Technology provides simplicity for clients
While many of us are returning to some semblance of our usual routines and spending a little more time in the office working from home is likely to become a new norm as we move into the digital era; one which many have been reluctant to follow.
With COVID-19 forcing businesses around the world to swiftly adopt electronic and virtual means it is appropriate to consider how this 'hybrid' era of office and home working will affect governance within the UK now that fewer businesses will be using pen and paper.
In the UK, research on homeworking from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development illustrates that businesses expect that the number of employees working from home on a frequent basis will increase to 37% compared to 18% before the pandemic. In short the new normal will see electronic and modern well-run businesses at a greater advantage when obtaining opportunities and investment and so the need for businesses to update their policies and procedures to accommodate different models of 'hybrid' working is a must.
The most obvious change for workers has been virtual meetings. The silver lining to COVID-19 in this respect is that people are now proficient when it comes to organising and attending video conferences and the benefits of doing so clearly outweigh the cons; less travel which benefits the individual's time the environment and the company's wallet being one of the many advantages.
Corporate governance for many would have improved immensely during this time simply due to a greater attendance at meetings. As we know not all directors or shareholders of companies reside in the same jurisdiction and even though video calls have been a possibility for general meetings since the implementation of section 360A of the Companies Act 2006 in 2009 and director meetings in accordance with the model articles of the same year we are likely to see an increased uptake in this method of meeting from this point forward. For more information on see our article on video conferencing.
Another benefit of virtual communication is screen sharing. With the need to abide by social distancing rules screen sharing along with screen mirroring and casting allows us to discuss documentation with our colleagues and clients without coming into close proximity.
The ease of screen sharing also enables us to efficiently explain documents and guide clients while on the move meaning there is now no need for documents to be circulated and then discussed over the phone as this can be communicated in one simple method.
Video conferencing and screen sharing have enabled Praxis to offer our clients an enhanced service with the recent adoption of new policies that enable employees to virtually certify documentation creating a more efficient process of onboarding new business or updating KYC. The new policies allow clients to remain safely in the comfort of their own home or office rather than having to contact a suitable certifier in this regard.
Electronic signing and correspondence circulation
In August 2018 the Law Commission confirmed that legal documentation including deeds (apart from the dispositions of real estate) can be signed under English Law using an electronic signature. While expediting the time needed to sign documents the ease and speed of using electronic signature software provides enhanced governance surrounding a board of directors but also day-to-day processes for all staff members and with our clients.
Record keeping becomes easier and with statutory registers either being kept in paper or electronic form the use of electronic signatures also increases a businesses' green credentials as printing becomes almost redundant and parties are able to sign documents on the move using a smartphone or other mobile device.
This can further be extended to the circulation of agendas notices and board packs all of which no longer need to be physical again creating efficiencies from both an executive and non-executive perspective.
Caution should be taken as electronic signatures cannot be used for all types of documents or when a witness is involved. This is due to a number of statutory bodies including the Land Registry and HM Revenue & Customs not yet accepting all documentation which contains an electronic signature and so further advice should be sought.
Communicating with those involved
The increased efficiency and heightened security of cloud-based technology is leading to a rise in companies using these platforms to store files and communicate internally but the added benefit which we have seen at Praxis is that the software has provided simplicity when communicating and sharing information with our clients.
Correspondence can be circulated to whomever and documents can be automatically uploaded reviewed signed or modified through the platform with a 'live' status for additional efficiency. There is also the benefit of reinforced transparency as updates can be posted to clients' personal sites so that all parties associated can be updated as and when necessary leading to more effective decision making.
Again the need for printing to sign agreements or fill out forms and applications is becoming a thing of the past due to the capabilities of software and the ease of everything being completed on-screen.
The key to utilising this technology fully will be for management to ensure effective strategies align the necessary elements of the business with their corporate structure. Praxis has been able to help guide clients through updating their systems ensuring a smooth migration to the technology to deliver further opportunities.
Ultimately 'hybrid' working boils down to the best of both worlds with a structured yet flexible approach to the running of a business. With our experience in running businesses in a way that achieves the best results for our clients Praxis can assist with implementing the changes which the pandemic has brought on for us all.
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This article constitutes neither professional advice nor a binding offer by us to provide professional services. Any engagement in respect of our professional services is subject to our standard terms and conditions of business and the provision of all necessary due diligence.