Green Revolution: Why You Should Go Paperless

Go Paperless and join the Green Revolution

Paper may seem harmless, but in reality, it causes severe environmental damage and has far reaching effects. It has become more important than ever for businesses to go paperless.
The pulp and paper industry is the third largest industrial polluter to air, water, and land. With this in mind, Canada and the United States are the world’s largest producers of paper and pulp products.
If we don’t smarten up soon our window of opportunity may quickly shut.

What’s the Damage?

Source Process

Right from the start, the paper and pulp industry causes severe damage to the environment, including our air, water, and soil.  As you probably know, the paper comes from trees— in fact, 35% of all harvested trees, and 40% of all industrial wood is used for paper manufacturing. The United States alone cuts down more than 68 million trees each year, just for the production of pulp and paper products. These numbers are staggering when you consider the immense importance trees have in regulating our planet’s health. Since trees absorb CO2 and release oxygen, they mitigate the harmful effects of greenhouse gas. Moreover, a single 100-year-old tree can only produce 17 reams of paper, but when it’s cut down it will release 110 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere. As such, this deforestation directly increases climate change. Not only does the removal of trees speed up the global warming process, but it also makes it more severe. Deforestation accounts for more global carbon emissions than trucks and cars combined. With this in mind, there is a strong link between high levels of atmospheric gas, and increased deaths and respiratory illnesses.
The removal of trees also severely damages the quality of our soil. Through transpiration, trees control the level of water in our atmosphere and directly help regulate the water cycle. When there are fewer trees, there’s less water! Through this, our soils become drier, negatively affecting its ability to sustain life— for both plants, and organisms. Moreover, soil and smaller plants use trees for shade. When they are removed, more UV rays are able to penetrate the ground, further drying out the soil. The removal of trees also increases surface runoff, which causes soil erosion. As such, our soil can become barren, further harming our environment.
Deforestation also threatens our planet’s biodiversity and contributes to species endangerment. Approximately 80% of the world’s land animals and plants live in forests. The removal of trees also means the destruction of their habitats and the introduction of pesticides into their ecosystem. In fact, upwards of 30 million acres of forest are lost each year. Moreover, trees help regulate a forest’s internal temperature through their canopy. The removal of the canopy fluctuates internal temperatures, which is extremely harmful to both plants and animals.
Removing trees also negatively affects neighboring and indigenous communities. More than 1.5 billion people rely on forests for the necessities, such as food, water, clothing, and shelter. Taking away their important resources causes social conflict, and threatens their livelihood.

Manufacture Process

The production of paper in of itself is also extremely harmful to the environment, neighboring communities and even their own employees. Each year, the world manufactures more than 300 million tons of paper, with 1 million tons of paper used each day. Unfortunately, paper mills emit significant levels of pollution. They release upwards of 220 million lbs of toxins each year, which affects our air, water, and soil. A measly 1 ton of paper creates 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide. This pollution has adverse effects on neighboring communities, and nearby ecosystems. They are also the largest industrial consumer of water, as the pulp and paper industry uses more water to produce 1 ton of product than any other industry. To better put this in perspective, 1.5 cups of water are needed to make one single sheet of paper, and approximately 300,000 litres are needed for 1 ton. Moreover, they are the second largest consumer of energy. To produce one ton of paper, 253 gallons of petrol are used. The production of secondary and supporting products are also incredibly harmful. For example, the production of ink relies on fossil fuels and harmful chemicals.
Even their own workers are not spared from the negative effects of paper production, as paper mill employees are subject to poor working conditions. In order to reduce wood pulp and bleach paper, employees are exposed to a toxic cocktail of chemicals. As such, they have an increased risk for dangerous health problems, like malignant lymphomas.
With all this in mind, by 2020 paper mills are expected to produce 500,000,000 tons of paper products annually.

Disposal Process

Let’s be honest, most of us do not recycle every single sheet of paper that we come in contact with— and even if we did, paper cannot be recycled indefinitely. Of the total waste in the United States of America, a staggering 40% is paper products. To hit home a bit more, 45% of paper printed in offices is thrown out by the end of the day. Unsurprisingly, 50% of the waste businesses create is paper. Even the supporting products are wasteful, as 400 million ink and 100 million toner cartridges end up in landfills each year. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, at the end of its destructive life, paper either rots or is burned. The burning of paper emits CO2, while the rotting releases methane gas— a gas that is 25 times more toxic than CO2.
Through its entire lifecycle paper causes significant, and sometimes irreparable, damage.  

Want to Help? Go Paperless

Benefits

The only way to protect the environment from paper waste is to go paperless. In a paperless world, each year the average worker can save:

  • 938 gallons of water
  • 2.5 trees
  • 56 gallons of oil
  • 595 KW (kilowatts of energy)
  • 12.15 cubic feet of landfill space

Greenhouse gas emissions would also decrease by 3.9 billion lbs annually— which is equivalent to removing 355,000 cars from the road! These benefits aren’t just environmental. By going paperless, your organization can save a ton of money! In fact, a company with only 8 employees can save $10,000 a year just by ditching paper. You would also save on ink and toner costs, which add up to $3,230 and $5,600 respectively. Even more so, businesses lose 15% of their important documents, which costs around $120 in labour to find, and $220 to finally replace. Your annual cost benefit can be upwards of $20,000!
Want to learn more about how you can go paperless? Check our blogs on 5 ways to create a paperless business or 11 resources to check to a paperless office!

eSignatures

One of the best ways to help is to simply switch to electronic and digital signatures. This simple step really has a huge positive impact, just think of how many times a day you rely on paper documents! Companies, like Signority, help you automate and digitize your document signing process with their electronic signature solutions. This leaves you with a lot less paper, and extra time to do more important things— like save time on costly internal operations and the planet!
We need to reduce, not recycle. The paper industry is out-dated, unnecessary, and extremely harmful. If we don’t change our ways soon and go paperless, we may lose our chance. If you don’t believe me, just click here to see how much paper we have produced this year alone.
Join the revolution go paperless!
Switch to digital, and switch to a more environmentally friendly business…  one small step for the office, one huge step for mankind!
Feel free to share this post with your colleagues and friends, but please try and fight the urge to print it!
Want to help save the planet? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan.

