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Electronic transactions and mortgages should be here to stay

18 June 2020

The temporary introduction of COVID-19 related measures such as electronic mortgages, witnessing a document over video call and signing documents electronically should be made permanent to save time, money and hassle for Australian customers.  


A coalition of associations including the Australian Banking Association, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Council of Small Business Organisations, the Financial Services Council, the Real Estate Institute of NSW and the Australian Property Institute are writing to each member of National Cabinet to make these changes permanent. 

For the benefit of consumers, permanent changes should be made as follows:

  • Allow deeds to be created and signed electronically. 
  • Accept electronic signatures rather than paper signatures for a broader range of legal and business documents, including guarantees, statutory declarations and trust deeds.
  • Allow witnessing of documents to happen via audio-visual means with use of an electronic signature. Witnessing should not be required for deeds.
  • Processing a mortgage digitally.

CEO of the Australian Banking Association Anna Bligh said Australian consumers were the big winners from making the changes permanent.

“Federal and State Governments are to be congratulated for moving swiftly during COVID-19 to use their emergency powers to facilitate these e-transactions, it’s now time to make these changes permanent to make transactions easier, keep the cost lower and reduce the hassle of transactions which rely on ‘in person’ signatures and paper documents.”

ABA CEO Anna Bligh

“The onset of COVID-19 has meant fast tracking moves right across the economy to a paperless, contactless digital way of conducting business,” Ms Bligh said.

“Today we’re calling on both Federal and State Governments to make these changes permanent in order to keep the ease, keep the lower cost and reduce the hassle of transactions which rely on wet signatures and paper documents,” she said.

“Federal and State Governments are to be congratulated for moving swiftly during COVID-19 to use their emergency powers to facilitate these e-transactions, it’s now time to make these changes permanent to make transactions easier, keep the cost lower and reduce the hassle of transactions which rely on ‘in person’ signatures and paper documents,” she said.

Jennifer Westacott, CEO BCA
“To manage this crisis governments acted quickly to suspend outdated, unnecessary and job-killing red tape that was making it harder to do business.”
Jennifer Westacott, CEO BCA
Sally Loane, CEO FSC
“Providing consumers with the permanent option to conduct transactions entirely electronically… would be a huge efficiency gain for consumers.”
Sally Loane, CEO FSC
Angus Armour, CEO AICD
“This is the opportunity to push our governance and business rules into the 21st century with more digital friendly settings.”
Angus Armour, CEO AICD
Tim McKibbin, CEO REINSW
“The pre-Covid-19 legislative restraints imposed on signing, witnessing and/or lodging some documents electronically is unjustified.”
Tim McKibbin, CEO REINSW
Amelia Hodge, CEO API
“We’ve all accelerated implementation of digital solutions during the COVID-19 crisis so let’s bring that same approach to buying a home, permanently.”
Amelia Hodge, CEO API
Brad Newton Vice President of APAC, DocuSign
“When compared to a wet signature, eSignatures are undoubtebly more secure.”
Brad Newton Vice President of APAC, DocuSign
Michael Lawrence, CEO COBA
“Customers always come first and the shift in customer preferences to transact digitally has accelerated due to the COVID-19 crisis.”
Michael Lawrence, CEO COBA
Adrian Kelly, President, REIA
“The amendments required whilst simple will improve efficiency and productivity in transactions within the property industry.”
Adrian Kelly, President, REIA
Diane Tate, CEO AFIA
“…will lead to a more efficient, modern and sustainable Australian economy and a faster acceleration recovery from the crisis.”
Diane Tate, CEO AFIA

The CEO of the Business Council of Australia Jennifer Westacott said “To manage this crisis governments acted quickly to suspend outdated, unnecessary and job-killing red tape that was making it harder to do business.

“As we recover we should all ask ourselves at every step of the way, will bringing back these regulations help keep costs down for consumers or help make Australia an easier place to do business and create new jobs?” she said.

CEO of the Financial Services Council Sally Loane said “providing consumers with the permanent option to conduct transactions entirely electronically, while in the safety of their own home, would be a huge efficiency gain for consumers across the financial services industry.”

CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Angus Armour said “The pandemic has highlighted that many regulations governing business transactions are outdated.

“This is the opportunity to push our governance and business rules into the 21st century with more digital friendly settings,” he said.

CEO of the Real Estate Institute of NSW Tim McKibbin said “The pre-Covid-19 legislative restraints imposed on signing, witnessing and/or lodging some documents electronically is unjustified.

“The fundamental question to be asked is, what problem does the legislative controls address? I am unable to identify a circumstance where the consumers is better protected with hard copy documents and wet signatures than in the electronic environment,” he said.

CEO of the Australian Property Institute Amelia Hodge said “let’s reduce red tape and promote growth and activity in the property sector – that’s what we need from Federal and State Governments.

“We’ve all accelerated implementation of digital solutions during the COVID-19 crisis so let’s bring that same approach to buying a home, permanently,” she said.

Vice President of APAC, DocuSign, Brad Newton said “When compared to a wet signature, eSignatures are undoubtably more secure, providing greater protection and accessibility for customers. When combined with multi-factor authentication, identity management and embedded signing experiences, the technology offers additional safeguards from fraud and identity theft, particularly for vulnerable communities. eSignature offers a faster and more convenient process with the ability to sign from a mobile or laptop device eliminating dependency on paper and printing.

“We’ve seen countless examples where the availability of eSignature has mitigated the risk of end customers experiencing financial loss or missed opportunities due to circumstances of location that are beyond their control and this is not isolated to the COVID-19 period. It’s not just a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of safety, security and accessibility.”

“Customers always come first and the shift in customer preferences to transact digitally has accelerated due to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Customer Owned Banking Association CEO Michael Lawrence.

“We call on the Federal and State Governments to take the opportunity presented by this crisis to permanently increase flexibility and reduce costs for borrowers and lenders. Customer owned banks believe electronic mortgages and transactions should be here to stay.”

President of the Real Estate Institute of Australia Adrian Kelly said “The amendments required whilst simple will improve efficiency and productivity in transactions within the property industry as well as provide consumer convenience and play their part in adding to much needed economic growth in Australia.”

Australian Finance Industry Association CEO Diane Tate said “We applaud the Government’s swift and decisive action making in using their emergency powers to facilitate these e-transactions during COVID-19.”

“It’s important that these changes are made permanent, with the Government continuing to adopt and adapt technology, leveraging the acceleration of the digital transformation due to the COVID-19 crisis to support access to credit, innovation and competition which will lead to a more efficient, modern and sustainable Australian economy and a faster acceleration recovery from the crisis.”  

ENDS

Contact: Rory Grant 0475 741 007

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