An article from the Sept. 13 issue realistically pointed out that there are indeed reasons to fax a document, stating "some of them practical, some of them legal, and some of them the result of industries that see no reason to 'fix' a system that 'ain't broke.'"
Conversely, I'm troubled with a couple of statements that followed, which indicate that electronic signatures in the real estate, lending and banking industries create "an extra step in the process" and that "the fastest and easiest method of approving a contract or a transaction remains applying the end of a pen to a piece of paper."
The ESIGN Act of 2000 was revolutionary not only in that it gave us the ability to leverage electronic signatures, but also because of the cost savings, efficiency gains and convenience opportunities it provided to the paper-intensive financial services industry. Electronically streamlining paper-based processes not only results in greater productivity, but also brings an added layer of enhanced security when that paper is eliminated.
Let me explain: with the printing and signing of physical paper comes the infinite management of that paper-it doesn't go away. There are really two choices with paper: documents either have to be manually stored in files that exacerbate time and take up valuable space. Or, the other option lies in having the printed documents scanned and indexed to avoid the storage issue, which is still a labor intensive and error-prone process. Not to mention, it is not very "green"-or economical-when you are shipping printed paper back and forth between branches. Removing or eliminating the courier costs can save any credit union thousands of dollars annually.
Although standard faxes or fax servers are secure in transmission, the credit union sending the faxes does not know who will potentially be viewing non-public personal data. Providing members with the ability to securely view and sign documents with a public key infrastructure (PKI) digital signature provides a level of security and convenience without having to be available, physically, to sign printed documents. Why not enable them to electronically receive, sign and return them securely from a remote location?
Although faxing a document to a member asking for "wet" signature has worked great over the years, there is still one huge problem that remains-and that's paper. If at any point in time you go to paper, all the efficiencies and eco-friendly benefits of an electronic process are lost entirely.
John Levy, EVP
Integrated Media Management, Linden, N.J.