India is going digital, how about you? India's story of digital innovations

Digital Innovations in India Are On the Rise

When you think of India from a technology or digital standpoint, what comes to mind?
Outsourced tech support?
Call center operations?
Outsourced research and development?
While India certainly has done all of the above, India should be known for something else, digital innovations. Often companies hold off on implementing new technology because change is hard, and rolling out a new way of doing things requires staff education, changes to internal and external processes, not to mention the difficulty articulating an ROI. I mean we have always done it that way and it worked…

India Switching Gears?

Well, India decided it’s time for a change, time to go paperless and are rolling out digital innovations at a dizzying pace for a country of that size. If you are looking for an example of “undertaking massive social and technological change”, just look at India.
Here are some examples, now imagine if these implementations took place in the states of New York, California or Ontario.
In the first week of February, India banned cash transactions over $4500 or Rs 300,000. That’s right, you got cash? No thanks; cash is king … up to a point. After that, it is digital.
The inability to prove an individual’s identity was a massive hurdle that prevented the poor from accessing benefits and subsidies. Enter the Unique Identification project, that provides every citizen with a Unique Identification Number, assuring that the benefits were received by the right person.
This further led to India building the world’s largest biometric identity system. According to MapR, the project uses MapR and Hadoop to create and maintain the world’s largest biometric database, which can verify a person’s identity within 200 milliseconds.
Down with paper, did you know that Delhi also banned all use of plastic bags this week?

India’s Top Digital Innovations

India has several very interesting projects on the go, from eHealth to Digital Lockers, they are innovating and looking to the future. According to Wikipedia, here are some examples of the projects that are currently being worked on:  

  1. DigiLocker
  2. Attendance.gov.in
  3. MyGov.in
  4. SBM Mobile app
  5. eSign framework
  6. e-Hospital
  7. National Scholarship Portal

Interestingly from our vantage point, India as part of their going paperless program has implemented an eSignature platform where citizens now digitally sign all contracts with the government, read more about India’s digital eSignature framework.
At Signority, we applaud India for this massive undertaking and are doing our part with our digital signature platform on this side of the planet to cut paper, reduce waste, and clean up the planet.
How has the conversation about going digital gone at your company, what are some of the roadblocks and success you have seen? We’d love to hear from you, send us a quick message at hello@signority.com.

The 4 Biggest Emerging Insurance Trends and Its Implications

Top 4 Emerging Insurance Trends

Emerging trends, such as driverless cars, P2P insurance and electronic signatures, have disrupted the usually steady world of insurance. But how exactly have these emerging insurance trends affected and changed the industry?

Let’s take a look at some of the emerging insurance trends!

Driverless Cars

Since the emergence of Tesla’s electric cars and the way they took the automotive market by storm, competitors and disruptors, and Tesla themselves, are looking into introducing fully autonomous cars as soon as two years time. Naturally, this changes things significantly for the insurance world. As this market continues to develop, insurers will need to consider potential risks to drivers, passengers and cars, as well as who (or what) is ultimately held responsible.

Driverless Cars Explained

Driverless cars sense their surroundings through integrated circuits and advanced technology, without the help of human input. As such, they provide users with a safer and more convenient means of transportation. Their way of operation includes different levels of autonomy:

  1.     Driver only – self-explanatory
  2.     Driver assistance – automated only for steering, acceleration and braking
  3.     Full autonomy – the car can travel on its own without a human present in the vehicle
  4.     High autonomy – requires human control only periodically during the trip, but are otherwise automated
  5.     Partial autonomy – drivers can interfere only in the event of an emergency

Implications for the Insurance Industry

The whole point of auto insurance is to protect people from human or mechanical error, but what happens when human error is eliminated? The main issues the insurance industry needs to tackle are as follows:

  1. Personal Insurance – Since the drivers essentially become passengers, who will be held accountable in case of an accident? The driver, car manufacturer, or both?
  2. Commercial Insurance – With companies such as Uber or Lyft using driverless cars to take their passengers’ places, how will these vehicles be insured if an accident occurs while on duty?

Driverless cars transitioned quickly from a radical idea to a very real product, with a very fast adoption rate. The insurance industry needs to adapt to these new changes just as quickly.

P2P Insurance

When Lemonade entered the insurance market this past fall, everyone with at least minimal knowledge in insurance knew things were about to change. The implications for the insurance industry were very deep, even though they only operated in New York. Unsurprisingly, requests for expansion into other states were made as soon as it launched. What will this mean for the insurance industry long-term?

P2P Insurance Explained

Peer-to-peer insurance is simpler than it sounds. It’s when a group of people with a mutual cause gather their money in one place, which is then used to pay the claims of any of the members in case of an accident. Usually, companies offering this type of insurance have a backup top-insurer supporting them in case the sum is too big for them to cover. Lemonade uses unpaid claims to support causes close to the heart of the insured. As such, customer trust in their company is bigger, and the tendency to find ways to circumvent the system is considerably lower. Since the company’s profits do not depend on what claims they can and can’t deny you.

Implications for the Insurance Industry

Even though the insurance industry has started to shift, P2P companies have not yet completely and irrevocably disrupted the market. P2P insurance exploits one of the biggest flaws of traditional insurance companies, by inspiring trust and a sense of community with their customers. However, when P2P companies go to traditional insurance companies for help in controversial cases, this newly placed trust in P2P companies will wear off. With that being said, the fact that this new model emerged at all, and has the success it has had so far, existing companies will rethink their stance on insurance going forward.

Drones

As the number of private drone enthusiasts increases and a growing number of commercial drones take flight, so do the risks associated with them. Aside from providing insurance to drones or unmanned vehicles, they hold large potential for changing the insurance game, from fighting fraud to increasing accuracy in risk-management and tailored pricing.
According to Dean Anderson, National Aviation Practice Leader, Wells Fargo Insurance, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that approximately 2.5 million drones/unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will be sold this year, with almost 600,000 used for commercial purposes. The trend leaves a vast unknown in the aviation insurance sector, one that presents excitement, new product development, and a changing underwriting mentality. With widespread US-potential, industries such as industrial inspection, agriculture, real estate, aerial photography, government, and others are investing considerable amounts of money into this emerging industry.”

