-by Heather Krohn FALU FLMI
If you have taken out a mortgage or obtained new automobile insurance in the last few years you have probably used an electronic signature (e-signature) platform. An e-signature provides both extraordinary convenience and the same legal standing as a handwritten signature, as long as it complies with regulations published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (U.S. Department of Commerce).
The beauty of e-signatures versus traditional wet signatures is that they can be executed portably and with ease via computers and devices. An insured can sign a document anywhere and anytime at the touch of a button. Most platforms are single-click and do not even require a password. The email address is used as a mobile identification source. Agents no longer need to mail or fax documents from place to place to obtain multiple individuals’ signatures on a single document, because the software allows the user to assign a signing order. The document comes back to the user electronically signed and dated by all parties, so even a document that requires the insured, owner and agent to sign comes back legibly signed and in good order. The days of faxed documents with form numbers cut off and print that’s barely able to be made out are over with the use of electronic platforms. Anyone who has access to email and some sort of device can sign a document electronically. The platforms are also very user-friendly. It is as easy as uploading a document and assigning virtual tags in the appropriate places.
So why doesn’t the life insurance industry use e-signatures more than it does today? The answer is easy, though disappointing: Just about every insurance company has a different set of rules regarding the acceptance of e-signatures, making it very difficult to keep track of what is allowed and what is not. No agent, working with a valued client, wants to get forms signed only to find that the carrier does not allow e-signatures on the specific form being submitted, or does not accept the e-signature vendor. Some companies allow almost all documents to be electronically signed as long as a certificate of authentication is provided with the document. Other companies may have very rigid workflows with strict guidelines about when e-signatures are acceptable and when they are not. Some companies do not allow co-mingling of traditional and e-signatures on a single case, whereas others allow forms signed both ways. Some even require additional identification checks to validate e-signatures. This lack of industry uniformity is confusing and often frustrating, but not surprising. Until life insurance companies adopt a common standard for e-signatures, it’s important for agents to know, or to work with intermediaries who know and keep track of, the various e-signature standards and limitations required by each life company with which they do business.
There are many vendors that provide services related to e-signatures, but one of the most commonly used, especially in the insurance world, is DocuSign. If you are interested in learning more about e-signatures as well as carrier specifications, Windsor has gathered an extensive amount of information that we would be glad to share with you. Windsor can also provide guidance as to when the convenience and ease of an e-signature may be appropriate. Lastly, Windsor can provide a demonstration that is specific to DocuSign if you are interested in learning more.