The Face Of Business Today Is Changing

The impact of e-signatures and electronic instruction taking systems

“If we work with the technology revolution rather than against it, we can improve the quality of service and reduce the costs of legal advice,” said Sir Geoffrey Vos, Chancellor of the High Court.

The Law Commission recently published their Thirteenth Programme of Law Reform which highlighted electronic signatures as an area requiring further exploration and possible clarification.

They do, however, conclude even at this initial stage that UK law already accommodates e-signatures, so why isn’t more use being made of this facility to speed up transactions for businesses and consumers?

Wouldn’t you like to use a system to produce private client documents for your client that helps your business to:

  • Reduce turnaround time drastically
  • Streamline your processes from beginning to end
  • Provides an audit trail confirming when documents were signed
  • Removes printing, posting, storing and scanning costs
  • Increase the amount of clients you can service
  • Provides you with a competitive advantage as clients are more likely to proceed, and are quicker to confirm that they want to do so

Of course there are benefits for your business, but clients will also appreciate the time saving for them, as they do not need to print, scan and post documentation back to you. Signing documentation electronically also allows you to respond to the client quicker, and improves their perception of your business as a forward thinking firm using modern technology. Countrywide Legacy’s new electronic signing system allows you to obtain confirmation of instructions from clients quicker than ever before.

Should you fail to consider how you can implement e-signatures into your business processes, the entire process becomes considerably more costly and time consuming for the client and for your business. Preparing documentation, emailing and scanning it (or printing and posting it) so that the client can sign it increases the time taken to proceed with instructions significantly. Client expectations and the increasing speed of business do not allow for more time to be taken to process instructions and produce documents. GDPR has also increased the risk of working from paper and not entirely digitally – you can leave your company and yourself exposed if information written on paper falls into the wrong hands.

The true cost of paper…

The staggering estimated cost of insisting on wet signed paperwork has been estimated by Docusign to be as high as £27 per document. This includes the extra time taken to prepare and post the documentation.

Some companies (Virgin Media, for example) have found that they doubled their conversion rate when they switched to using e-signatures. Halfords eliminated the use of 100,000 sheets of paper a year when they implemented the use of e-signatures into their processes.

As part of the consultation, some stakeholders voiced concerns that e-signatures could increase the level of fraudulent transactions and increase the risk to vulnerable adults. However, e-signature software can automatically generate and store a complete, time-stamped history of every send, view, print, sign, or decline action. Any party to the transaction who wants to review the activity associated with a document can view, download or print an audit trail in order to verify the transaction. The technology is already out there and in some circumstances has been used with great success in many different ways – is it any more likely that this technology will be used fraudulently as opposed to incidences of fraud where wet ink signatures are required? There have been a number of widely publicised cases of Wills being fraudulently produced and signed, but it is impossible to ‘time stamp’ a piece of paper in the same way that the time a document signed electronically can be recorded and logged for the future.

Use of document encryption technologies also means that the content of documentation stays private – the client will not have paperwork ‘lying around’ at home for anyone to read. It can, therefore, prevent documents falling into the wrong hands.

What else can be done to ensure authenticity?

It is possible to validate the identity of those signing via SMS text message code to another device, set your own authorisation code, answer “secret knowledge” questions, and use voice authorisation. These methods allow extra layers of confidence to be built into the process for all parties, and can ensure that documentation or instructions cannot be forged or corrupted in any way.

The taking of instructions electronically represents a huge step forward for businesses and consumers alike, and can only result in further efficiencies saving time (and money) for all parties.

Watch our latest webinar recording:

“An electronic way of working: The impact of e-signatures and electronic instruction taking systems”

Typically recordings of our webinars are exclusively available for Countrywide Members only, however we’ve extended the viewing of this webinar to everyone as this is a hot topic within the industry, particularly following the comments of high court judge Sir Geoffrey Vos encouraging the use of technology within the sector and that of the Law Commission stating that electronic signatures are as valid as handwritten ones.

Topics covered include:

  • What is the legal situation with electronic signatures?
  • What are the benefits of electronic signatures over paper?
  • Where can we use electronic signature to benefit the client?
  • Is the taking of client instructions electronically inevitable?


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