Drone insurance explained

Drone insurance acts like any other insurance policy. If a drone is damaged in an accident or lost, the loss is covered to an extent by the insurance company. 
There are primarily two types of insurance coverages, UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) insurance provided to the all:  Manufacturer, Owner and Operator Coverage.
And non-owned UAV / UAS Liability Coverage: coverage to companies or individuals that use or hire UAVs that they do not own and that are operated by third parties.
Some of the pre-requisites for these type of insurance are:

  • Buyer or operator’s proof of training
  • Maintenance of drone operational logs
  • Parts or add-ons purchased so far

Implications for the Insurance Industry

Increasing accuracy during catastrophes
During catastrophes, drones can play a critical role in surveying the damage of the insured property. The flexibility of drones allows for immediate surveying and reporting, allowing for a speedy insurance process.
Risk-management
According to PWC’s recent report “Clarity from Above”, drones could be used for instantaneous data collection and risk monitoring. With immediate access and improved quality of data. Insurance companies could easily assess high-risk areas and notify customers of those high-risk areas, ultimately helping them avoid those risks.
Tailored pricing
By often performing hazardous work, drones access and collect critical data sets that effectively allow for insurance companies to provide their customers custom pricing.

eSignatures

Initially frowned upon by lawmakers for its perceived poor cyber security and the consequences of having important legal information stolen, eSignatures are the new norm. The advancement of technology pushed insurers and the laws governing insurance companies to catch up with the times and start using eSignatures as part of their daily work.

eSignatures Explained

Like we mentioned in our previous post “Quick Reference Guide: Electronic Signatures & the ESIGN Act. According to the eSign Act, an eSignature is “any sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” If that definition sounds vague or unclear, don’t worry. That’s sort of the idea; it is, after all, “legal-ese”. In plain English, however, the above definition simply “states” an eSignature as a legal concept. That is, its legal definition simply means that it is possible for an electronic signature to carry the same sort of legal “weight” as its pen-and-paper equivalent.
Let’s take a quick look at the basic components of an electronic signature:
Consent:
Basically, any individual who signs an electronic document must explicitly consent to do so in the first place. Should an individual choose not to consent to an electronically signed agreement, a non-electronic option must be made available.
Intent:
In the simplest terms, this means that the signer clearly understands his or her intent to sign the document, and the process by which the individual signed the document was clear and understood from beginning to end.
Verification:
For an electronic document to be considered legally binding it must be signed by the same person whose signature appears on the dotted line. In turn, most electronic signature solutions have built-in verification methods.
Auditability:
This is the electronic equivalent of a “paper trail,” (popularly know in the electronic signature industry as an ‘Audit Trail’) whereby each party involved in an electronic agreement (or a legal entity, for instance) can if necessary, easily access each step of the electronic signature process. You can read more about the anatomy and importance of an audit trail in our post titled “The Anatomy of an Audit Trail: Electronic Signature Simplified”.
While the most known type of an eSignature is the drawn signature, there are other types as well:

  1. Click to sign – these include tick boxes, e-squiggles, scanned images, and typed names. However, they are not considered as a functioning signature. As such, they are commonly used in addition to other types of eSignatures
  2. eSignatures – These typically involve the signer applying their hand-signature mark on the document, which is then protected with a cryptographic digital signature
  3. Advanced and Qualified eSignatures – AES and QES use unique signing keys for every signer, as such, they provide the highest level of trust and assurance. These unique signing keys directly link the user’s identity to the signed document, so anyone is able to verify the signature using an industry standard PDF reader

Implications for Insurance Industry

eSignatures makes life much easier for insurance brokers. eSignature companies like Signority revolutionize document signing and management by creating seamless digital transactions for your customers. Experts agree eSignatures close sales quicker, are more secure and traceable than paper and can be easily integrated into already existing business processes. You are able to securely maintain legal electronic copies of every document, keeping your documents safe from any harm. Communication is also simplified, so much so that it only takes a few minutes to set up, draft, sign and file any necessary documents… no more long days waiting for documents to arrive by mail! Everything is automated and digitalized and at your disposal. To learn more about the habits of highly effective insurance brokers, click here.
While driverless cars and P2P insurance have both positive and negative effects on the insurance market, eSignatures and drones impact looks to be solely positive. We will see in later years how each one of these trends will change the way insurance works, but for now, we can safely say things are looking up!
Disclaimer:
This post focuses on technology and its impact on the North American insurance sector, specifically. It’s important to point out that Signority is not an insurance company, nor are we the expert authority on the subject. However, we have referenced experts often in this post. It would be equally wise (and perhaps a bit obvious) to point out that the insurance industry is incredibly complex. Admittedly, this post is a brief, simplified look at a complex topic.
 
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The Millennial Movement: 7 Ways Your Business Can Optimize for Mobile-Savvy Consumers

The Millennial Movement - How to Optimize for Mobile-Savvy Consumers

Quick, throw out your desktops and burn all your landlines, the millennials are coming!
Millennials are non-traditionalists who want things their way, and they want them now. According to Pew Research, there are 75.4 million millennials in the United States alone; officially surpassing the number of Baby Boomers. With a buying power of over $200 billion, they are quickly becoming a hugely untapped market. With this in mind, millennials account for 41% of the total time Americans spend using their phones. Turns out the stereotype is true, millennials are glued to their phones. Predictably, they use their phones for shopping. In fact, millennials use their phones for every step of the buying process; for researching, browsing/evaluating alternatives, and during the actual purchase. As such, your small- to medium-sized business should change with the tide and implement an optimized, mobile-first strategy, or else face the same fate of the once popular Blockbuster video

How to Optimize for Mobile: The Basics

First things first, before you personalize your site to tailor the needs of millennials, let’s go over some basics:

1. Functionality

In order for Millennials to use your mobile site, it must be easy to use. Concentrate on clear, focused content, with large, easy to read text. Smaller screens will already make navigating your website harder, so having a cluttered/distracting layout and small font will only amplify this. Users should never have to pinch or zoom their screens in order to see something more clearly. Along the same line, keep menus and navigations limited. If your users have to transition between four different pages before they get to the one they want, they’ll be gone after the second page. You should also limit things that will slow down your pages speed, like pop-ups (which can sometimes be super-frustrating to close!)

