Advanced Electronic Signatures: Tips From Our Experts

Helpful Summary

  • Overview: Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES) are one of a few different types of electronic signatures recognized by various international standards and laws. This guide introduces you to AES and provides valuable tips on how to use them effectively.
  • Why you can trust us: SignWell is a leading e-signature tool that has helped 61,000+ businesses streamline and enhance their document signing process. We have a team of experts who are well-versed in all types of electronic signatures and can provide valuable insights on using them.
  • Why this is important: Advanced electronic signatures are important for businesses looking to streamline their document signing process, improve security, and save time and resources. By understanding how to use them effectively, you can make sure your business is compliant with international standards and laws.
  • Action points: Choose a reputable e-signature tool like SignWell, educate yourself on AES and its benefits, and implement it into your document signing process on an as-needed basis while relying on Simple Electronic Signatures (SES) for everyday documents.
  • Further research: Look into the different types of e-signatures, like Simple (SES) and Qualified (QES), and understand their specific features and uses. Also, check out SignWell’s e-signature guides for tools, recommendations, and how-tos.

Want to Know More About Advanced Electronic Signatures?

E-signatures are here to stay. Global electronic signature transactions have risen from 89 million to 754 million over just five years, and this trend is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

But not all electronic signatures are the same—there are different kinds of electronic signatures with different use cases, pros, and cons. So, in this SignWell guide, we thought it would be helpful to introduce you to one of the more secure forms of digital signatures—Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES).

We’ll explain what an AES is, why and when to use it, what other forms of e-signatures you can rely on, and how you can use SignWell to start getting documents e-signed quickly.

Let’s dive in.

Why Listen to Us?

At SignWell, we’ve helped over 61,000 businesses and individuals streamline their document signing process with secure, legally binding electronic signatures. We’re passionate about making it easier for people to do business, and we believe that educating our users is key to achieving that goal.

What Is an Advanced Electronic Signature?

An Advanced Electronic Signature (AES) is a type of electronic signature that meets specific requirements for security and identification.

In simple terms, these requirements are:

  • The signer is uniquely identifiable (through biometric data, digital certificates, etc.).
  • The signature and signatory are linked.
  • Any changes made after signing are detectable.
  • The signer has sole control over their signature.

AES is one of a few classes of e-signatures described in the EU’s eIDAS regulation (we’ll cover the others below). It offers a high degree of security while still offering major time and cost savings compared to traditional pen-and-paper signatures.

Other Types of Electronic Signatures

Simple Electronic Signatures (SES)

Simple Electronic Signatures (SES) are the most basic types of electronic signatures. They can include scanned images, typed or drawn signatures, or the act of clicking an “I accept” button. Any form of electronic data that is “logically connected” to other data in a given context can be considered an SES.

SES is a great option when you want to collect legally binding signatures at scale, and don’t need to worry about the added security of advanced e-signatures. It’s also a more budget-friendly option for businesses that don’t require the highest level of e-signature security.

So how does it work? 

With SignWell, users can sign documents by typing their name or using a mouse, trackpad, or touchscreen to draw their signature. The document is then sealed with a digital fingerprint and tamper-proof timestamp, ensuring its authenticity. You can also generate audit trails with SignWell that track access and alterations.

Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)

Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) are the most secure type of digital signature, using cryptographic encryption and biometric technology to verify the signer’s identity. 

According to the official definition in eIDAS, a QES is:

  • Created by a qualified signature creation device (QSCD);
  • And is based on a qualified certificate for electronic signatures.

QES’ are legally binding in the EU, and are accepted in many more countries (e.g., the USA, Canada, etc.) due to their high security standards. To complete a valid QES, all parties need to have their own individual access credentials (a password or PIN) and use two-factor authentication. This helps protect against “shoulder surfing,” where someone can watch you enter your credentials while you’re signing a document digitally. 

With the extra layer of security provided by two-factor authentication, users can feel confident that their transactions are secure and protected from fraud or malicious attacks.

Why Is an Advanced Electronic Signature Important? 

Increased Productivity and Reduced Processing Time

A staggering 89% of businesses have experienced heightened productivity, and an impressive 96% have witnessed a reduction in document processing time, attributing these gains directly to the implementation of e-signatures.

AES offers the efficiency benefits of e-signing without sacrificing security. It reduces transaction time and streamlines the entire process, allowing businesses to focus on other tasks.

