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Digital Signatures, E-Signatures & Wet Signatures: What’s the Difference?
Wet signatures have historically been the standard signature type, however digital and e-signatures have become more common. Which should you be using?
The move toward virtual operations may have started as a necessity for many businesses but it’s now a competitive advantage for companies who continue to push on with their digital transformation initiatives. Although technologies like Zoom and Google Meet kept teams engaged during the pandemic, and cloud storage solutions have enabled the exchange of information in real-time, many organizations are still uncertain of their options when it comes to signing forms online.
Wet signatures, or printing, signing, and scanning forms, were still the primary method used for processes like onboarding clients, recruiting staff, and signing new deals between multiple parties. However, the ability to create legally binding signatures online is a critical factor for companies that want to turn all business processes into productive digital workflows. If you are unfamiliar with the nuances of e-signatures, digital signatures, and wet signatures, read on to learn everything you need to know.
How to Create Signatures Online (and Why You Should)
A recent survey by McKinsey and Company found that changing existing operating models ranked as the number one priority for service organizations. In highly regulated industries, these operating models rely on establishing enforceable agreements across geographies, between multiple parties, and without meeting face-to-face more regularly.
Wet Signatures vs. E-Signatures vs. Digital Signatures
Handwritten signatures have long been the standard signature type, but with the need for an alternative solution now evident, let’s look at the definitions for wet signatures, e-signatures, and digital signatures.
- Wet signatures – Traditional handwritten signatures where someone physically signs a document in person using wet ink, and either sends the hardcopy to the company or scans the document to create a digital copy.
- E-Signatures – Electronic signatures include any action taken by a person to sign a document or accept an agreement digitally and can include a mouse click or even providing oral authorization.
- Digital signatures – A unique characteristic on a form with an associated certificate that verifies and protects the document’s authenticity.
What is clear from the above definitions is that despite often being used interchangeably, electronic signatures and digital signatures aren’t the same.
Digital signatures include an encrypted digital certificate bound to the document that ensures its authenticity and makes it tamper-proof. Only authorized people can view the form or make changes and alterations (if necessary) after applying the digital signature.
What Types of Signatures are Legally Binding?
Technically, all three of the signatures are legally binding but wet signatures aren’t a viable solution for digital workflows. Procuring these signatures adds time and effort to every signing process, especially when there are multiple parties involved in the agreement. Similarly, firms and banking institutions that want to move to completely virtual processes need to know the main differences between electronic and digital signatures.
Which Signature Should You Use in Highly Regulated Industries?
While e-signatures are legally binding, there are some concerns when using them in highly regulated industries. Financial services companies, banking institutions, and healthcare organizations have to comply with privacy and security regulations that e-signatures cannot provide.
Some of the potential drawbacks of using e-signatures in regulated industries include:
- Authenticity – No trusted authority verifies or validates the signature
- Security – They are vulnerable to tampering, alteration, and fraudulent practices
- Authority – Fewer security features that don’t incorporate any coding or standards
Due to these limitations, when you want to sign forms online that are legally binding, verifiable, and protected you should opt for either digital signatures, or an e-signature solution that addresses those three concerns (like FileInvites’s e-signature solution, which is SOC 2 Type 2 secure, and offers digital signature authentication).
How to Create Signatures Online with FileInvite
Organizations that want to create secure, legally binding signatures for all their agreements have a wealth of options available. With FileInvite’s digital signature and fillable form functionality, the process is very simple, allowing you to quickly request digital signatures from multiple parties on the same document, all from their client portal.
The process starts with creating a new invite. Once the document is added, you just click on the signature button to add a signature request. You have the option to select either a single individual or multiple parties before choosing all the information you want to add to the digital signature. These fields can include names, dates, initials, or contact information.
After saving the form, each contact that you require to sign the document will be able to either draw, type, or upload a signature to the form. This will create a visual signature on the document while also generating a digital certificate using the required encryption standards.
Automate All of Your Workflows
With FileInvite, you can quickly move your signature and data/document collection workflows to a digital process. Named as an emerging favorite in 2021’s Gartner Capterra Digital Signature Category, FileInvite allows you to request files from clients and even collect signatures in a matter of minutes.
You’ll no longer have to rely on emails to request your sensitive information, making this entire process more secure and saving your team hours each week. With useful integrations and a powerful API, you can automate all of your document collection processes.
To see how you can create signatures online and start virtualizing your document operations, sign up for a free trial with FileInvite today.