2. Design

Mobile-friendly layouts are simple and well-integrated with your main website. User’s want the same feel and experience on a mobile site as they would from your desktop website. Having your sites match each other presents a united front and a stronger brand image. And don’t forget about your big-handed customers! Make sure the buttons are big enough for easy usage. Along the same lines, keep your fill-out forms to a minimum, as small screens and big hands can make them difficult to complete. Lastly, the site must be configured in a way that allows for easy scrolling.

3. Use Already-Existing Mobile Features

Take advantage of the various functions and features that are only available on mobile phones. You’ll be able to know where all of your users are located in real time, allowing you to better their search results, and better promote yourself. The camera and microphone also open up a ton of opportunities for user engagement, like barcode scanning, and visual/verbal searches. You can also utilize push notifications, as they are less annoying than email notifications, and easier for users to see. For example, instead of notifying a customer through email when an item has come back in stock, send them a push notification. Not only is this more convenient for them, but it also speeds up the buying process for you. Another way to shorten the buying process is by incorporating click through links on your site. A specific example of how to optimize for mobile is allowing users to click on your business’s phone number, and having their phone directly call.

How to Optimize for Mobile: Tech-Savvy Millennials

Customer experience is taking center stage in 2017, and millennials know exactly what they want. If you can successfully cater to this new and profitable target segment, you will be, as they say, “on fleek”.

4. Online Browsing

According to Data Mentors, 50% of millennials use mobile devices to research products and reviews, a whopping 30% increase compared with non-millennials. They search for product information, product details, and past customer reviews. As such, each item on your site should have an accurate picture, a concise description and a place for customers to directly comment their reviews.

5. In-store Shopping

Millennials use their phone during their entire purchase; a colossal 84% use their smartphones in-store to assist with their shopping. As explained by DigiDay, retailers can leverage this to their advantage in many ways. Home Depot lets their customers see an item’s inventory, location in the store, price, product details and customer ratings, all by using their phone to scan an item’s barcode. Millennials are price sensitive shoppers, and two-thirds use their phones to compare/check prices. As such, you should strongly promote any deals and price promotions on your mobile site.

6. Online Purchases

Unsurprisingly, millennials are not scared to shop online. Roughly 40% prefer to shop online and they are comfortable with paying through their mobile phone — Apple and Android Pay have made this possible. However, millennials are not immune to security concerns. One solution to combat this could be to allow customers to pay through gift cards, as 64% of millennials believe gift cards to be the safest online payment method.

7. Other Features

Since the majority of millennials still shop in store, your mobile site should support this. You can monitor visitors’ behaviour on your site, and, based on their GPS location, refer them to the nearest store location when the time is right. You should also have your store directory easily accessible and noticeable. Additionally, millennials are active social media users and value the ability to share everything online. You can add sharing features on your products, enabling customers to send any items they’re interested in to their friends. Through this, you can increase your exposure and reach, and millennials will appreciate their ability to easily share over their social media pages.
Plot twist, I’m a millennial (and yes, this may have been written on my phone). A new age is here, and your business needs to keep up with the times. Millennials are unlike any other consumer group and we have immense buying power. Ditch the old way of thinking, take a millennials advice and start investing in upgrading your mobile site.
Gotta run, my phones almost out of battery!
If you liked this post, you may also be interested in our recent article on how to “Modernize Your Business for Under $1000 Per Month”.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan.

Signority Set for Year of Explosive Growth

Signority-year-of-growth-moving-announcement

“Signority, a fast-growing, Ottawa tech startup, is now set to disrupt the eSignature space. Their move into their new office in Hintonburg makes room for new hires and their big plans.”

Ottawa, ON (Feb 1st, 2017) – Signority, Inc. the easiest and most secure electronic signature platform serving the small and medium-sized business (SME) community, announced their move from Invest Ottawa‘s incubator, to their new office at Wellington Street West on February 1st, of 2017. The move allows the company to expand their team this year to add another 30+ employees to realize their big plans.
The new office is located in the heart of Hintonburg — a vibrant, urban neighbourhood, situated West of Downtown Ottawa — known for its eclectic mix architecture, modern restaurants and fashionable boutique stores.
Signority aspires to be a leader in the electronic signature space and recently announced their secure digital signature solution to the Chinese market, to allow businesses to easily sign contracts using a Digital Chop — in celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The new Hintonburg office space will bring improved client service, better facilities and more room for the growing team. In addition, it will serve as a space to engage with the local community, where Signority is looking forward to hosting meet-ups and networking events.
“The eSignature space is highly competitive and yet non-differentiated, we are in this space to disrupt it.  We have big changes planned this year that will help us stand out and provide SMEs with a truly innovative solution built for enterprise but priced affordably for them. With this move, we also want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our values and aspirations. Hintonburg – Mechanicsville, is an up and coming neighbourhood that is home to fashionable boutique stores, innovative restaurants and interesting architecture. We are excited to move to this creative and dynamic neighbourhood,” said Signority’s CEO Samer Forzley.
Signority will now occupy the third floor of a multi-tenant office building located at 981 Wellington St W, Suite 301, Ottawa, ON K1Y 2Y1.
The full move is set to be completed on the 1st of February, 2017.  All of Signority’s phone numbers will remain the same.

Signority is a fast-growing, secure electronic signature and digital signatures provider, with unique pricing transparency. Signority’s platform was designed to automate the document signing process & reduce management costs — so business owners can focus on growing their business.
Visit Signority.com for more information.
 
