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E-signature Technology Begins to Catch On


Electronic signature - the ability to provide and accept legal, binding signatures for a variety of purposes in an electronic format - has been around some time, yet some industries, notably insurance, have been slow to adopt such technologies. In a data - and regulatory-driven industry like insurance, e-signature would seem to offer many advantages in terms of quicker throughput and more agile administration, but it also may pose some formidable challenges.

Let's begin by examining the specific advantages e-signatures provide for the insurance company, broker, and agent. According to Michael Laurie, Vice President and co-founder of Silanis Technology, an e-signature software provider, the technology offers benefits to all three groups.

"Specific to carriers, e-signatures offer more visibility into sales and distribution channels, as well as more control over new business processing," he notes. "The technology does this through enforced workflow rules, which decrease the risk of non-compliance from not-in-good-order documentation. Carriers that implement e-signatures offer a better experience for both agents and customers."

For brokers and agents, he continues, the benefit of e-signatures boils down to increased productivity and a better customer experience. "Because of workflow rules, not-in-good-order documents are reduced, meaning less paper chasing for agents and brokers and the ability to offer customers the opportunity to do business on their terms-any time and from anywhere," he says. The result, he adds, is the ability to process new business faster and a shorter time between the initial application and the final policy issue. "This makes customers happy and helps agents and brokers receive their commissions faster."

Robert McIsaac, a principal at Novarica, a consulting and research firm, agrees that the benefits of e-signatures "are broad based for all participants in the value chain. They are a key component for enabling electric documents, including e-apps, and as such are an integral part of any meaningful STP (Straight Through Processing) initiative."

For carriers, he explains, "STP is key to both helping reduce costs and improving cycle times. It can also be a competitive advantage as they look to better position themselves to provide 'best in class' services to the agents and brokers that they work with. For agents and brokers, the process enabled by e-signatures can reduce error rates, improve cycle times, reduce the chance for buyer's remorse, and, for younger clients in particular, help [agents] appear to be more in keeping with the current technical times."

"Nothing says 'I'm out of date' quite as effectively as dependency on paper based processes and wet signatures," states McIsaac. "Also, since faster cycle times can lead to faster commission payments, there can be a real financial incentive in some situations for producers."

Tom Gonser, founder and Chief Strategy Officer for DocuSign, which provides a digital transaction management platform, notes that such platforms with an embedded e-signature solution help insurance companies, brokers, and agents achieve STP "by keeping insurance transactions fully digital from start to finish. This translates to a faster, easier, more convenient and secure way to complete business-from new policy openings and changes, to beneficiary updates, claims submissions, and processing."

For agents and brokers, says Gonser, the technology yields an improved customer experience - "replacing the hassles of printing, faxing, scanning, and overnighting paperwork with the convenience of electronically signing paperwork anytime, anywhere, on any device." Increased security and compliance, as well as ROI from faster transactions are also part of the picture, he notes.

Next week... read more on the abundance of experience and advice that can inform implementations.

Ara C. Trembly is the founder of Ara Trembly-The Tech Consultant (, a writing, consulting and advisory practice focusing on technology for the insurance industry. He is also the author of The Rogue Guru Blog (