The Signing Professionals Workgroup (SPW) has finally done what all title companies and lenders wish would have been done years ago – create an industry standard. When important loans are signed, there were simply too many variables that were overlooked by signing agents. Now, however, the workgroup has developed a best-practice that must be followed when signing loans. This will help novice and seasoned notaries alike ensure that they follow the agreed upon industry best practices. Less errors will be apparent as well as a method to ensure every signing is done correctly. It is a step in the right direction for the notary world and any current notaries will want to ensure they fully understand these standards before they go into effect in 2014. While a completion date has not been set, the SPW expects all of their standards to be finalized by mid-2014.
The Members of SPW
The members of SPW are all major mortgage holders. Among those members are Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo. These members are those at greatest risk when a mortgage or loan has been notarized. The group has worked very closely with the National Notary Association, the association together agreed upon these standards. Ensuring the standards put in place are acceptable has already been accomplished with both groups working to make the entire notary process easier.
Understanding New Standards
The standards put forth by Signing Professionals Workgroup satisfy the interests of both the lender and borrower. The goal is simple. These standards are set to ensure when a loan document is notarized, there will be no discrepancies that can invalidate the contract for either party. What does this mean?
- Customer experience will be improved by less errors and an easier notary process.
- The industries best practices will always be followed so that there are never any legal discrepancies that arise.
- All notaries performing signings will have to meet the qualifications set forth by all members of the SPW.
Lenders have done this to safeguard their own interests, as well as the borrowers. I the past, lenders did not have a standard for those representing them during a signing. Now, virtually every lender will have a standard which they will ensure is followed thanks to the work done by the SPW. A special certification will be needed by all notaries to ensure they meet the minimum requirements to act as a signing agent.
Preparing for Change
While many may dread these changes, this is something that will be able to propel the industry forward. While it may be difficult for new notaries to deal with new certification, those in the industry will welcome a firm standard that will dictate the manner in which loan signings takes place. However, this does not mean there will not be changes that every notary will need to make. In fact, it is best to begin making changes immediately to be properly prepared for the guidelines of SPW.
The first step is to follow any new news that comes out in the coming weeks regarding these changes. Keeping on top of what is happening in the industry is now more important than ever. Every notary will need to be briefed on the changes taking place and those that deal with loans only will need to ensure every member of a notary team will obtain their certification.
Preparing for the long awaited exam will be up to each notary. Those that are currently in training should inquire about the SPW standards covered within the course curriculum. This is of the utmost importance because nearly every lender in the country will require a Certified Signing Specialist.
Certified Signing Specialist
Becoming certified is rather straightforward and will require that an exam-taker receive a score of 80 percent or higher on the exam. This exam will be comprised of over 50 questions deemed to be essential knowledge for a notary or a notary. Standards will have to be met by all notaries and the following information as to what issues in particular will be addressed on the exam. Please understand that before everything has been finalized some of these requirements may change.
- Standard definitions as well as signing qualifications
- Privacy and Confidentiality
- How to deal with illegal and suspicious activity.
- Certified Signing Specialist™ Script
Once certified, a notary will be required to renew their certification every year. This test will be less thorough and consist of only 30 questions out of a possible 150. As with the initial exam, a passing grade of 80 percent or higher will be required to maintain their Certified Signing Specialist certificate.
This, however, is not enough to receive certification and will only be a portion of what is required to achieve the Certified Signing Specialist status. The following will also be required for any notary that wishes to obtain their certification:
- Code of Conduct: Every Certified Signing Specialist will need to adhere to the code of conduct set forth by the SPW and the National Notary. This will include 10 basic principles, such as professionalism, privacy protection and the reporting of illegal activity. This is all pretty basic information, but it will need to be followed strictly.
- Standardized Script Usage: A standardized script will be provided and must be used by all notaries. This script will follow strict regulations on how a proper signing is to be conducted. Areas covered are how questions can be properly answered and when contacting the lender is appropriate and necessary.
- Exam Passing: The above-mentioned exam will need to be taken and passed. This is an annual exam and renewals will be necessary. Failure to pass this exam will remove a person’s certified status.
- Background Check: Rigorous background checks will be done annually to ensure that all those certified have not broken any state, local or federal laws. This is an extensive background check.
- Insurance: Every practicing notary will need insurance of $25,000 for errors and omissions.
The Benefits of SPW for Notaries
Notaries will need to adhere to much higher standards than ever before. While some may find this to be a difficult transition, others will find that this is the way for the industry to move forward in a positive way. Following the industries best practice will ensure that the process is done correctly for all members involved – including the notary. In fact, the benefits are vast and include:
- Conduct: Notaries will now know what questions they can answer, what to do when illegal or suspicious signings take place and what the proper code of conduct is when relating to the signers. Everything has been laid out so that guesswork never occurs during a signing.
- Every year, a notary will need to pass their exam to be certified. New standards will be covered, which ensures that the notary is always aware of the latest guidelines. Furthermore, a notary will be following protocols that ensure that every signing happens in accordance with the industries best practices.
- Less Errors: Common errors that take place will be eliminated. When following the standardized script, errors will be kept to a bare minimum. While there is always a possibility of an error occurring, if the script is followed, the error should not be that of the notary.
- Insurance: Neglecting to have a minimum insurance policy will result in a notary not receiving their certification. While not a direct benefit, this is a safeguard that ensures if any legal encounters occur, a notary will be covered by their insurance.
- Guidelines: There will be less worrying about following the appropriate procedures that lenders want followed. The SPW will take care of all these discrepancies so that there is never a cause for concern as to what needs to be done to satisfy signing parties.
SPW Roll Out
The industry consistently changes. Notaries that have been in the industry for many years know how difficult it can be to follow all of the changes that take place. Keeping up with changes and rules can be tedious. As the SPW begins to roll out, burdens on all notaries so that they can successfully perform their duties.
The introduction of the Certified Signing Specialist qualification will further strengthen the industry. Fewer legal issues will arise and all notaries will share the same educational training. Following the Certified Signing Specialist™ Script will ensure that during a signing, there will be less chance for something to go wrong. Through the cooperation of the members of the SPW and the National Notary Association, it will be possible to strengthen the way that notary services are rendered going forward.