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UBS launches qualified electronic signatures

UBS launches qualified electronic signatures

The ZertES legislation (Swiss digital signature law) was placed into effect in Switzerland on December 19, 2003. The purpose of this legislation was to regulate the manner for which trust service providers could use certification services with electronic signatures.The law also gives guidelines that specify the provider’s rights and obligations in the course of providing these certification services. By promoting the use of secure services for electronic certification, ZertES has facilitated the use of qualified electronic signatures that are elevated to the same legal value as that of a handwritten signature.

ZertES is very similar to the eIDAS regulation in the EU, especially its tiered structure and legal weight. The strongest assurance level of e-signature that ZertES addresses is the qualified electronic signature (QES), where the QES level is regarded as the legal equivalent of a handwritten signature and is required for many government documents. The QES signature known by the Swiss as “qualifizierte elektronische Signatur” is, in simple terms, an advanced electronic signature that has been created with a qualified signature creation device and has a qualified certificate attached to it that is valid during the creation of the signature.

UBS Embraces the Qualified Electronic Signature

Co-headquartered in Zurich and Basel, UBS AG has provided private, corporate and retail clients with a wealth of financial services traceable back to 1856. Since that time, the financial services industry has gone through many changes, both favorable and some not so favorable that have necessitated the need to consider new ways of doing business with their customers. 

During January 2017, UBS became the first financial services company to incorporate the qualified electronic signature (QES) into their operations. This is a quite an accomplishment for UBS considering the hurdles and the challenges that were presented with such an undertaking. However, by doing so, the financial giant has opened up opportunities for not only itself, but for its clients.

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Case for Implementing Qualified Electronic Signatures

Today, many banking documents are still printed, as they require handwritten signatures from one or more entities. This process can be very inefficient, as banks are required to maintain archives and deal with environmental concerns, including the transportation and storage of paper while attempting to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

According to Professor Andreas Dietrich from the Lucern University of Applied Sciences and Arts, “business processes can be handled completely in the digital way” by using the qualified electronic signature. Customers save time because “the acquisition of signatures, the sending of mail and the scanning of the documents are no longer required.”

UBS Implementation of QES

Andreas Dietrich described that - when approaching the QES implementation, UBS was able to utilize its existing strong authentication methods, such as a CAP/DPA reader, used by its customers, and then integrating Cryptomathic’s technology. Implementing this new technology does require a high initial investment. However, because of the savings realised in the reduced shipping costs, improved process efficiency and customer convenience, this type of system does reflect a favorable ROI. In UBS’s case, by basing their project on existing processes, both customers and customer advisers did not need to make any significant behavioral changes. By limiting the level of change in routines, it is more likely that both internal and external stakeholders will view this project favorably. Furthermore, it is estimated that between 20 to 30 percent of UBS contracts will be signed electronically in the next three to five years. It is planned that the QES will lead to a comprehensive digital onboarding process, where new customers won't even need to set foot into a bank branch to open a new account.

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References and Further Reading