Is the signature going extinct?

Mike Kemp | Rubberball | Getty Images

"Your signatures don't match at all," the associate at CitiBank told me upon my arrival to Singapore.

I had just moved from New York City and needed to open a new bank account.

She filled out the entire multi-page form by hand on my behalf, but it was up to me to sign in five different places. Upon her review, my signatures didn't match.

It was me, she just witnessed signing five times, and yet, it didn't matter. She got up from her desk. We would have to re-do the multi-page form.

Blame the jetlag?


The nearly 22-hour flight?


More realistically, it was Venmo's fault; the Millennial-centric app, owned by PayPal, that makes sending and receiving money so insanely easy, that it's difficult to remember the last time I signed an actual check. Venmo even has its own social news feed, a prevalent part of the experience (which likely terrifies any privacy advocate). In lieu of any signature, the app nearly advocates for an emoji with the conclusion of any payment.

2nd time

Just in case the signatures didn't match again, she decided to leave the form blank until I had signed consistently and then she would refill all the information.

She examined my next attempt. "They still don't match."

As she got up again, I began practicing multiple times, over a faulty form and was brought back to early elementary school, excited to learn cursive, idolizing signatures of parents and relatives. I remembered how unique each person's was, eager to pave my own path and one day have my own unique identity that could only be conveyed through a signature.

3rd time

I let out a deep sigh. Would I be denied a checking account with CitiBank, simply because I was unable to sign identical signatures five times in a row?

Studies have shown that Millennials are simply less concerned as previous generations about their privacy and security.

And I was no exception. I was nearly ready to give her my fingerprints, a blood sample, perhaps even a retinal eye scan.

Just please, not five consistent signatures!

4th time

As she sat down again, I asked her what would happen if we submitted the document with inconsistent signatures. She said the account would be granted, but within thirty days, it would likely be closed once the signatures were more closely examined by another team.

As I began the process once again, I could see confusion in her eyes.

Sure, the signature is still used in physical stores and restaurants, yet the occasional times a cashier has me sign a receipt, it's hardly a consistent signature and more of an elaborate scribble depicting my current mood.

5th time

This time, she came back with a stack of forms. I admired her patience and despite my growing frustration, realized I was no longer in New York.

As I completed the last one, I tried to convince her, "look the 'i''s are dotted in the same way on this one, and that squiggly part is pretty consistent on these two."

She examined and slowly shook her head, "no."

6th time

I took my time now, focusing on each curve, peak and valley, realizing I had never spent any time examining the topography of the letters that made up my name. I pause to take a deep breath in between each signature. And slowly sign one by one, mirroring more of a third grader practicing cursive for the first time, than a newly American Expat arriving in Asia.

The sixth is a charm, she, "thinks".

Relieved, yet bothered by her choice of words, I watched as she began hand-writing my information throughout the form.

I concluded this wasn't the time to be competitive or perfect. I would accept the news with gratitude as I studied the finalized signature, wondering if I'd remember it in case I ever used my new checkbook that would be arriving in 5-7 business days.