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elEconomista / Opinion / Pag. 12 and 13 / February 2018

Since the use of the handwritten signature began to spread in legal documents in the 17th century until the US president Bill Clinton stamped his signature on the E-SignAct in the year 2000 to validate electronic contracts, there have been many folios that have been used to close deals, transactions, and agreements. Will there come the day when organizations such as banks can say goodbye to paper definitively, for the convenience of their customers and employees?

Although there is still a long way to go, the digital signature is gaining ground. This paperless conception of the banking organization also implies a more significant consideration for the environment, since it contributes to the reduction of carbon emissions, which cause a large part of the greenhouse effect. There is no doubt that the widespread adoption of the digital signature will contribute in the future to those banks becoming paperless or at least considerably reducing the use they make of paper!

Is an electronic signature the same as a digital signature?

With the gradual disappearance of paper and the slow adoption of the digital signature, we are often confused by the terminology used. On a day-to-day basis, it is common to see that electronic and digital signature is indistinctly spoken as if both terms were synonymous. However, we must bear in mind that digital signatures are electronic, but that not all electronic signatures are digital:

  • Electronic signature: It is all that is used to sign a document. An example can be the handwritten signature itself on a touchscreen, such as when a courier collects a package.
  • Digital signature: It is one that, through an algorithm that encrypts the document, guarantees that the signatory is really whom he claims to be. Thus, it protects against phishing and fraud.

It should be noted that both are accepted and used in many companies and organizations, but the digital signature offers a higher level of security; therefore, many banks and financial institutions are gradually incorporating it among their technologies. However, there are different types of digital signatures, and not all of them comply with regulations as important for banks such as Regulation (EU) nº 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of July 23th, 2014, regarding electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS), which regulates the digital signature so that it can be recognized equally in all member countries of the European Union, without suffering rejection in any state. It is part of the project to reach a Digital Single Market.

eIDAS establishes three types of digital signature: simple, advanced and qualified. The qualified signature meets several requirements, including allowing the identification of the signatory and being linked to the signed data, but also has the legal equivalence of the traditional wet signature having the guarantee of recognition within the EU and is based on qualified certificates, which means higher data protection. The Certification Authorities (CA), accredited by the EU, issue the qualified certificates. Therefore, having a qualified digital signature with full legal guarantees is more than suitable for financial institutions.

“A digital signature enables customers and bank employees to sign documents from their workplace or anywhere, and with the maximum legal guarantee compliance eIDAS”

What are the advantages of a qualified digital signature?

A digital signature based on qualified digital certificates issued by a Certification Authority (CA) protects the document with encryption and provides greater security to the information contained therein. Similarly, customers and employees of banks will be able to sign documents digitally anywhere, either from their place of work or in mobility, and with the maximum legal guarantee ensures compliance with eIDAS for the user’s convenience. Finally, a qualified digital signature that also offers the ability to define complex and personalized digital signature workflows will save time and speed up the approval of contracts and policies.

Besides, employees can approve and sign documents from their computers, smartphones or tablets, to accelerate sales, approval cycles, legal review and international transactions with entities such as the European Central Bank, SWIFT, ICO, Bank of Spain and the CNMV. Moreover, on the other hand, external customers can digitally sign contracts for greater convenience and time savings allowing:

  • Transform the geographical dispersion of customers and employees into business opportunities through the use of a qualified digital signature, eliminating bottlenecks in productivity processes.
  • Accelerate signature processes with public agencies and other financial institutions.
  • Facilitate transactions for clients when their signature is required -policies, loan contracts or credit card applications.

Who is willing to stand in line and wait a long half hour to be served in a store? Few people, and in a bank even less. Time is money and, if it is possible for a potential customer to obtain the product they want quicker thanks to the competition, they will go with them without hesitation.

There is no doubt that immediacy is the sign of our times. Why should it be different than when requesting banking or financial services? Fortunately, banking transactions are no longer what they were. Thanks, Goodness! 

Carolina Puig / International Business Development Manager de Vintegris TECH