Mike Dinsdale on eSignatures vs pen-and-ink | Video
The New Economy interviews Mike Dinsdale, CFO of DocuSign, on the advantages of digital signatures over our more traditional pen-and-ink scribblesShow transcript
eSignatures, for those of you not yet familiar with the concept: it’s a way to sign and store documents digitally, no pen necessary. Mike Dinsdale, CFO of DocuSign, discusses the way that traditional signatures slow down otherwise automated business processes, and how digital authentication is much more secure than pen-and-ink signatures.
The New Economy: Mike, 100 percent digital business, let’s start with that. What does this mean exactly?
Mike Dinsdale: So, in traditional business process, there’s always a break when documents are assembled and then sent out for execution, in general the historical ways have been fax, email, maybe sent by a courier. And then people receive these documents, have to figure out how to fill those forms out to get them back in, redigitised, and then back into the process.
With DocuSign that whole step stays digital, from end of end. So this idea of straight-through processing. The document’s initiated in the system, the client has a great experience, it comes in an email, they click on that, fill out the document, any of the data that they collect in that process is then put back in the host systems, a fully digital transaction. And then potentially provisioned, or the next step in the action is taken electronically, without having any interaction with any other individuals in the company.
You have no idea if you send an envelope out, where it goes, or who opens it up
The New Economy: So in effect, DocuSign trades in time and convenience, so, how do you ensure that there’s no forgeries? How do you ensure security?
Mike Dinsdale: So, there’s a bunch of different ways that we do, and we think through this idea of an open authentication platform. So, if you and I are dealing with each other, and I have your email address. Maybe we’ve been talking on the phone, and I say ‘I’m about to send you over a contract.’ You say ‘Oh, I’ve got it,’ and you fill it out and execute it. And so that’s one way that if we’re having a communication like that, we know that it’s you.
If we don’t, we can do out-of-wallet authentication. We can do one-time password. We can do federated to prove that it’s you. And then as new technologies emerge, you can start to see that we can do things like biometrics, we can do voice tagging, and all sorts of other ways that we can authenticate the fact that you are that person.
And if you contrast that to old methods, you have no idea if you send an envelope out, where it goes, or who opens it up. Or if somebody sends something back via fax, the same thing. You maybe know that it comes from that fax number, but you’ve absolutely no proof that it actually came from that person.
The New Economy: Legally speaking, do these eSignatures stand up to their pen and ink counterparts?
Mike Dinsdale: There’s different regulation in different geographies. But we’ve had 400 million documents that have been signed in our system; we’ve never had any successfully challenged. And it’s because all of the information we collect about that document, about that transaction, and about that person. Essentially we’re this huge evidence collection machine. And if anyone – and there’s been about 10 that have been challenged – as soon as we present the evidence around that transaction? There’s just nowhere to go, and people just basically drop it. Because we’ve collected everything about that transaction. An audit trail. It’s evident proof and it’s evident tamper, meaning that it can’t be tampered with. And we can prove it’s the same document and we can prove that it’s you.
Every single one of us has things that are sent to us that we need to execute or sign and send back
The New Economy: But for things that are purely digital, is there any need for signatures?
Mike Dinsdale: I think that it gets back to the things we were talking about around authentication. So there’s always this need to have a persistent identity that proves that it’s you, to execute things. And so when you think about, does it necessarily have to be a signature in the sense of the old word? No.
What you need to be able to do is adopt something, and in law in general it’s a sound, symbol, or mark, that you’re using with intent to bind yourself to a contract or agreement.
And so in that case, absolutely. There needs to be something. I think that the methodology with which people do that will change over time. You know, could it be a thumbprint? Of course it can. And as devices change, I think the actual signature will potentially go away, and then we end up replacing that with something that in fact is a lot stronger.
The New Economy: So far you have a strong presence in Europe and the US, but how do you see DocuSign developing? I did read that you anticipate to be bigger than Facebook?
Mike Dinsdale: So, today we have about 50 million people who have used DocuSign globally. We’ve had people sign documents in 189 countries around the world. And we’re adding about 75,000 new people every single day. and so when you start to think about that, that’s almost one per second. And when you think about Facebook, I don’t know if we’ll be bigger or not? But there’s a billion people who use Facebook, you know, my dad for instance is not on Facebook, but he signs things, he has a car, he lives in a house, he has insurance. And there’s seven billion people in the world. So we believe that even if we’re not going to be bigger than Facebook, at least we’ll be equal to Facebook, and that’s not a bad spot to be.
eSignatures are the absolutely 100 percent software delivery method of the future
The New Economy: What markets are your biggest clients based in?
Mike Dinsdale: So, we’re actually pretty diversified. We have customers in financial services, insurance are really our two biggest. Healthcare is emerging as one of our bigger segments. Real estate is big, so in the US we have about 130,000 real estate agents that use DocuSign. And in the UK, letting.
But really we’re something that people use across all different verticals. And then there’s horizontal use cases across all companies. Everybody does the same things around HR, everybody does the same things around legal, procurement. All the sort of, standard business use cases. But the unique thing about us – it’s not just business, it’s consumers.
Every single one of us has things that are sent to us that we need to execute or sign and send back. And so we actually have a free consumer app that allows people to sign and return anything sent to them electronically, using our iOS or Android app or Windows Mobile. Or logging into our website, using the application online.
The New Economy: You’re now in partnership with Salesforce, but how big a role do you think cloud-based business systems will play in the future, and do you think they really are relevant today?
Mike Dinsdale: It’s the absolutely 100 percent software delivery method of the future, and I think all the benefits around pace of innovation and having this idea that all customers are on the same code base, and so you’re learning from every single customer that uses your software, deploying new things for each customer and being able to expose them to all.
So there’s no question that businesses are starting to standardise more and more on SAS. And you just see the explosion of all the SAS companies. And I think the big trend that’s happening is, SAS companies, or software service companies, are becoming a lot more sophisticated around availability and security. And then, enterprise customers are becoming a lot more comfortable that we understand how to actually build systems that are equivalent to what they could build themselves. And so they’re starting to standardise themselves more and more.
I mean, this is a trend that goes for the next 10 or 20 years, and it really is what all software will be – I believe – going forward.
The New Economy: Mike, thank you
Mike Dinsdale: Thank you very much.