Written by:  Grant Wilburn

Founded in 2003, DocuSign has quickly become the leader in their niche industry of validating electronic signatures. While the company offers several services, including identity management and workflow automation, DocuSign’s success mainly stems from their ability to guarantee the authenticity of signatures on documents that can be signed electronically from anywhere in the world, thus removing delays associated with traditional signature requirements.

Although the company only made its public debut in April of this year, there’s a good chance that you may have heard of DocuSign well before then. By setting up numerous commercial relationships on their way to becoming a publicly-traded company, DocuSign is already prolific in many industries, including financial services, real estate, and even healthcare. If you recently purchased a home or signed up for a new insurance policy, for example, there’s a good chance you “DocuSigned” a handful of forms throughout the process.

How It Works

Simply put, DocuSign is a company that records and validates electronic signatures for its clients. As you might suspect, the crux of their business depends on the actual validation process, and as such DocuSign has a number of systems in place to ensure the accuracy of their records. While I could bore you with the specifics of user authentication, IP addresses, and access logs, the layman’s summary of “peeking behind the curtain” is this: DocuSign works because it complies with the ESIGN Act.

Enacted in June of 2000, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act states that electronic signatures are just as good as their paper counterparts provided that the signature can be adequately verified. Tom Gonser, DocuSign’s co-Founder and VP of Product Strategy, has written about their ESIGN compliance, initial skepticism on enforceability, and comparisons to traditional signatures.  To summarize his words, DocuSign initially tested the authenticity of their clients’ signatures by running “mock trials” in actual courtrooms, a common setting for analyzing the validity of signed documents.  Evidence gathered during those “trials” suggested that documents signed with DocuSign actually provided a much lower risk of tampering when compared to paper contracts.  According to Mr. Gonser, it is also “literally impossible” to change a contract signed in DocuSign, ensuring a high degree of security around such documents.

How to Use It

One of DocuSign’s best features is the ease of navigation for its users. When a form or contract is sent through DocuSign, an “envelope” is created and emailed to any recipient that needs to sign the document. As a recipient of one of these envelopes, you can follow the steps below to easily sign any document:

  1. Open the envelope emailed to you by DocuSign.net and click on “Review Document.”
  2. Enter your personal information and answer the subsequent questions to verify your identity.
    1. DocuSign works with LexisNexis, a data aggregator, to generate their verification questions. If you’ve ever requested a credit report or had to otherwise verify your identity online, chances are you’ve answered LexisNexis’ questions.
    2. This step only needs to be completed the first time you’re using DocuSign. They’ll remember your email address has already been authenticated for any future electronic signatures.
  3. Review the document, click “SIGN,” and click “FINISH.”

Our Uses for DocuSign

Here at Agili we’ve started using DocuSign to send TD Ameritrade forms to our clients, and so far we’re happy to report that we’ve had good results. Although DocuSign isn’t currently available for all of our paperwork needs, we’re pleased to give our clients the option to avoid having to print, sign, and scan documents whenever possible. As DocuSign continues to grow and be adopted by an increasing number of financial institutions, we’re optimistic that we’ll one day be able to use the service for the majority of our paperwork needs.  This change is driven by the convenience we believe DocuSign creates for you, our clients.  So, if you have any questions or comments on its usage, please don’t hesitate to contact your Financial Strategist or the client services representative who sent you a DocuSign request.