Within today’s digitally-driven mortgage environment, new terms and phrases are often created in support of changes within the industry. While these industry terms can often be complex in scope, they are related to a very specific process or procedure within the mortgage space and must be used correctly to avoid confusion amongst lenders and borrowers. For the most part, interchanging industry lingo is avoidable; however, in certain situations two terms may sound extremely similar but relate to two very different aspects.
Case in point: eSignatures vs. Digital Signatures. Would you say that these two terms are referring to the same process? While it may sound like they are, eSignatures are not necessarily Digital Signatures. But why?
Across the industry, we’re seeing that the differences between eSignatures and Digital Signatures are not entirely understood, and as a result, “Digital Signature” is often used incorrectly. At its core, a Digital Signature is actually the most intricate and advanced version of an eSignature. To further complicate things, while a Digital Signature is a type of eSignature, an eSignature is not always a Digital Signature. Primarily, Digital Signatures are utilized by mortgage technology systems, which embed a sort of digital fingerprint into a document to secure the data within and further validate the authenticity of the signed document itself.
On the other hand, eSignatures are used by lenders and borrowers alike to represent the intent to sign a specific document and clearly identify who is signing the document. Within the mortgage industry, the most frequently used forms of eSignatures are:
- Click-sign—simply clicking a specific button, such as “I Agree,” when installing a new piece of software
- Text Signature – clicking to apply a text representation of the signer’s name (in a selected font) to the document
- Signature Pad—capturing an image of the borrower’s actual signature and applying that to the document itself
- Digital Signatures – can be used to apply a signature from an individual, and are sometimes used to apply the notary’s signature for eNotarization depending on state requirements
As the industry continues to introduce new forms of technology on the lender and borrower side, eSignatures will continue to evolve and new methods of signing documents may become as common as the ones mentioned above. For now, think of eSignatures as providing some sort of actual consent (i.e. a signature) within a document and Digital Signatures as mostly a type of support mechanism to secure the data within the document and prevent tampering.