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E-signature Technology Begins to Catch On (Part 2 of 4)

 

Last week... you read about the specific advantages e-signatures provide for the insurance company, broker, and agent. This week... read more on the abundance of experience and advice that can inform implementations.

The Challenges
According to Robert McIsaac, a principal at Novarica, a consulting and research firm, the historic challenges to e-signatures have been legal, technical and organizational. "The legal issues are for all practical purposes behind us, making it more of a technical and organizational set of challenges," he states. "The technical issues start with ensuring that the solutions are implemented in a way that assures compliance with regulatory and legal frameworks... and making sure that the signatures themselves satisfy a series of requirements (e.g., non-repudiation)."

He adds that, "There is an abundance of experience and advice that can inform implementations. A bigger issue for carriers to face is that they may not, unless they have a captive distribution system, actually control all the technology used at the point of sale." In these instances, he notes, insurers cannot simply dictate a solution, but will instead need to work carefully with their distribution partners on both the selection and implementation of solutions. "This can be a somewhat tricky proposition and requires close coordination between entities."

"Another challenge for carriers is that they, in some cases, don't think broadly enough about implementation of e-signature solutions," says McIsaac. "While the use case that is the easiest to envision may be new business processing, there are a whole range of post-issue transactions and other business processes (e.g., producer licensing and appointments) that can take advantage of the tools which, in turn, helps to build out a robust business case. Companies struggle at times to think expansively, perhaps because this spans multiple internal organizations."

Michael Laurie, Vice President and co-founder of Silanis Technology, points out that one of the challenges of using e-signatures in insurance is the "lack of awareness around a carrier's e-signature policy." For agents to adopt e-signatures, he says, "they need to be sure their carriers will accept e-signed documents. This requires a clear policy from carriers in their agent agreements and awareness-generating campaigns to help get the word out."

In terms of disadvantages, notes Laurie, "the only one is more of a perception issue. The long-assumed issue with e-signatures from the agent's perspective was that using this technology that allows for online and remote processing meant there would be less personal attention to each customer."

He asserts that the idea that e-signatures are equivalent to self-service is an incorrect assumption. "What this technology really enables is improved guidance and consultation both remotely and face-to-face," he states. "Because agents have more time freed up [due to] the automation of previously manual, administrative tasks, they are able to spend time offering the guidance that builds trusted relationships."

Next week read how the security of cloud-based e-signature technology will depend on the practices of the vendor related to security.

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