About Signority Inc.
Signority Inc. is an Ottawa-based SaaS company that is dedicated to making it easy and secure for growing businesses to legally sign electronic documents. Their platform allows for the management of legal document workflows by offering a digital signature solution to easily access, verify, sign and certify documents from anywhere in the world, on any device.
For media inquiries, contact:
Dan Lawrence
(C/O Signority)
981 Wellington Street West,
Suite # 301
Ottawa, ON
K1Y 2Y1
Email: press@signority.com
Website: www.signority.com

Border-Free Business: Your Definitive Guide To International Contracts

International contracts for SMBs

My first experience with international contracts did not go so well. The year was 2004, I was travelling and had just recently met up with a very promising business prospect. We had the responsibility of finalizing a housing development project, by creating sandcastles from the toys we found scattered around the beach shore. Oh, did I mention I was only 8? Well, anyway, turns out my new found friend at the beach purposely hustled the only toy shovel right from my little naive hands.
This is my story.
Both of us wanted the shovel, so we decided to figure things out fairly- with a legally binding contract, aka, a game of heads or tails. Now, my new sandcastle developing partner, seeing an opportunity to push their own agenda, said “tails I win, heads you lose”… as you can probably guess, I blindly agreed to these terms. At the time, I didn’t realize the fine print of their offer and grudgingly gave away the only toy shovel. Only years later, lying wide awake at 3am, did I realize how unfair and one-sided that “contract” really was!
Don’t let yourself make the same mistake, because there’s probably a lot more at risk. So keep reading to learn what to watch out for before signing or sending international contracts (and some other useful information too).
International contracts can open up a lot of opportunities…. opportunities that you should take advantage of, like right now. If your business is not, at least, looking to expand into foreign markets, you are losing a huge slice of potential market share. Our economy would not be where it is today without the access and ease of entering into international markets. International trade is a part of every aspect of your, and my, day-to-day life. 
Now, you may be thinking, you work for a small to medium sized business and have no idea how to handle international contracts. Well fortunately for you, we have already done the hard work.
So here it is… Your definitive Guide to International Contracts!

Laws When Doing Business with a Foreign Company

Obviously, international business agreements are substantially different from domestic. For international, you have to be aware of the country’s political environment, economic environment, culture, and legal system. For example, as explained by Business Management, India’s laws protect small businesses and consumers, whereas China’s government strictly controls its business sectors. With this being said, it is very important to know the country’s specific contract laws. Countries that follow common law systems, like the United States, have very detailed contracts compared with countries that follow a civil law system, like Russia. This is an important detail to note, as common law system contracts can be time-consuming and expensive to create.

Sending International Contracts: What to Look for

The first, and most obvious, thing to look for is if your terms are properly stated. Make sure your international contract is easily understandable, free from any grammatical errors and is written in plain English. According to the State Bar of Michigan, writing contracts in plain English can improve the contract’s substantive content, and promote the client’s interests. Furthermore, your contract must follow a logical segmentation- if you can’t follow along with what the contract is saying, your signee won’t be able to either. Along the same lines, you should look out for vague standards, such as “reasonable” or “significant”, as these phrases can cloud your actual objective. Furthermore, read through and remove any implying terms. Make sure everything is explicitly stated and said with intent, especially in regards to price and payments. Making your standards more concrete and clear will make them easier to reinforce, and easier for signees to follow. Click here to learn how to include remote workers and digital nomads into your business plan. Already know how/why you want to hire international workers? Click here.

Receiving International Contracts: What to Look for

Most importantly, you need to read it over and agree to everything stated. Make sure the contract leaves none of your questions unanswered. For example, it should clearly define whether the method of payment is a fixed fee, or based on the current exchange rate (and whether you will be paid in local or foreign currency). It is usually a good idea to have a lawyer look over any international contract before you sign (don’t worry, we’ll explain how to easily find a cheap lawyer a little later on).

Receiving Employment Contracts: What to Look for

Unfortunately, international employment contracts are more technically complicated than standard employment contracts, as employment laws, tax laws and immigration laws affect them. As such, there are several things you should watch out for. First, make sure all of the nitty-gritty details are spelt out and clearly defined. For example, ensure any and all promised benefits are fully laid out. Second, be sure to read every single clause. You do not want to end up in a sticky situation because the “past” you was too bored to actually read what you were agreeing to. The non-compete clause is an important one to note, as, according to Wikipedia, this can prohibit you from working within a competing profession or trade with your soon to be employer. Especially if you’re uprooting your life and moving for this job, you want to be sure you have plenty of opportunities if you ever decide to quit (and that you’re not forced to move back home).

How to Find a Lawyer

All this responsibility does not have to fall on your shoulders; to be safe you should hire a professional to look over everything and make sure things are in order. You might be rolling your eyes and groaning, but hiring a lawyer does not have to be expensive. Let me repeat, hiring a lawyer does not have to be expensive. And the added security is definitely worth the minimal cost. You can always ask around for lawyer recommendations, but this can be extremely time consuming and friends/family are not always the most reliable source. Thankfully, there are also online sources available. LawTrades can help you find employment contract lawyers for cheap. Since they don’t have the overhead expenditure of law firms, they are about 60% more affordable – score!

Digital Vs. Paper Signatures

Contracts, in general, can be stressful, and it doesn’t help when you’re sending/receiving them half way across the world. International contracts have the added stress of time and distance. Paper signatures not only prolong the signing process, it also increase the frustration and overall inconvenience (and sometimes the associated costs). Thankfully, the future is here! Digital signatures speed up the process by sending contracts across borders instantaneously. As such, they save time, money and make everyone’s experience as stress-free as possible.
Online eSignature companies like Signority, can be the solution you’ve been waiting for. Compared with digital contracts, paper contracts make about as much sense as sending your mail by pigeon.
Well there you have it, all you need to know about the basics of international contracts. I bet heads your small to medium sized business will exponentially grow from being introduced to international markets, and tails that international contracts are not as hard as they seem.  
Thank you for reading, now please sign the dotted line below to grant us full access to all of your bank accounts: ____________________
To most of you who didn’t sign, I’m very proud of how much you’ve learned. To those who did sign, maybe just stick to hiring a lawyer.
Well, we have given you the basics of international contracts, now it’s time for you to start applying this information into your business strategy and open up a whole new world, literally and figuratively.
Also, check out our recent article on “The Ultimate List: 100+ Tools & Resources For Skyrocketing Business Growth in 2017” to help further automate and streamline your international business deals!
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan for 14-days.

Signority Launches Their Secure Digital Signature Solution into Chinese market

Signority Logo White on Blue background

“$8 for Eight Days” Celebrates Lunar New Year with $8 Pro plan for Chinese customers”
Ottawa, Canada – January, 26th 2017 – Signority, a next-generation digital signature software provider serving the small and medium-sized business (SME) community, today announced the launch of its China offering to allow businesses to easily sign contracts using a Digital Chop. Leveraging its patent for Digital Signature using an encrypted image, Signority is able to provide the Chinese market a unique offering tailored for Asia’s largest market.
In celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year and to mark the launch of its Chinese offering, Signority will ring in the Year of the Rooster with an $8 USD Pro plan. The promotion will run from Wed, Feb 1st through Wed, Feb. 8. Companies in the Chinese market, whose business depends on fast document signing to close deals, and streamlining operations, can now benefit from Signority’s Patented Digital Chop solution.