Faster Time-to-Revenue and Cost Reduction

Studies show that 28% of users report that e-signatures contribute to a faster time-to-revenue, streamlining processes and enabling quicker monetization. Additionally, 26% acknowledge that electronic signatures lead to higher cost savings, underlining their financial benefits.

AES provides businesses with the opportunity to put their best foot forward while also safeguarding data and documents. With AES, companies can benefit from increased security, speed, compliance, user satisfaction, and cost savings—all in one package.

Accelerated Approval

Studies have found that e-signatures can reduce the amount of time taken up by follow-up communications by as much as 90%. That means fewer delays and faster turnaround times for important documents. As a result, this leads to improved approval performance, allowing businesses to complete transactions quicker and with less effort.

How to Collect Advanced Electronic Signatures

1. Choose a Tool That Supports AES

Not all e-signature tools support AES. This kind of e-signature isn’t required in most cases, which is why most tools offer Simple Electronic Signatures (SES) by default.

So, the first thing to do is make sure that the e-signature tool you choose supports AES.

What you’re looking for is a tool with the ability to verify the identity of signers—by scanning IDs, for example. They may also offer additional security measures, like multifactor authentication and document encryption.

2. Educate Signers

As we mentioned earlier, AES isn’t a common form of e-signing. It involves more work for the signer, which is why most businesses stick with SES and tools like SignWell. But if you do need to use AES, it’s important to educate your signers on the process.

Make sure they understand that they will be required to download and install a digital certificate to sign the document securely. This may require some technical knowledge depending on the tool you use, so be prepared to provide instructions or support if needed.

3. Identify and Verify the Signer(s)

Next, it’s time to identify the signer(s). This is an important step in any e-signing process, but it’s especially crucial for AES—you need to make sure they are who they say they are.

To do that, the signer will need to prove their identity to a third-party (usually a Certificate Authority) and get their hands on a digital certificate. This certificate serves as a digital version of their government-issued ID and contains a unique key that will be used to sign the document.

Once the certificate is obtained, it will need to be verified before the signing can take place. This may involve entering a password or PIN associated with the certificate, or using a biometric identifier like a fingerprint or facial recognition.

4. Collect Signature and Document Data

Throughout the signing process, it’s important to collect and document data from both the signer(s) and the document being signed. This includes information like timestamps, IP addresses, and any other relevant details.

Collecting this data ensures a more secure e-signing process and provides an audit trail in case of any legal disputes or challenges.

5. Securely Store Signed Documents

Once all parties have signed the document, it’s important to securely store the final version. This can be done through encryption, digital signatures, or using a trusted third-party storage service.

It’s crucial to keep these documents safe and easily accessible in case they need to be referenced or used as evidence in the future.

SES vs. AES: Which Should You Use?

When it comes to choosing a secure e-signing solution, one question that often arises is whether to use SES (Simple Electronic Signature) or AES (Advanced Electronic Signature). To finish up this guide, we’re going to give you our recommendations.

SES is more basic than AES—but that’s a strength in many cases. With a tool like SignWell, signers can open and sign documents without installing any apps, uploading any personal information, or even creating an account. That simplifies the process dramatically and reduces friction for everyone involved.

AES is more robust, but it also comes with some trade-offs. While it offers advanced security features like digital certificates and biometric authentication, it also requires signers to jump through hoops that open the door to frustration and abandonment. That said, for high-value transactional documents, AES may be the better option.

While variation from country to country makes generalization difficult, here are some typical use cases for both SES and AES:

Simple Electronic Signature Use Cases

  • Non-disclosure agreements
  • Vendor contracts
  • Employment contracts
  • Sales agreements
  • Freelance contracts

Advanced Electronic Signature Use Cases

  • Mortgage applications
  • Loan agreements
  • Real estate transactions
  • Rental/lease agreements
  • International business agreements

Disclaimer: Use the laws in your country (and the signatory’s) to determine which type of e-signature you need. On a similar note, be wary of AES tools and services recommending AES across the board for sales contracts, employment contracts, etc. These recommendations are often biased toward AES when SES would be sufficient.


Integrating advanced electronic signatures into document workflows is a transformative step toward efficiency and security. By embracing solutions like SignWell, businesses can streamline processes, ensure legal compliance, and achieve significant time and cost savings.

Elevate your document management to new heights—sign up for free with SignWell today and start experiencing the power of electronic signatures.