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Replacing handwritten signatures with an electronic version

published on 22.04.2020

Say goodbye to handwritten signatures and sign whenever possible with an electronic signature. Why does our expert Lutz Graf, Senior Account Manager at D-Trust, a Bundesdruckerei company, recommend this? Find out for yourself.

Expert talk with
Lutz Graf, Senior Account Manager at D-Trust GmbH
Lutz Graf
Head of department at D-Trust GmbH

Companies need a new mindset

Why do many companies still sign documents by hand? This analogue process is both inefficient and expensive. By comparison, the electronic signature has several advantages: The process is completely transparent and traceable.

Data on signatories and signing history are cryptographically secured and are thus safer than any analogue pen or paper can be. Documents signed with the qualified electronic signature (QES) are not only just as legally valid as hand-signed papers, they are also more forgery-proof. And this means that in many cases the electronic signature excels over the handwritten signature.

Up to just a few years ago, signing online required additional hardware, such as card readers and signature cards. Since the introduction of the European eIDAS regulation and the remote signature, signature creation has become much easier. Today, it is easy to sign documents securely online and on the move.

Legal certainty and integrity

Whether signing with a signature card or a remote signature – both solutions are legally secure. The basis for this is a certificate issued by a trusted service provider like D‑Trust.

The electronic signature also warrants the integrity of the document. It is guaranteed by the fact that a hash value (mathematical checksum) is formed from the document and then encrypted. Any subsequent changes to the document can now be ruled out.

Documents with a so-called written form requirement can also be signed electronically. A QES can be used in this case to ensure that the documents are legally recognized. The QES can be used in all scenarios where the written form is required without further restrictions. These include, for instance, opening a bank account, taking out a life insurance policy or a loan, rental and employment contracts, medical prescriptions, declarations of consent or objection and powers of attorney. There is a small number of cases where a QES cannot be used, for instance, when notarization or a handwritten document is required. Wills and real-estate purchases, as well as termination of employment are examples of such cases. Special identification requirements apply to a QES, which can be carried out using the online ID function of the German ID card or via Video-Ident. When the validity of a signed document is checked, a check is also carried out to verify that the certificate issuer is recorded in the European United Trusted List.

High data security

When it comes to data security, the electronic signature is also one step ahead. That’s because the eIDAS regulation requires a qualified signature creation device (QSCD) for keys when qualified signature certificates are used. This device can be a signature card or, in the case of remote signatures, an HSM (Hardware Security Module). With a QES, the security of the application is always ensured by two-factor authentication. If a signature card is used, the two factors are then possession of the card and knowledge of the PIN. In the case of the remote signature, these are the log-in data and an SMS-TAN that must be requested.

Signing electronically is quite easy. In the simplest case, it is sufficient to subscribe to a remote signature solution – for example sign-me from D‑TRUST. After identification, documents can then be signed online. To do this, you upload a PDF file into the portal and immediately afterwards you can download the signed document and send it to your business partners.


The qualified electronic signature works across industries and for companies of all sizes. It can be integrated into your business processes – quickly, easily and without changing media. It can be integrated either into existing workflow systems via the D‑Trust API or into systems from signature workflow providers.

The electronic signature has many benefits, especially for companies: The signature process is more convenient and faster. The signatory can sign anytime and anywhere, even while on the move - with no cards or readers required. For recipients, business processes become more efficient. In other words, tiresome and expensive paperwork becomes a thing of the past.