“Signority’s co-founders are both of Chinese decent, so, we are excited to honor our Chinese heritage as we celebrate the Year of the Rooster,” said Jane He, COO and co-founder of Signority. “The number eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture, and we’re hoping to share the luck with our ‘$8 for Eight Days’ promotion.”

Signority Digital Chop Image

(Above) Signority’s Digital Chop

Many people in China possess a personal name seal. Artists, scholars, collectors and intellectuals may possess a full set of name seals, leisure seals, and studio seals. A well-made seal made from semi-precious stones can cost between 400 and 4000 yuan.

Seals are still used for official purposes in a number of contexts. When collecting parcels or registered post, the name seal serves as an identification, akin to a signature. In banks, traditionally the method of identification was also by a seal. Seals remain the customary form of identification on cheques in mainland China and Taiwan “ taken from Wikipedia, Seal (East_Asia), January, 2017.

Signority is engaged in actively disrupting the electronic signature industry by providing secure digital signatures along with unique pricing transparency. The Signority platform cuts through time-consuming print, sign, scan document signing process that unnecessarily burden users and impact corporate revenue.
For more information about the Signority’s Digital Signature platform and how Signority is enabling faster, simpler and less intrusive eSignatures for small businesses.
To sign up, visit Signority.com

About Signority

Signority Inc. is an Ottawa-based SaaS company that is dedicated to make it easy and secure for growing businesses to legally sign electronic documents. Their platform allows for the management of legal document workflows by offering a digital signature solution to easily access, verify, sign and certify documents from anywhere in the world, on any device.

What You Missed: Highlights of The CSIO eSignature Webinar for Insurance Brokers

CSIO eSignature Webinar for Insurance Brokers

The “eSignatures: Benefits and Implementation for Insurance Brokers” webinar was sponsored by the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations’ (CSIO) and hosted Michael Spiar (Broker Relations and Communications Specialist at CSIO) on January 19th, 2017.
With over 100 participants who came to learn about eSignatures and its implementation from the panellists: Karen Hoflin (Vice President, Go Insurance), Rebecca Reed (Operations Manager, Callister Musico Insurance Group), Samer Forzley (CEO, Signority). We have highlighted several key moments, observations and announcements from the webinar in this short post.
Below, you can see some highlights from the “eSignatures: Benefits and Implementation for Brokers” webinar, such as:

  • The legal overview for implementing electronic signatures
  • Current brokerage adoption rates in Canada
  • Workflow & Benefits of using electronic signatures
  • Broker testimonials and our personal observations

The legal overview for implementing electronic signatures

The webinar was kicked-off by Michael Spiar, who introduced the panellists and broke down the common legal definition of electronic signatures — I.e. “electronic information that a person creates or adopts in order to sign a document and that is in, attached to or associated with the document (Ontario Electronic Commerce Act, 2000).
The Five Broad Exclusions Under Insurance Law, namely:

  • Notice of cancellation
  • Nomination of person as having rights/interests of insured on insured’s death
  • Beneficiary designation (testamentary disposition concern)
  • Alterations to policy by insurer
  • Trustee appointment

Broker Adoption of eSignatures in Canada, courtesy of CSIO:

Broker Adoption of eSignatures in Canada

Workflow & Benefits of using electronic signatures:

There are several reasons for using Electronic Signatures and Digital Signatures, below are a couple of main points from Samer Forzley’s presentation:

In-person Signing (Insurance Brokers)

In-person Signing Insurance Brokers
According to IBC’s 2015 report Facts of the Property and Casualty Insurance Industry in Canada, operating expenses (Including employee compensation) amount to over 20% of total revenues — that amounts to about 20.6¢ for every dollar.
Which is due to: Travel times, phone calls and client onboarding.
Other reason for the high operating costs:

  • Documents are prepared and printed for signature by all parties
    • Print, sign, scan, email/courier/fax method
    • Internal and external customers/clients
  • Documents are often returned with missing signatures or incomplete/incorrect information, which can cause delays and restarts
  • Document transactions are halted without completed signatures, leading to further interruptions

eSignatures Signing Workflow (Insurance Brokers)

eSignatures Signing Workflow

  • Send: Upload and securely send documents for electronic signatures
  • Sign: Customers or Recipients receive, review and electronically sign the document. On completion Customers or Recipients receive a copy of the document and audit trail
  • Manage: Besides receiving a copy of the contract via email, broker’s can view signed documents, audit trails, a document’s status and even automate reminders

Benefits of eSignatures to Insurance Brokers

Benefits of eSignature to Brokers
According to EY Global’s “Insurance Digital Survey 2013”, Insurers aspire to future digital leadership; however, attaining their goals will require significant — and rapid — improvement to close the current gap. By their own admission, more than two-thirds feel they have delivered some easy quick wins, but they have not made transformational progress to realize their ambitious digital objectives.
Below are a few key reasons Insurance Brokers’ should go digital:

  • Ability to initiate and complete sales cycle quickly
  • Improved retention through customer convenience
  • Reduced errors and follow-up calls
  • Reduce overhead costs
  • Tamper-proof records

Benefits of eSignatures to Customers

Benefits of eSignatures to Customers
According to Ernst & Young’s report titled “Insurance in a digital world: the time is now.”
The two biggest drivers of digital strategies are “enriching the customer experience” and “regaining more direct control of the customer relationship” — far ahead of “attracting prospective customers and increasing sales.” While the cost of acquisition continues to rise, retaining existing customers is an increasing necessity and should be a critical and measurable benefit of any improvement in the customer experience, digitally enabled or otherwise.
Some benefits of eSignatures for your customers:

  • Improved convenience and experience
  • Customers can sign by mouse or touchscreen anywhere, anytime
  • Elimination of the antiquated print-sign-scan process
  • Secure storage of documents and personal data

What toLook for in an eSignature Solution Vendor

What to Look for in an eSignature Solution Vendor
5 things to think about, before choosing you Canadian eSignature Vendor:

  • Does the product answer your needs as a business?
  • Is the vendor’s product easy to learn and use?
  • Does the eSignature vendor have the level of support your business needs?
  • Does the eSignature vendor understand your business?
  • Is your data contained in Canada?

