Author Kestutis Skrodenis, Agneta Venckute
At a time when all typical document management processes are digitalizing, those managerial tasks that are hard to imagine without a physical touch are following too. One of the most recent transformations is handwritten signatures, which are slowly transforming into e-signatures.
E-signature is not new. It dates back to 1869 when telegraphic messages were recognized as a valid way to sign an agreement. E-signatures, also known as electronic signatures, are like traditional ink signatures but applied to documents in an electronic way. But e-signatures are not the same as digital signatures, as digital ones are cryptographically secured with verification keys.
Risks you face if you haven’t switched from paper to paper-free
Perhaps every leasing manager would agree that the potential for human error is great with a group of dealers and originators handling lease documents. If any signature is missing, the customers would be unlikely to sign themselves. So productivity and the impact on the company’s reputation is negatively affected. Administrating documents includes printing, signing and scanning ink-signed documents and uploading them to the system.
- Document errors;
- Negative customer experience; customers are frustrated when you have to repeatedly postpone signing;
- Heavy administrative workload;
- Missing documents appear in the business.
This can all be eliminated from your daily management operations by adding an e-signature. E-signatures reduce such risks through better automation, control and visibility.
Benefits of an e-signature
Apart from the time-saving advantages, by having an e-signature installed you can also expect to:
- Significantly reduce sales cycles and provide a first-class customer experience;
- Reduce transaction costs for the entire range of documents requiring a customer’s signature;
- Increase efficiency in sending and receiving financial documentation from customers;
- Reduce the average transaction time and reduce extremely high overnight package costs;
- Improve the customer experience by optimizing processes that ensure valid information on documentation to reduce delays for corrections by customers and vendors.
Growing environmental concerns are encouraging users to give greater thought to their buying decisions. Few businesses though can function without paper use as documents have to be produced for both internal and external reasons.
The e-signature software provider DocuSign are making a significant impact on saving natural resources, as since 2003 they have managed to help save 20 billion sheets of paper (and millions of dollars) with an eco-friendly digital process. That means 2.5 million trees could have been left growing, 2 million gallons of water saved, 105 million pounds of waste not thrown out, and 1.6 million pounds of additional CO2 emissions prevented.
DocuSign offers an interactive impact calculator that provides an estimate of the resources you could save with e-signature. For example, 100 documents (company notes, that calculation comprises 5 pages of documents created by others) signing with e-signature helps to save 3.5K US dollars, 54 water gallons and the use of a tree.
Legal aspects of e-signatures
When you consider moving from a handwritten signature to an e-signature, legal aspects will inevitably come up. Is an e-signature admissible as evidence in legal proceedings? Legislation varies from country to country, and you need to choose the appropriate technology, which may vary from basic click-to-sign to a Qualified Signature requiring a personal digital certificate. There are three types of electronic signatures that are widely recognized around the world:
- Basic – technology-neutral, this e-signature can be captured by click-to-sign
- Advanced – adds several more requirements above Basic
- Certificate (or Qualified Signature in the EU) – requires a personal digital certificate
Minimum requirements for e-signatures are set by national legislation. Many countries, such as the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore – require just a Basic e-signature. Look up the Database of Electronic Signature Legislation (developed by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London) for reference to a law applicable in your country.
Another legal aspect you must consider when choosing an e-signature service provider is Privacy and Data Residency laws in your country, as some jurisdictions have an in-country data residency requirement.
Example of e-signing 6-8 step workflow:
- Give signers / signatories access to the documents.
- Identify and authenticate signers.
- Present documents for review in a compliant form.
- Capture data from participants and/or upload documents at the time of signing (if applicable).
- Optionally reverify the signer’s identity at the time of signing.
- Establish intent and capture consent through the act of signing.
- Provide the ability to insert additional documents into the transaction (if applicable).
- Deliver the final signed documents to all parties.
Tips for companies on how to make the switch
Saving time and money, helping the environment and increasing your business efficiency – isn’t it time to start with an e-signature?
If you decide to make the switch to e-signature, keep it in mind to:
- Continue a strategic approach to eliminate paper. Start with a narrow focus and less important documents, eliminating paper in small stages, and steadily move to a completely paperless process, step by step.
- Ensure that company management and IT work closely in building legal compliance to address regulatory issues.
- Have copies stored in an online or on-premises database of your choice.