If John Hancock Were Still Around, He’d Be Using Digital Signatures

If you’ve signed off on mortgage documents or an electronic tax return lately, you may have signed it with an e-signature. Unlike the old days where your service professional used a yellow Sharpie, Post-It Notes or plastic tabs to indicate where you needed to put your John Hancock, these days all you need to do is click or tap to add an e-signature to any document—no paper, pen or post-it notes are required.

It’s an incredibly simple yet powerful capability that saves the average consumer tons of time and headache, speeds document processing by leaps and bounds, and creates a strong audit trail for financial and regulatory purposes – all without wasting countless reams of paper along the way. In fact, according to Forrester Total Economic Indicator research commissioned by Adobe, reducing the use of paper documents results in costs savings of $6 per transaction. The average cycle time for documents decreases from approximately seven days to 2 hours.

Not surprisingly, the global digital signature market is expected to jump 36.7 percent from $1.2 billion last year to $5.5 billion in 2023, according to a MarketsandMarkets study.

Adobe Sign, part of Adobe Document Cloud, is at the heart of this growing trend. It’s a cloud-based enterprise-class e-signature solution that replaces paper and ink signature processes with a convenient, secure, and modern way to sign electronically. With it, you can easily send, sign, track, and manage signature processes using a browser or mobile device. And you can use turnkey integrations and APIs to include and customize e-signature workflows in your enterprise apps and systems of record.

Since its introduction in 2016, Adobe Sign has found its way into businesses operating in nearly every public or private setting around the world. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of how this powerful tool is becoming a mainstay of digital signatures in several industries.

Financial services

Rabobank, a financial services firm based in the Netherlands that operates in 39 countries around the world, was looking to get away from its reliance on traditional paper workflows. Like many organizations, it saw digital transformation as an opportunity to improve work efficiency, reduce waste and create a better customer experience across multiple channels.

As part of their transformation strategy, Rabobank began hunting for an electronic signature solution that would improve workflow processes while meeting the rising tide of strict compliance requirements from bank regulators. Ultimately, it selected Adobe Sign.

Adobe Sign helps Rabobank offer customers a quick, painless and secure way of endorsing documents. Recipients simply tap on a link in an email, view the document in the office or on-the-go, then e-sign and return it with just a few clicks. It is a much better customer experience.

In addition, the solution offers Rabobank a number of business benefits, including long-term investment value, ease of integration and a means of streamlining critical workflows.

After adopting Adobe Sign and incorporating it into their processes, Rabobank executives say they are able to complete the workflow much faster and more efficiently than many of them initially imagined.

“We’re seeing amazing time savings and improved efficiencies (like this) across business units and in our interactions with customers,” says Manikandan Ganesan, IT & Operations Business Manager at Rabobank Singapore. “It used to take us a few weeks to process an account opening form with an international client “With Adobe Sign, we can now turn that around in just a few days – a huge improvement in efficiency and the overall customer experience.”

Life sciences

Germany’s Merck KGaA, a major multinational pharmaceutical, chemical and life sciences company, was looking to use digital technologies to improve employee experience by automating overly tedious tasks and helping them focus on more meaningful duties. Yet, because life science companies today operate in heavily regulated markets, Merck was in the position of having to document basically everything it does.

It turned to Adobe Sign to help lighten the load of those activities.

“We no longer need the really painful, paper-based processes,” says Florian Wies, IT Service and Project Manager for Merck. “The tool itself is already quite intuitive. You just upload a document. You enter your recipient’s place to sign field. And then you just start the workflow. The benefits (of this) are already tremendous. The turnaround time of a document used to be around seven-and-a-half days. We have reduced it now to just half a day.”

Wies adds that Adobe Sign also provided the ability to establish an audit trail to track and determine what happened during various processes, an advantage for any company in a regulated environment.


Pace University, a private institution with nearly 13,000 students across multiple campuses in the New York area, prides itself on offering students access to a high-quality education while also innovating to meet the needs of a global economy. The innovation includes ensuring that the school’s administration delivers efficient services and support to both faculty and students.

As an institution of higher learning established more than a century ago (1906), Pace tended to use quite a bit of paper in a given year, especially as it went through the process of creating and approving new courses. A single five to 10-page syllabus of materials, for example, might have to go to 10 different department heads and deans for signature and approval. Multiply that by dozens or hundreds of courses, and you begin to see the problem.

Richard Miller, Associate Director of Instructional Technology at Pace’s Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, decided it was time for a digital makeover. He championed Adobe Sign as a possible solution, and its eventual rollout yielded significant rewards for the institution.

Within the first three years of deployment, Adobe Sign processed 40,000 forms, reduced printing costs and saved more than 100,000 pieces of paper – all while trimming the time it took to send, receive and audit documents. What’s more, the Mega Sign bulk-signing feature in Adobe Sign allowed administrators to more efficiently manage mass mailings, useful for when the school sent faculty schedules to professors for signing, returning and eventual filing.

“The Mega Sign feature in Adobe Sign does all of the heavy lifting by automatically generating and sending schedules,” says Miller. “We’re removing time-consuming processes and adding traceability that helps administrators keep on top of paperwork.”


Hawaii, like any state government, had always been challenged with the task of handling a ton of paper documents coming its way. It could take days, weeks or even months to sort through and process.

According to Gov. David Ige (D), the state saw digital technology solutions as an important strategy in trying to do more, with less. As such, in 2015, Ige and his staff set out to make Hawaii a completely paperless government using digital signatures and documents.

Electronic signatures (were) the key to driving new innovation within the state of Hawaii,” says Todd Nacapuy, former Chief Information Officer for the State of Hawaii. “What it does is naturally create business process re-engineering opportunities. That is what transforms state government to a digital experience.”

Nacapuy notes that relieving employees from having to perform repetitive mundane tasks, such as gathering signatures, has created a much better workplace within his state’s government.

“It makes people want to come and work here,” he says. “We do everything from a travel form, electronic pay stubs to authorization, and accounting forms. Practically every document that’s out there in the state of Hawaii is in the process of becoming, or is already digitized, and we are signing them all electronically.

“From a hard dollar standpoint, we estimate that we saved the state over $5 million,” he says. “We’ve reduced the amount of paper that we print every day by 24,000 pages.”


Since its founding in 1848, Unum, a major Tennessee-based Fortune 500 insurance company, had always operated in an information-driven industry. Policyholders would often have to complete many documents, including initial application papers, claim forms and change requests. It could be a very involving process and quite a hassle.

Like many businesses, Unum had long recognized the need to streamline paperwork when it came into a competitive situation with another insurance company for a major disability service account. According to Kristina Welke, Assistant Vice President for Shared Services at Unum, the company knew that if it could accelerate paperwork processing for disability cases, then it would likely win the new account.

Unum was already using Adobe Acrobat Pro and PDF as the basis for internal forms. So while it certainly had effective processes for managing electronic documents, it didn’t yet have a system for electronic signatures – that is, until it considered several options and ultimately selected Adobe Sign.

“Adobe Sign (was) easy to implement,” says Welke. “Within one week, we had the tool up and running and were testing (it) with a new partner who provided very positive feedback.”

After the rave initial reviews, Unum began expanding its use of digital signatures to address individual policyholders needing to make changes to existing voluntary benefit plans via the company’s call center team. The project has proven successful on numerous levels.

“With Adobe Sign, instead of it taking a day to send out a policy form on paper and then waiting a week or longer for the completed form to come back, 70 percent of forms are returned within 24 hours,” says Christine Francis, Business Operations Development Manager for Shared Services at Unum. “The process is easier all around and translates to a much better customer experience.”