Other important notes
There were 2 main polls conducted during the webinar that brought about interesting results:

Poll #1

Primary learning objective in today's webinar
What is your primary learning objective in today’s webinar?

  • Legality of eSignatures
  • Workflow Benefits
  • Best Practices
  • Implementation Tips
  • Other

Poll #2

What is the primary concern of implementing eSignatures in your brokerage?
Primary concern of implementing eSignatures in your brokerage

  • Security/legal concerns
  • Workflow
  • Staff buy-in
  • Cost/effort
  • Other

We thoroughly enjoyed presenting and would like to thank CSIO for opportunity to be a part of the webinar.
Click on the download link below to get all the slides
Download Now
Are you an insurance broker with questions about the legality of eSignatures and its implementation?
We’d love to help, click on the contact us link below to send us a quick note.

How To Include Remote Workers and Digital Nomads in Your Business Plan

How To Include Remote Workers and Digital Nomads in Your Business Plan Office Movement

When I got my first job as a freelancer, while living in a country where most people don’t know what remote workers are, the first words from my backing system (aka my parents) were: “But that’s not even a real job”. What’s most important, I was skeptical of the process myself. However, as a student with lots of free time and a desperate wish for financial independence.
I was scammed at first because I barely understood the process, how to handle remote clients, how the communication needed to be structured and more. This was discouraging and almost made me stop there. So, while feeling like an errant child and not wanting to admit to failure, I got another freelancing gig and kept moving forward on a path to learn. This perseverance paid off and led to eventually doing many freelancing gigs over many years, and most importantly led to being part of teams across the globe (from places like Brazil, London, Australia, Canada), working successfully and having fun doing so.
If you don’t get discouraged while you’re getting the hang of remote working, you can do all kinds of stuff with your life when you get out of work. You can work in the comfort of your own home, at cafes, parks, basically everywhere a laptop is allowed. Most importantly, especially for young people: you can travel the world!
Now, if you are the CEO, founder, director or person responsible for managing and including in your business plan digital nomads and remote workers, then consider the following feedback from a previous digital nomad (before finding my team here at Signority!)

Remote workers have opportunities

Despite what company you own or manage, there may be many opportunities for hiring digital nomads that you haven’t thought of yet. Many creative people are basing their whole activity on the net – photographers, game designers, writers and editors, but what is really flourishing is game designing and programming. Still, not to be left unmentioned are technical people in engineering, designing, consulting and marketing.
Given the myriad of new and great team collaboration apps for communicating and managing tasks such as Slack, Asana, Trello and even TeamViewer, the process is getting easier every day. Programmers are using sites such as GitHub and BitBucket to collaborate on projects, and writers are polishing up their WordPress and SEO skills to get ahead of the game. More and more each day, Skype is used to communicate with team members around the world. What this means is that many fields already have a system in place allowing and facilitating remote working. Find yours!

Digital Nomads do their research!

It is a given that remote workers will have to read every sentence of contracts and terms and conditions they agree to. There are many cases where they don’t, which would make it your job to incite them to. This is extremely important for the job process, so to ensure that neither of you are caught up in loopholes. Double check everything thoroughly! Read everything there is to know about the payment process, the monitoring of the job quality, or periodical checks while it’s ongoing. While this doesn’t mean to treat people as if they’re out to get you, you have to remember that working remotely is just like the traditional system of work. You’re still dealing with people behind all those emails and check-up chats. Ensuring you have a sound contract to start from is a good foundation and ensuring it gets signed before committing work just makes sure there are no surprises down the road. A lot of our customers use eSignatures for the purpose of onboarding employees and remote workers to facilitate this workflow.

digital doesn’t mean humanless

If you are a manager making space for remote workers and freelancers on your business plan, you have to remember a very important thing: at the end of the day, you are still dealing with people. If you communicate only through texts or emails, it is very easy to forget you are not talking to a very efficient robot on the other side, and that is a valid point whether you are the manager asking for quality work from a freelancer, or if you are the freelancer doing it.
While working as a freelancer myself, I found myself guilty of treating one of my bosses as this very timely and robotic entity, where I could submit my documents and get feedback on in a few hours. Aided by the fact that he was not the most conversational person on earth, the work hours became very easily tedious and annoying. Many people are not social butterflies in today’s workforce, however much we try to make ourselves look so. In the manager’s position, oftentimes you will have to encourage people to express themselves more easily, or if you make a pitfall into “robotville” you will have to remember that the people you have hired have personal lives, which while not disrupting their work, should actually have to be lived at some point during the day. You can’t expect them to work or even be online 24/7.
How you choose to do this is still your choice, it doesn’t matter if it’s through Skype calls, group pictures of the team working in HQ, or even weekly updates of the social life within the company: parties thrown, events attended, you know the drill. Just remember, workers, digital or not, are still people and a happy worker is definitely more productive!

Internet connections can still be a pain in 2017!

When remote employees are travelling the world and working for you at the same time, you will not only have to change meeting hours left and right because of flights and all the rest: you will have problems with slow connectivity. There are still places, much preferred from those who like to work while lounging on the beach, in which broadband connectivity is spotty, slow, and overall, horrible.
It can set back the progress of your project, and you will have no one to blame. However, this is an easily controlled problem. While most freelancers usually make sure the connectivity is a priority wherever they decide to stay on their trips, things happen. So what’s best is to leave a certain amount of security time, usually a day or so, during which you’re sure to get the completed work successfully.
Additionally, digital nomads should make sure to have an established cloud backup for everything, with helper tools such a DropBox or Google Drive, electronic signature services and even online editing tools, which makes it possible for them to pack up their office and go to the coffee shop down the street to complete the task you’ve given them with no hassle at all.

