Electronic Signatures Are Aiming to Change the World

A decade ago, real estate closings, employment contracts, and orders from suppliers all required wet ink signatures. Today, wet signature requirements are few and far between. It seems like everything is electronic these days – and that’s good news for businesses and individuals.

What is an Electronic Signature?

While terms like digital signature and electronic signature often get used interchangeably, there are actually some differences between the two. Put simply, all digital signatures are electronic signatures. However, not all electronic signatures are digital signatures.

Confused yet? Let’s clarify even further.

“At its simplest, an electronic signature offers a way for someone to attach their name to a document. Digital signatures go a step further and actually confirm the person signing is who they claim to be,”mentions Box, one of the leading cloud platforms on the web. “Before an individual can digitally sign something, they need to provide a form of certificate-based authentication. The person signing must provide a password or PIN, and they also need access to a private key.”

If you want to think about it in physical terms, an electronic signature is like someone signing a paper at their kitchen table and mailing it to the appropriate party. A digital signature is like a notarized signature. It has that extra layer of authenticity.

Either way, electronic signatures and digital signatures are changing the way the business world functions. And that’s a net positive for everyone involved.

3 Big Benefits and Trends With Electronic Signatures

Electronic signatures are more than a flashy way of doing business. They’re fundamentally changing the game with security, efficiency, approval processes, and even regulatory compliance. Here are several of the leading benefits:

1. Paperless

For starters, the paperless nature of electronic signatures can save businesses some serious money. There are opportunities to recoup spending in areas like material costs, reduced labor, and even the financial impact of human errors related to signing mistakes.

When all documents are digital, there’s no need for physical filing cabinets, expensive printers and scanners, and cumbersome filing processes. Everything can be signed and stored in the cloud, which makes it easy to organize and retrieve documents for pennies on the dollar.

For perspective, the average employee spends up to 2.5 hours per day searching for documents. Much of this time can be eliminated if paper documents were instead initiated, signed, and stored digitally.

2. No-Contact Signing Processes

If we’ve learned anything during this pandemic, it’s that we need simple and seamless ways to take our businesses digital when it’s not possible to meet in person. One of the perks of digital signatures is that it allows for remote, no-contact signing processes.

Aside from health reasons, no-contact signing processes mean someone can close on a real estate deal while in another country. And businesses no longer have to worry about face-to-face meetings regarding contracts. Anything that was done in person can now be done remotely.

3. Process Efficiency

Think about the last time there was a document that needed to be wet signed by four or five different parties. How inefficient was it?

Typically, these processes look like this:

The document is printed
The document is signed
The document is scanned
The document is emailed/faxed to the next person
The document is printed
The document is signed
The document is scanned
The document is emailed/faxed to the next person.
Repeat, etc.

Considering that most people aren’t going to immediately print, sign, scan, and email the document when they receive it, there can be hours or days between handoffs. This can significantly delay a contract from being put into action.

With electronic signatures, everything can be signed remotely from different locations at once. No need for creating multiple copies. A simple link and pin code are sent to each person and they can sign right away. This often shrinks the process down from days to just minutes or hours.

Looking to the Future

Electronic signatures are on the verge of totally replacing wet signatures – and that’s a good thing for businesses, customers, and even regulatory bodies and compliance departments. The challenge moving forward will be to strengthen the security infrastructure and to further educate all parties on how best to proceed.