It's been more than a decade since President Bill Clinton signed the Electronic Signatures Act into law, giving electronic contracts the same weight and validity as paper contracts. Since then, companies and individuals have been increasingly going the paperless route – sign for packages digitally, sign receipts digitally, even submit taxes with an electronic signature.
But long before the Electronic Signatures Act went into effect in 2000, Montreal-based Silanis has been pioneering the e-signature business. Founded in 1992, Silanis is one of the most widely used e-signature solutions globally, with products like e-Sign Enterprise and e-SignLive, and is responsible for processing more than 600 million documents annually. Even more, its technology is saving companies billions of dollars in improved efficiency, time savings, reduced paper and shipping costs and less manpower.
“Banks and insurance companies have been using [e-signature technology] for years,” says Robert Al-Jaar, executive VP of online e-signature services. “Worldwide, 1.6 million personnel are using our technology to sign documents day in and day out. And it saves their companies $1.3 billion a year just to enable them to fill out their forms and sign them electronically.”
For example, Signature Mortgage, a regional lender servicing Ohio and Michigan, has reduced both the application process and loan closure drastically by switching to an e-signature solution. More than 90 percent of the company's loans are now completed electronically with e-SignLive, helping the lender increase loan volume by 50 percent and earn more per loan in savings from paper, travel and courier expenses.
Despite the astronomical savings e-signature solutions can bring, many businesses are apprehensive to adopt technology – that's right, it's not the consumer. “Consumers are way ahead of the curve and are actually telling companies they want it,” explains Al-Jaar. “But the resistance is in management not wanting to change the way things are done.”
Concerns that resonate with both individuals and businesses, however, are regarding security. As with all services and tasks that have moved online, from shopping to banking, people want to make sure their confidential information and financial assets are secure. Although there is just as much room for error or mishandling in a paper-based system, “it was the previously trusted environment,” says Al-Jaar, “so trust, legality and security are top priorities in the digital environment.” Silanis in particular uses strong cryptographic security technologies that gather electronic evidence at every step of the process and makes any efforts of tampering visible.
This documentation and data collection are especially essential in court as part of recent e-discovery policies. Federal rules regarding documents for inclusion during a legal procedure have included electronically stored information since 2006, according to Kevin Culbert, an industry analyst at Santa Monica, Calif.-based market research firm IBISWorld. These rules were the first major boost for e-discovery service providers and further supported the expanding e-signature market. Undoubtedly, the amount of ESI – which includes e-signatures – will grow exponentially during the next five years, says Culbert.
“In the case of e-discovery, our solution is integral to the process,” says Al-Jaar. “It reduces the risk to customers and also helps them save money during the e-discovery process.” In fact, Silanis' technology helped an insurance company client avoid numerous lawsuits and win one that actually landed in court because the electronic evidence was enough to deem the case unsubstantiated.
Another big proponent of e-signature solutions is actually the US military. “For instance, when tanks need more ammunition from a depot, there's a whole process to go through,” explains Al-Jaar. “With the technology the commander and soldiers can carry out the steps through satellite and still sign documents securely. We're literally saving American lives in hotspots.”
If that isn't evidence enough to e-signatures' potential, then what is?
For more info: On Tuesday, February 19 at 11am PST, Silanis is hosting a legal-focused webinar to discuss the practical evidentiary considerations of electronic records and signatures. The one-hour webcast will feature: legal and regulatory updates, challenges of defending electronic transactions, a demonstration of best practice e-signature audit trails and process evidence and more.
Corporate legal counsel, compliance and business level managers for financial services organizations, in particular, will benefit from this event, considering that electronic signatures are a strategic technology for organizations looking to reduce risk and improve customer experience. Registration is available online.