Businesses wanting to extend a lease, refinance a loan or create any other type of contract are finding things just got a lot trickier as the country prepares for lockdown.
People working from home might not have facilities to print and scan documents, and restrictions on person-to-person contact limits how witnessing rules might operate. 
However, some of the major banks have indicated they are reviewing what their requirements are in these uncertain times. 
LawHawk managing director Gene Turner said the take-up of electronic signatures, where a person signs a document using online software, is very uncommon in New Zealand. 
“The banks haven’t all got themselves comfortable that digital signatures are fine, and if the banks won’t accept them, lawyers won’t either,” the former Buddle Findlay partner said. 
Turner said more businesses should accept electronic signatures as, even in good times, putting ink to paper meant there were costs and delays. 


Given the banks are expected to give mortgage relief and help businesses through loan extensions and facilities during these times, there will be many new contracts or contract variations. 
Several of the major banks have confirmed to BusinessDesk they are already reviewing their policies over how to facilitate electronic signing. 
“ANZ is looking at a policy across all markets in which it has a presence on e-execution, along with interim measures to manage document authorisation while covid-19 restrictions are in place. 
“In New Zealand, a number of ANZ business units already accept scanned copies of signed documents on a case-by-case basis,” ANZ spokesman Steffan Herrick said. 
ASB said it accepts electronic signing of loan documents using DocuSign, to a certain value, and was looking at extending its use of the software. 
“Some ASB loan and security documentation is required to be signed as a deed, and these often need to be signed in front of a witness,” a spokesperson added. 


Kiwibank said the issue was one of many scenarios it is working through. “In unprecedented times we’ll look at individual cases and, if need be, make exceptions on a set of risk-based criteria.”
Former Auckland District Law Society president Joanna Pidgeon was advising lawyers to use online software “sooner rather than later so you know how to use it.” 
Pidgeon said property lawyers were familiar with using digital signing as many of them used the organisation’s web forms programme, which included contracts. 
Chair of the NZ Law Society’s property committee, Duncan Terris, said banks usually allowed people to sign with ink and scan their loan documents if people had existing security in place.
He said for more complex transactions, such as new guarantees or new securities, the lockdown might make things difficult. 
“Generally speaking, because of AML/CFT requirements, we are generally obligated to see clients face to face. Having said that, there are options for signing documents and video witnessing is an acceptable alternative,” the lawyer said. 
The major regulators for anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism laws met yesterday to see if any rules could be relaxed while the country is in lockdown. 
Further announcements are expected today.