Financial services companies can benefit from eSignatures: Here’s how
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By Brent Haumann
The events over the past year or so, have forced financial services companies to rapidly adapt and evolve the way they interact with customers. Without being able to offer any kind of in-person experience (and people unwilling to risk going into branches and offices when they were open), they had no choice but to move previously physical processes onto digital alternatives.
For many, those changes couldn’t have come a moment too soon. For years, a slew of digital upstarts have been rising up, ready to eat the incumbents’ lunches. Without a global pandemic forcing organisations to create great digital experiences for their customers, that would’ve happened sooner than later.
One surprising, but powerful, enabler of that transformation is eSignature technology.
A technology waiting for its time
By definition, eSignatures are data in electronic form, which is logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to legally indicate acceptance of the associated data. Or, to put it more simply, it’s a digital marker which holds the same weight as your handwritten signature on a conventional contract or any other form of legal agreement.
In South Africa, eSignatures have been recognised as a valid way to sign most documents since the enactment in 2002 of South Africa’s Electronic Communications and Transactions Act. Despite that, eSignatures have been slow to take off. In large part, that’s due to the perception that a handwritten signature on paper has more legal weight.
But as more and more people have adapted to doing things digitally, acceptance has grown and will continue to do so. And utilised effectively, financial services can seriously benefit from that acceptance.
Creating a better customer experience
Whether it’s opening a bank account, taking out a home loan, or putting together a retirement annuity, most traditional interactions with financial services companies have involved a lot of paperwork, and plenty of signatures. Most financial documents contain multiple pages and multiple places to sign and initial. If a client misses a single one, you end up making phone calls, faxing documents, or arranging another meeting.
Most of us have experienced the frustration that comes with having to take time out of our work days to sign such documents and a good many of us have felt the pain of having to re-sign a document we missed out on.
eSignatures change that by allowing customers to move quickly through the signing process, ensuring that all relevant fields have been signed before the document can be finalised.. That may seem small in the grand scheme of things, but in an on-demand world where people expect things to be done in minutes rather than days, it can make all the difference.
Another major benefit that eSignatures offer financial services is that they can help make customer documentation more secure.
With the signature being digital, it’s possible to ensure that the documentation sits entirely in the digital realm. Stored correctly, that means documents are less likely to end up lost or in the wrong hands. Virtual private networks (VPNs) and password protected PDFs can add extra layers of security to sensitive documents, keeping need-to-know information confidential. PDFs also make it easier to securely redact information on certain documents when you send them through less secure mediums like email.
Improved internal processes
Another benefit of eSignatures enabling all customer documentation to be digital is that it allows for more streamlined internal processes. People within the organisation no longer have to spend time chasing down signatures, meaning that policies and agreements can be turned around and approved faster.
This in turn results in savings in time and resources and, perhaps more importantly, a better overall customer experience.
Adapt and thrive
And for financial services in particular, customer experience is crucial when it comes to standing out from competitors and minimising the risk of losing customers to new, digital upstarts. There has never been a better time for companies to adopt eSignatures and set themselves up to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.
Brent Haumann is the Managing Director at Striata Africa