Digital signatures have been around for decades, but they became business-critical when the pandemic made remote working standard practice. Leaders in accounting firms that have already made the digital leap say they would never move back to paper documentation and ‘wet’ signatures.
Victorian accounting firm Illumin8 has been using eSignatures for almost eight years, says the practice’s founder Andrew Van De Beek FCA. The firm shifted to Annature about six months ago because Illumin8 likes to support Australian companies, and also because the local solution offered the best value for money.
“Some people love a good hardbound copy, and I appreciate that,” says Van De Beek. “However, I think in the world that we live in now, we are used to doing things digitally. If clients aren’t able to do business digitally, it’s frustrating for them. It’s a roadblock to you delivering a good experience, and it means you’re spending more time doing admin duties than actually helping a client and delivering good value.”
Andrew Haynes CA, founder of Kindred Accounting in Newcastle, NSW, agrees. “Starting an accounting practice from scratch, I didn’t want to be spending my time shuffling that paper and dropping documents at clients’ houses or posting them, when I could send documents instantly and get them back straight away most of the time. I wanted to be spending my time solving problems with my clients and getting better financial outcomes for them.”
In addition to delivering faster turnarounds for eSigned documents, signing solutions such as Annature build in SMS and email tracking and reminders to further simplify admin.
“We used to have probably anywhere from 15 to 20 documents out awaiting signature at any one time, and it’s probably under 10 most of the time now. Every dollar you’re saving in admin time is a dollar we can invest in our team of accountants,” says Haynes.
Picture: Andrew Haynes CA, Kindred Accounting.
“Every dollar you’re saving in admin time is a dollar we can invest in our team of accountants.”
Adds Van De Beek: “Typically, getting a signature is among the lowest of the lowest of things that you have to do. If we can make that an automated, secure, good experience, it makes it so much better.”
Trees and talent
Van De Beek says you shouldn’t underestimate the environmental benefits of moving to digital signatures, either.
“Printing, signing, scanning, emailing is just a waste of paper – absolutely wasted investment – and comes with a big environmental impact. We’re practically paperless, and digital signatures have played a huge part to ensure that we can do that.”
Picture: Andrew Van De Beek FCA, Illumin8.
.“Printing, signing, scanning, emailing is just a waste of paper – absolutely wasted investment – and comes with a big environmental impact. We’re practically paperless, and digital signatures have played a huge part.”
Using eSignatures also signals what type of accounting firm you are and what you value – and that may offer an edge in a tough hiring market.
“The biggest challenge we face as a firm is recruiting and keeping our people,” says Haynes.
“Using digital signatures is playing a small but important part in that process because I know that I enjoy working in an organisation that values my time and doesn’t expect me to shuffle paper when there’s a smarter way we could do it with technology."
Understanding digital signatures
Digital signatures are a type of electronic signature. They provide additional layers of security and cryptography as a way to guarantee that an electronic signature is authentic. Built on the standards of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), a digital signature is a mathematical code that ensures the document to which it is attached has not been altered after signing.
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