Electronic signature technology (e-signature) has been around for a number of years. In fact, during a recent panel discussion that I moderated at the FSI Conference, the panelists, including Tom Embrogno of Docupace Technologies, Marshall Levin of Beacon Strategies and Robert Powell of Laser App, agreed that e-signatures are not necessarily cutting edge anymore. Given that this technology has been with us for a while, it is interesting that the advisor community has been slow to adopt it. There are a number of good reasons why e-signatures have not become a standard practice, and we shouldn’t expect e-signature technology to take over the advisor community yet. However, there are many opportunities for advisors to benefit from it and ultimately be more efficient.
There are several e-signature solutions available, like DocuSign, EchoSign and Right Signature. You can work with these providers directly or utilize the relationship they may have with your custodian or broker-dealer. First, you need to consider the process that will work best with your clients. Are they comfortable with technology? How much hand-holding do you do to help a client complete forms and applications? E-signatures can help improve this process and overall experience, but it can also make it worse. There may be a certain client type that is right for using this technology, and there are certain situations that are suited for utilizing e-signatures.
As you review e-signature solutions, consider your firm’s current adoption of paperless systems. Do you currently scan and electronically store all of your documents? In order to embrace e-signatures, you need to be proficient in imaging and data capture technology. An electronically signed document will not yield the same efficiency gains if you ultimately print it out and store it.