Electronic Signatures - what are electronic signatures?

Electronic signatures allow businesses to accept signatures in a digital environment. They aim to replace the need for pen-to-paper signing of documents and traditional paper processes, and allow both businesses and customers to do so in a secure space.

In the European Union, a regulation called eIDAS (electronic Identity, Authentication, and Trust Services) provides standardized measures to allow for easier, more secure cross-border transactions. 

Why were electronic signatures introduced?

In an increasingly digital world, the need for secure processes has recently come to the forefront. More and more, both businesses and customers have expectations of being able to make transactions online, at any time.

Because many of these transactions involve either sensitive information or details that must be clearly linked to a specific individual with consent for usage, the need for a standardized way to sign documents with identity verification became more pressing.

eIDAS was introduced in the EU to help make both business-to-customer and business-to-business transactions in an online environment more secure and private.

Why use electronic signatures?

For businesses, electronic signatures allow businesses to pursue a crucial part of their digital transformation. Offering electronic signatures opens up opportunities to not only take formerly analog processes online, it also contributes to completely overhauling how a business operates.

Electronic signatures provide a secure way to manage the collection of signatures with identity verification for a wide variety of processes. Documentation that previously required an in-person meeting, often with reams of unnecessary paperwork, can now be tailored, completed, and managed in a fully digital environment.

Businesses using electronic signature options provide both employees and customers with a more streamlined process that offers a higher level of security and privacy.

The different types of electronic signatures

There are three basic types of electronic signatures that are defined based on the level of verification needed to link to and identify the signatory. Advanced and Qualified signatures require a certain level of authentication.

The three types of electronic signatures:

Standard Electronic Signature (SES): includes all types of signatures done in an online space. For example, a scanned signature that is applied to a PDF document through the use of a program such as Adobe or Preview. Consent checkboxes are also often classified as Standard Electronic Signatures.

Advanced Electronic Signature (AdES): this type of signature requires measures that clearly link a signature to a particular individual by authenticating their identity. This can be done through a variety of methods, such as two-factor authentication. Documents signed with an AdES are sealed and cannot be changed after signing.

Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES): are an enhanced type of AdES. Qualified signatures are used primarily for highly sensitive documents that require an increased level of confidence in the identity of the signatory. This is done through the use of a qualified trust service provider (QTSP) - a service that ensures the validity of identity verification.

The type of electronic signature needed for a given document varies and depends on several factors including the industry the document is used in, the type of document being signed, the personal data collected and the necessary confidence level for authentication.

Working with electronic signatures

For businesses looking to offer electronic signatures, current solutions allow for simple implementation and a high level of customisation. Software such as Taktikal provide an easy way to move workflows online and collect signatures in a secure digital environment.

By moving to an electronic signature solution, businesses provide customers with a better experience for a variety of processes such as onboarding, accepting updated terms and conditions, signing non-disclosure agreements and more.

Additional features such as bulk signing options and activity logs give businesses better control and a clearer overview of processes, making for more efficient workflows.