Kelly Purcell, digital mortgage pioneer, dies at 58

Kelly Purcell, an advocate for the digital mortgage movement, died on Feb. 6 at the age of 58.

Purcell was a pioneer of electronic signature technology, co-founding SignOnline in 1999, a year before the federal legalization of e-signatures. Since October 2018, Purcell served as NotaryCam’s EVP of marketing and business development.

SignOnline — later renamed eSignSystems — still lives on. It was acquired by Wave Systems in 2001 and again by DocMagic in 2014. The company’s survival is a testament to Purcell’s vision and tenacity, friends and industry veterans said. She committed herself to bettering an industry ripe for innovation and refused to quit, they added.

“Kelly was my go-to whenever I was weary,” Nancy Alley, SignOnline co-founder and vice president of strategic planning at Simplifile, said in an interview. “I remember Jonathan [Kearns] and I were starting to see hope expire a little bit. She just looked at us and it was non-negotiable. She literally became Annette Bening in American Beauty saying, ‘I will sell this house today.”

Purcell made her first foray into lending at GE Mortgage Insurance Group in 1989. Over the years, she heavily involved herself in several industry groups, including the Mortgage Bankers Association, Electronic Signature and Records Association and Progress in Lending Association. She canvassed for new ideas and prioritized thought leadership over bureaucracy. In 2009, eSignSystems won Mortgage Technology Magazine’s Lasting Impact Award.

“To call Kelly Purcell a pioneer is an understatement. eSignatures are a part of our daily lives today but back in the early 2000’s it was such an unknown and considered a risk factor, especially in the mortgage industry,” said Jonathan Kearns, SignOnline co-founder and associate vice president at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “For years we evangelized and moved the needle forward on eMortgages, no one did it better than Kelly. Having an eVault was even more unheard of but from the beginning we knew maintaining the integrity of digital assets would be as important as eSignatures.”

Tim Anderson, SVP and director of digital strategy at MortgageConnect, posted the news of Purcell’s passing on LinkedIn to an outpouring of sympathies from around the mortgage world. Anderson and Purcell met in 1999 and stayed friends ever since.

Purcell’s loyalty and ability to form true connections will be a huge part of her legacy, Alley added.

“She would take anybody in the industry interested in mortgages or E-signatures under her wing, share what she knew, introduce them to the right people and help them find jobs,” Alley said. “She was the best salesperson I’ve ever met. She just had that great connection with people. She was very loyal to her peers in the industry, but loyal to her family above all else.”

Purcell is survived by her daughter, Rachel, her mother, two sisters, three nieces and two nephews.


John Grundhofer, former U.S. Bank CEO, dies at 82

Former U.S. Bancorp Chairman John “Jack” Grundhofer, who turned around a struggling bank in Minneapolis and built it into what would become one of the country’s largest financial companies, died Sunday at 82.

Grundhofer was a prominent California banker rising through the ranks at Wells Fargo when he was recruited to help turn around Minneapolis-based First Bank System as its CEO in 1990. He quickly became known as a cost cutter at the then-$10 billion-asset bank, slashing 20% of the workforce, turning over upper management and even taking potted plants out of the building.

Jack Grundhofer retired from banking 2002 and became chairman emeritus of U.S. Bancorp.

Jack Grundhofer retired from banking 2002 and became chairman emeritus of U.S. Bancorp.

Grundhofer was kidnapped at gunpoint during his first year at First Bank System on the parking ramp as he was heading into work. Sticks of dynamite were strapped to his arms as he was forced to drive out to a wooded area in Wisconsin. After being left alone, Grundhofer managed to untie himself and escape to a nearby farmhouse. Investigators later suspected a former employee or a disgruntled borrower cut off from the bank’s tighter lending policies were behind the kidnapping, though it was never solved.

Despite the harrowing episode that became legend in the banking industry, First Bank started to right the ship. It went on to make nearly three dozen acquisitions over the next several years, culminating in its 1997 deal for U.S. Bancorp in Portland, Ore.

The $9 billion merger created a $70 billion-asset company that took on the U.S. Bancorp name but remained headquartered in Minneapolis.

Richard Davis, who later became CEO of U.S. Bancorp and its subsidiary U.S. Bank and guided it through the 2008 financial crisis, said Grundhofer “took [First Bank] from near death” and set it up for its nationwide expansion.

In 2000, Grundhofer sold U.S. Bancorp to Milwaukee-based Firststar, which was run by his younger brother Jerry Grundhofer at the time, in a $21 billion deal. That deal created a $160 billion-asset company, which kept the U.S. Bancorp name and its Minnepaolis headquarters. Jerry was named CEO of the combined company and Jack became its chairman.

Today, U.S. Bancorp is the nation’s fifth-largest commercial bank, with $553.9 billion of assets. Its current Chairman and CEO Andy Cecere was mentored by Grundhofer and served as his chief financial officer before U.S. Bancorp was sold to Firststar and through the merger.

“[Grundhofer] pushed for excellence in financial management and had a vision that was bigger than what many thought was possible at the time,” Cecere said in a statement announcing his former mentor’s death.

Grundhofer retired in 2002 and became chairman emeritus of U.S. Bancorp. He spent time funding nonprofits and teaching. A longtime supporter of the arts, Grundhofer helped rescue the Palm Springs International Film Festival from financial trouble.

He is survived by his wife Patti, two daughters, five grandchildren and his brother Jerry.