Across the retirement, long-term savings and life sectors there has long been a desire to reduce the dependency on wet signatures and deliver improvements that omit the need to print, sign, scan or post documents which require a wet ink signature. Questions like “Why is our business still reliant on receiving wet signatures?” are being asked.
General opinion suggests this process is deemed to be inefficient and is out of sync with the technology and alternative offerings available in today’s markets.
Earlier this year we were asked by our Process and Standards Group (PSG) to conduct research into the current state of play for wet signatures and alternative opportunities. Volunteers from within the PSG were invited to participate, and an expert research group was formed consisting of advisers, software suppliers and platform/product providers. The objective of this group was to share and gather knowledge based on recent developments in technology, law and regulations and evaluate changes in appetite to risk. As part of this research initiative, we conducted a series of interviews to gain an insight into the wet signature methods used in key customer-facing processes.
What did we learn?
Since our last research into this area in 2015, and until only the beginning of this year, wet signatures were not perceived to be a significant barrier to trading. Interviewee feedback highlighted why wet signature processes continue to be used and identified the blockers, which in some cases were preventing business from moving forward.
Not surprisingly, Coronavirus has resulted in the industry quickly recognising the impact this pandemic has placed on their ability to trade as normal and has been the catalyst for both accelerating plans already in place to deploy alternatives to wet signatures, and addressing obstacles that previously looked insurmountable.
Organisations are now more willing (where able) to set aside the traditional wet signature methods and accept change, whether that be in the form of adopting a new process, improvements to their online platform technology or investment in electronic or digital solutions.
We found no one-stop shop or single approach that was the best fit across the whole industry. Instead, the right solution for any given situation depends on numerous factors such as meeting specific business requirements and organisations’ own risk assessments.
The way ahead
As more guidance becomes available from the various legal and regulatory bodies, confidence continues to grow amongst the industry to adopt alternative solutions; and where changes have been driven by the pandemic, organisations have no intention of re-instating wet signatures where alternatives have proven to be more efficient and more popular with customers.