.
Digital first, analog too
Wincasa sees itself as a digital real estate company that wants to take advantage of the opportunities offered by technological progress. For a long time, the signing of rental contracts was an analog bottleneck in otherwise digital processes. E-Rent set out with the goal of changing this situation and revolutionizing the handling of leases, including the integrating documents. The pilot project started with the rental of outdoor parking spaces, as these are standardized objects with standardized contract modules and a low financial risk. This enabled fully automated rental around the clock. In a next step, the offer is to be extended to other types of secondary property, such as hobby rooms. In the case of apartments, the situation is somewhat more complex: Despite the digital focus, living is an emotional issue and a basic human need. Therefore, from Wincasa’s point of view, it is important that interested parties, according to their possibilities, can apply not only digitally in the transition phase to E-Rent, but still also via the analog route. E-Rent provides for application options tailored to requirements from the ground up.
A fully digital rental contract stands and falls with a legally valid electronic signature. For its implementation, the E-Rent team evaluated various possible partners. In the end, the choice fell on Skribble: The company not only had the best offer technologically and economically, but also had a strong partner in Swisscom behind it. However, Wincasa wants to go one step further and is striving to make the entire leasing process digital, highly automated and free of media discontinuity – including additional documents such as the initial rent form. In addition, Wincasa’s HR department has been using Skribble’s qualified electronic signature for some time now (read the interview here).
E-signature with “Fast Track”
Wincasa has analyzed electronic signature types with the aim of creating the best possible process for all parties. The advanced electronic signature (FES) has proven to be legally appropriate for E-Rent or rental and is very convenient and easy to use for users.
“Wincasa always has the ambition to create the best possible digital solutions for all parties involved. The challenge is to find an appropriate balance between security, practicality, experience and performance. Wincasa believes that the advanced electronic signature (FES) meets the requirements for a balanced solution. To define a uniform security level of the e-signature for the rental process across the industry, Wincasa, together with SVIT Switzerland, has set up the SVIT Futureboard. In this board, the biggest industry players among real estate service providers agree that the advanced electronic signature (FES) is appropriate for the digital rental contract.”
– Marco Kissling, Head of Business & Digital Excellence
With the “Fast Track” solution from Swisscom Trust Services integrated into Skribble, it is possible to identify the contract partner and make a clear declaration of intent via SMS. The procedure includes since, in accordance with the requirements of Swiss telecommunications law, a SIM card and mobile phone number must be used for unique identification. If a document is to be signed, a hash is formed from it, which is then signed by Swisscom Trust Services. At no time does the trust service have any insight into the document itself. Contractual partners who have a SIM card are then sent a one-time password via SMS, which they enter to trigger the document signature. This step is considered a declaration of intent and consent to the contract, similar to a manual signature. Swisscom Trust Services verifies the code assigned to a particular contract and issues an electronic certificate based on it. In the process, the transmitted hash is signed and provided with a qualified time stamp.
Administrative processes completed in the blink of an eye
Digitizing contract management brings major efficiency gains for Wincasa. To this end, the team has implemented a number of optimizations: digital credit checks, fully automated contract generation, fully automated landlord signature using an electronic organization seal, digital rental contract conclusion and other process improvements. A decisive interface was the electronic signature from Skribble. It was the only way to finally overcome the media discontinuity. All in all, Wincasa achieved an impressive performance increase for all parties:
“With the digital rental contract for outdoor parking spaces, under ideal conditions we achieve an 800-fold acceleration in processing time compared to the analog route. In terms of management, we ideally expect a 35-fold reduction in administrative workload with the e-lease agreement.”
– Dominic Hux, Product Owner E-Rent
left to right: Julia Kramer, Dominic Hux, Marco Kissling & Chantal Friess
Based on the positive experience, the company is expanding the use of Skribble’s e-signature with Swisscom Trust Services in the background to the digital residential rental contract from spring 2022 on pilot properties. The overriding goal is to process the rental of all residential properties in the portfolio using these solutions. In addition, Wincasa’s experience shows that electronic signatures can also be used profitably in correspondence with authorities. This use is therefore also being continuously increased.
You can find out more about this topic and the collaboration between Skribble and Wincasa on the Skribble blog.