Times have changed, but the essence ofan insurance agent's work stays the same. You pour endless hoursinto building relationships with your clients; you gain theirtrust; you show them how your services will benefit them into theunknown future. And that's just the preliminary work.

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Once you finally close the deal, a sea of paperwork can easilydampen this last, victorious leg. But time-consuming (andcost-heavy) pen-to-paper processes are no longer necessary thanksto digital documents and e-signatures.

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E-signatures are the picture of customer and client convenience. They offermobility, because they're ready when your customer is ready.E-signatures are logic-based and ensure good documentorder and accuracy. They move sales processes and othertransactions along swiftly, and they can automatically notify whoneeds to sign what documents next. Plus, once you take into accountall of the costs associated with paper (such as printing, ink,toner, shipping, etc.) e-signatures save significant money.

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But not all e-signatures are created equal. The digital makeupof the technology can profoundly impact the level of control,transparency, trust and longevity of an e-signature—factors thatare all very important in the insurance industry. After all, youmay be dealing with sensitive or financial client information, oryou may ask clients to sign off on transactions that must be validtwo or three decades into the future.

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To best understand e-signatures' technical diversity, it'seasiest to place them into two categories—those that areindependent and those that are dependent.

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Independent e-signatures

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As the name implies, independent e-signatures distinguish themselvesby their independence from a vendor. That is, an agent doesn't haveto rely on his solution provider to prove the validity of a signeddocument. Independent e-signatures use digital signature technologyto embed a signature's cryptographic information directly into asigned document. Any free PDF reader will visibly show that asignature is a valid one, and it provides a complete set ofevidence from the first signature to the last. And since theevidence is permanently embedded, you will always have access tothe legal evidence, with or without an Internet connection.

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What's more, signatures that can truly be classified as"independent" are based on international, published standards, likethose outlined by the International Organization for Standardization,to meet objectives, worldwide standards for encryption, PDFs andmore.

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Because evidence is permanent and signatures are alwaysdefensible, independent e-signatures provide a heightened level ofownership, longevity, trust and transparency for its users.

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Dependent e-signatures

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The other type of e-signature is a dependent e-signature. Whileit won't always be called "dependent," such an e-signature keepsclose ties to its vendor. Instead of permanently embedding evidenceinto the document, it links the signature to the vendor's server.In the ultra-connected world we live in, this may be suitable formany e-signature users needing evidence for the immediate futureonly. But links break over time and Internet connections may not beavailable when you need them. If anything compromises the vendors'server, like a catastrophic event, or if ties with the vendor aresevered, you could also risk losing all of your e-signatureevidence.

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Because there is a connection to the vendor, it's possible forproviders to use proprietary technology to deploy theire-signatures, which aren't guaranteed to be independentlydefensible in court, because they're not published or based onpublic standards.

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Choosing the right technology for you

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Both independent and dependent e-signatures can be easy foragents and clients to use, and they'll both promotecost-effectiveness, so choosing the right e-signature service foryou ought to be focused on how and why you're usinge-signatures.

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Here are some of the key questions agents should ask:

  • Am I using e-signatures to facilitate high-risk or low-risktransactions?
  • What are the industry-specific compliance needs for my e-signedtransactions?
  • Will I need to ensure legal defensibility into the foreseeablefuture?
  • Could my e-signed documents ever be challenged in court?

For mission critical transactions and when legal assurance andindustry compliance are a must, independent e-signatures will beright for you. If you're only using e-signatures for low-level,temporary transactions, a vendor dependent e-signature may beacceptable. However, understanding the critical differences betweenthe two will ensure you have all facts before making a decisionthat could affect the long-term viability of your office's criticalcontracts.

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What kind of e-signature do you need? Infographic

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Pem Guerry is the Executive Vice President at SIGNiX, an Independent E-Signature™solutions provider that makes signing documents online safe, secureand legal for any business. SIGNiX offers an independentlyverifiable cloud-based digital signature solution, which combinesworkflow convenience with superior security. Learn more about whatmakes SIGNiX different at www.signix.com.

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