The health crisis and its consequences on work methods – travel restrictions, widespread hybrid work – have forced companies to step up their digital transformation and have increased the appeal of the electronic signature for them. Today, this is the ultimate factor enabling them to fully digitalise their transactions and exchanges, to take advantage of all the benefits in terms of time saved, flexibility, cybersecurity and reduced costs. In other words: the electronic signature has every chance of being increasingly adopted in the coming years. Proof can be found in these four major remote signature market trends anticipated for 2022.

Gradual widespread deployment of electronic signature usages

Historically, the electronic signature was mainly used in sectors where security of exchanges is a major concern. As a result, its use has become common practice in areas such as banking, finance, law, business and human resources. For example, more than 40% of law professionals have adopted online signatures, both for court proceedings and for authentication of legal documents (source: Challenges).

A positive outcome of the pandemic was that the electronic signature shook off the “techie” image it had been suffering from for some time. In other words: widespread deployment is taking place, first by necessity, and then because of its numerous benefits. In 2020, in just a few weeks, the electronic signature market expanded by 25%, according to Forrester (source: Journal du Net), penetrating new sectors such as property, tourism, consumer retail businesses and even associations. For Markess by Exægis, this ascending curve should become exponential: the independent research firm forecasts that 87% of companies will have adopted an electronic signature solution between now and 2023.

More flexible provisions of the eIDAS regulation regarding the qualified signature

In the electronic signature world, the “qualified” signature represents the highest level of security as provided for by the European eIDAS regulation. But, its use is somewhat complex: users must first obtain a qualified electronic certificate, issued by a trusted service provider belonging to the European trust list, and provided to the user on physical media. These complexities have held back the use of this signature level, despite the many benefits.

However, things are changing, and in the right direction. The update to the eIDAS regulation planned for the end of the summer should redefine the provisions governing the use of the qualified electronic signature, notably full electronic usage (which would mean the end of the physical media, which is currently obligatory). These changes would make adoption of the solution easier while still preserving everything essential: solid technical, legal and security guarantees. This should, logically, remove the obstacles to its usage and convince a growing number of market players to implement it.

An ever-increasing lever in terms of cybersecurity

Remote signature of documents brings with it a number of concerns. This is because there are genuine risks of fraud and identity theft. In 2021, one company in four was the victim of fraud – an increase due in part to the widespread use of remote work (Euler Hermes barometer) – which explains the predominance of cybersecurity challenges for organisations.

The electronic signature, far from favouring fraud, constitutes protection against cyber attacks of all kinds. Indeed, an online signature tool, to be legal, must be based on a data encryption system which guarantees the integrity of the signed documents. Added to this, the identity of the user must be verified before an electronic certificate can be issued – and, for the highest level signatures, this verification must occur face-to-face. Lastly, the need for the signatory to confirm their identity at the time of the signature limits the risk of identify theft.

The increasing appeal of the electronic signature against a hybrid work backdrop

Not only has the pandemic changed working methods: it has also had an impact on employee expectations. It has shown employees that they can perfectly well carry out their daily tasks either remotely or in the office, without impacting productivity. As things return to normal, increasing numbers of employees seek greater flexibility (and autonomy) in how they organise their work time. This new “hybrid work” paradigm has become so important that, for recruitment candidates, it is a swing factor in itself.

Against this backdrop, the electronic signature represents a solid argument in favour of companies, in that it rounds out their “digital toolbox” and offers employees much-sought after flexibility… and not just employees. Because, in parallel, organisations are faced with an unprecedented surge in the number of freelancers: in the future, they will have to work increasingly with independent professionals… and will have to offer them solutions suited to how they work. All the more reason to include the electronic signature in their day-to-day lives!

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