Friday, December 2, 2011

Perfect your signature!

One amusing fact is the number of signatures are required to get anything done in India. I recently opened up a life insurance in my daughter's name (not even mine), and I had to sign 12 times. Opening up a brokerage account required close to 40 signatures! If you submit a copy of any document (like your passport), you have to 'self attest' before it is accepted. Nothing moves without your signature. I think a large part of this is due to the prevalent fraud present in the system - so I don't blame the obsession with signatures required for paperwork. In the US - I hardly signed anywhere. Opening a bank account required 2 signatures. Moreover if I was physically present -- you show your ID and you're authenticated. In India - your signature has to match or your screwed.

I recently had an interesting experience with my stock brokerage. I have a modest stock portfolio and abiding by my principle of 'avoiding the DIY syndrome', I decided to have this managed by a financial adviser. The process is simple. You have your shares sitting in your demat account. You have to transfer them over to another demat account accessible by your adviser. To do that you have a shared transfer slip you have to fill out and sign (just like a check).

After this was submitted by my accountant, I got the dreaded call that my signature didn't match. I asked if I could answer some secret question to prove it was indeed me that authorized this transfer - but she would have none of that. Resignedly I made the drive towards the city the next day with my proof of ID. The manager there refused to look at my ID or listen to any argument about proving my identify, but insisted that I had to sign exactly the same way that's in his system. I literally ended up signing (in different ways) 20 times on a piece of paper after which he went back inside, cross-checked with his system and came back to tell me which one matched. I carefully signed like the matching signature - and boom everything was golden!

You aren't who you say you are until your signature matches. So, a bit of advice ... perfect your signature!


  1. I can so identify with this!
    In my bank, you are to sign in 3-4 places in the same application form. I had to fill out a fresh form because this dude at the bank thought that my signature in one page differed from that in another page. He said "Please write your 'R's the same way in all your signatures, Ma'am". Thankfully I did not have to drive, a representative from the bank came and got the form with "proper" signatures.