Signing documents is part of life ever since humans have entered mutual agreements. While the process of defining a contract has not changed, the technology to sign the documents has advanced. Using an e-signature instead of the traditional wet signature has many advantages, especially in today’s fast-paced world.
What is an e-signature?
Electronic signatures can take many forms from simply typing your name at the end of an email to a secure digitally captured signature on an electronic document.
An electronic signature, or “e-signature,” is a signature added to an electronic document that takes the place of a handwritten signature on a paper form and indicates an agreement or official record. Various software and applications allow for the secure signing of documents electronically via computer or mobile device. While e-signatures have been around for many years, a law enacted in 2000 made electronic signatures legal in every state. That means that in most states, an e-signature carries the same weight and authority as a traditional signature. In addition, most countries across the globe recognize e-signatures as legally binding. However, e-signatures should not be confused with a digital signature – which requires authentication and cryptography. A digital signature is an extra step that provides an additional level of validation and security over a regular e-signature.
What is a wet signature?
A “wet” signature is called that due to the physical drying time of ink – it is a term for a signature signed using a pen on a piece of paper. Long ago, stamps, wax seals, and fountain pens were used when signing a name to an important document. In some cases, even signing an X for your name with a pen was considered acceptable. Traditionally, a wet signature has been required for many types of transactions – such as buying a car, home, signing invoices, or signing various other contracts. Some documents still require the traditional wet signature, such as some banking documents, wills, trusts, adoptions, marriages, and divorces – but many forms can now be signed with an e-signature. There are many downsides to requiring a “wet” signature. Here are some disadvantages to requiring a wet-signature:
- Time-consuming – documents must be mailed or signees must travel in person to sign documents.
- Costly – printing, paper and postage costs are all factors.
- Delays – waiting for all parties to sign can take significantly longer than an electronic process.
Why use an e-signature?
Consumers and businesses expect to do things digitally. A digital transformation is underway to ensure that companies stay competitive, and part of that is using e-signatures to speed things up while maintaining security. Using e-signature instead of a wet signature enables the entire transaction process to take place in the cloud, without requiring a pen and paper. E-signatures can be used on a variety of documentation including:
- Employment contracts
- Government documents
- Order forms
- Property leases
- Sales contracts
- Health documents
The process of sharing documents requiring e-signatures online is much faster with printed and mailed documents. This improves workflows for businesses and consumers. Additional benefits of using an e-signature include:
- Transparency – easily identify where the document is in the signing process and who is next in the workflow.
- Speed – signing electronically is faster and reduces the time spent mailing, faxing, and chasing signatures on all sides.
- Security – restrict access to those who need it, and uses verified means to keep data safe
- Ease of scheduling – no need to gather everyone in one place or even set a time to sign. All signees can sign electronically when it is convenient.
- Mobility – sign from pretty much anywhere in the world on any device!
- Ease of storage – Any document with an e-signature can be stored digitally or printed and archived in traditional filing systems.
- Improve customer experience – easier signing, happier customers.
- Secure – Each e-signature is confirmed using IP address, geolocation, and e-mail address to ensure proof of signature.
- Easy to sign – everyone can do it with no training needed.
Electronic signatures may also use additional methods to verify the identity of the signees including:
- Corporate identification
- Personal Identification Numbers (PINs)
Businesses using e-signatures do have to ensure that they follow the laws and appropriate processes, for example:
- Ensuring that the signer had an intent to sign (and an obvious way to opt-out).
- Proof that all parties agreed to conduct business electronically.
- Follow the security protocols.
Using e-signatures offers many benefits over the traditional “wet” signature. They are quick, secure, and environmentally friendly. Adopting this technology in your business not only makes things faster and easier for you, it does so for your customers and clients as well.
E-signatures are quite common these days, so why wait? Transform your process today and enjoy the benefits of going paperless.