Office implications

If you are a big company with many offices, having one or two freelancers on your team won’t make too much of a difference into the overall available space in your floor. When you’re small- to medium-sized, however, it can be truly and greatly beneficial for you. You can be a part of a team with 15 or more employees, and only have to rent an office for two people, or even better, you can have a whole team of remote workers. Companies like Buffer do this well. With remote offices, as a manager, you will have to work on the office culture you want your company to have. While digital nomads tend to avoid office gossiping and similar phenomena, they also tend to communicate less with other team members, especially if they don’t have to collaborate directly on projects. Everyone can benefit from a little “water-cooler” conversations, even if it is only to make plans for drinks after work hours. This is one of the reasons why traditional workplaces are still going strong.

Conclusions

As every new team member, digital nomads and freelancers come with their own set of problems in management and on the other side, benefits. What you have to decide is how does it all work for your company, after careful consideration of all the positives aspects and downsides.
For more, read up on this article by the Globe and Mail on how to work with Freelancers.

The Anatomy of an Audit Trail: Electronic Signature Simplified

The Anatomy of the Audit Trail and its Electronic Signature Implications

An audit trail can be the deciding factor between a valid and invalid electronic signature document. Going by the actively surging electronic signature adoption rates and growing number of online businesses, there’s no arguing that eSignatures are here to stay.
Since eSignatures are soon to be the new normal, we thought we should discuss what an audit trail is and why it’s an important part of an electronic signature.
You may be familiar with the difference between electronic signatures and digital signatures, in case you’re not, an electronic signature is information in electronic form (can be sound, symbol, process, etc.) that is associated or attached to a document. This means that as long one can demonstrate that the signature is associated with a person and that there was intent to sign, everything is legally binding and accepted.
A digital signature is actually a form of electronic signature that uses an encryption algorithm that helps validate who the signer is. It also ensures that the document cannot be tampered with, as the signature becomes invalid if the document is changed after signing.  You can read about the differences between electronic signatures vs. digital signatures here.
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s get to what an audit trail is and why it plays an integral part in the process of validating of a document.
Technopedia, the IT education site defines an audit trail, in the context of information technology, “as a chain of evidence in the form of hard or electronic business transactions or communications resulting from business processes, functions or programming executions.”
In other words, an audit trail is a detailed list of critical data points, pertaining to the transaction, that are recorded and reported. These data points help verify the validity of the transaction.
In terms of Electronic Signatures, an audit trail helps keep track and reports user data, furthering the validity of the signature process. Most, if not all serious eSignature vendors out there — including Signority — provide an audit trail with every electronic signature transaction.
Below is a list of important components we display in Signority’s audit trail:

  • Unique Document Title
  • Secured seal (Digital Signatures)
  • Email Address Of Signers And Viewers
  • The IP address of the involved parties
  • Documents viewed by each signer
  • Signers consent to terms of service
  • User authentication: SMS and Email
  • Signature creation (by each signer)
  • Party agreement to / acknowledgement of document
  • Document downloads after signing
  • Signer’s Status
  • GUID (or ‘Globally Unique Identifier’)

For the sake of avoiding any form of confusion, let’s go over what these components mean and what value they add to the entire electronic signature validation process.

Unique Document TitleBreaking down the Audit Trail

Unique Document Title

A unique document title is the unique file name of the document that was originally created by the document creator. The unique document name can be found in the first page of Signority’s audit trail.

Secured Seal
Secured seal (Digital Signatures)

The secured seal is native to Signority’s digital signatures audit trail, the Secured Seal is both “Tamper-proof” and “Digitally Encrypted”. Meaning that, if the audit trail document was tampered with or edited in a third-party software such as Adobe’s Photoshop, the seal would immediately break and be considered invalid.

Signority’s Secured Seal is only available with our digital signature plans. In order to make digital signatures available to our customers, we use a Hardware Security Module (HSM) provided by GlobalSign to help store and manage the digital keys used in the digital signing process.  

Want to know more about digital signature? Check out our post on the difference between electronic signature vs. digital signatures to learn more!

 

Email Address Of Signers And Viewers

The audit trail records and displays the email addresses of all parties involved, which can be either signer or viewer.

  • Signer: Signers’ are users who are required to sign a particular document. A signer could be a primary signer or a witness.        
  • Viewer: A viewer is a user with view-only capabilities.

IP address of user
The IP address of the involved parties

According to IP Location, an IP address or Internet Protocol is A unique address that computing devices such as personal computers, tablets, and smartphones use to identify itself and communicate with other devices in the IP network.”
In terms of Signority’s audit trail, the IP address associated with a particular signer or viewer, at the time of viewing the document is recorded and reported — adding an extra layer of validity to electronic signature documents.


Documents Viewed By Each Signer

The Documents viewed by the signer or viewer is displayed in the name section in the Audit trail. The audit trail also displays the exact time the document was viewed.
 

GUID (or ‘Globally Unique Identifier’)

GUID’s of Globally Unique Identifiers, are defined by BetterExplained as “Large, enormous numbers that are nearly guaranteed to be unique.”
They usually look like this:
fa06cc7a-8a32-44c2-9e4d-2192818ab076
At Signority, every document created is assigned a Globally Unique Identifier and can be viewed in the audit trail.
 

Signers consent to terms of service

cSigners consent to use terms of service, refers to the signer or viewer agreeing to abide to the rules in order to use services provided by Signority.

 

User authentication: SMS and Email

Verifying the identity of a user before granting access to secured information is the main intention of the User Authentication feature.
With Signority there are two additional methods that can used to verify signers and viewers — i.e. SMS and email — when email and /or SMS password authentication is turned on by the user, Signority sends a randomly generated unique code to the recipient. The code is required to access the document.
The type of user authentication used is displayed in the “Authentication” section of the Signority’s Audit Trail.
 

Signature creation (by each signer)

The Signature Creation section is a critical component of the audit trail, it is the original signature of the required parties.
At Signority and most other eSignature providers, a party’s signature can be created by:

  1. Using a touch pad/screen or mouse
  2. Typing their signature using a keyboard
  3. Uploading a scanned copy of their signature

 

Document downloads after signing

Once the document is finalized by all of the signers, all parties involved are notified via email with an attached copy of the finalized document for safe keeping.
 
Signers-Status

Signer’s Status

The signers status reflect the final action taken by all required signer’s, the status can be: “Rejected”, “Waiting to Open”, “In Progress”, “Finalized and “Viewed” — depending on the action taken by the signer.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan.