Hi Everyone!

If you have not yet heard what is going on which will directly affect you, I want to be the first to tell you.  A committee made up of the following members has been formed and they are calling themselves the “Signing Professionals Workshop” or SPW for short. 

Bank of America

Citibank NA

Fidelity National Financial

First American

U.S. Bank

Wells Fargo

LSI Title Company

Mortgage Connect

Old Republic National Title Insurance Company

ServiceLink

Title Source

ValuAmerica

Westcor Land Title Insurance Company

The National Notary Association has been instrumental in assisting this group by purchasing their domain name and creating their website.  They are also acting as Advisors to this group and as such are unable to represent their members or any other notaries.  As advisors they will not be given a vote.

So, just to be clear, as of now there is no notary representation in these proceedings. However I have been told by an officer of the NNA that they will be opening it up for notary comments eventually.

This group of people have come together and decided that Signing Agents should now be better trained and will not be hired for any of their signings unless they hold a certification from the SPW. The new official designation is CSS or Certified Signing Specialists. Every educator will be required to incorporate certain information into their training which will prepare notaries to pass a 50 question exam (provided by the SPW) which they must pass with a minimum score 80% in order to be certified. I would like it if each educator could prepare the exam and present but the way it is written it sounds like the SPW will be presenting the exams and issuing the certification to those who pass. Let’s hope that they will make the cost of the exam reasonable.

I, in my usual mode of operation, was up for hours last night (while my house was quiet), trying to dissect all of the information available to me and was eventually able to break it down quite simply. I will be breaking it down for you here in this letter and I want you to know that Notary2Pro is already ahead of the game. I have been doing for four years what this workshop has just now decided are some of the necessities of good training. 

And, although it could be anywhere between January 1, 2014 and mid 2014 before everything in finalized, we will incorporate everything required by SPW as of today, into our course very soon.  I want everyone of you to be prepared to take their exam and pass with flying colors. I am not sure at this point whether or not we will provide you with the information before you become certified with us or once you earn your Notary2Pro Certification. There is already so much information in the Notary2Pro course for students to absorb and our demands for certification so high that I do not want to bombard students with more information than they can handle.

I do know that we want to present it to our students and graduates at no additional cost. I am pretty certain that most companies who train will be somehow looking for ways to make extra money for themselves as a result of this new wrinkle. 

I have to admit that I am excited about this because it will mean that more people will be seeking education and my personal goal of “raising the bar” in this industry will be closer to coming true. I will also admit that I do hope a lot of people seeking training will turn to Notary2Pro and I want to thank all of you for recommending our course to others. It has been your recommendations that have allowed us to succeed and grow and we cannot tell you how much we appreciate your help.

The following is a breakdown of what they will be demanding from you in order to hold the CSS Certification:


BACKGROUND SCREENING STANDARDS will contain certain requirements that will need to be met. It appears that as of now it looks like as long as these requirements are met they will not designate any specific companies to issue your background checks.  So for those of you who have gone through either Sterling or NNA should be fine and if you have gone through other companies they will have to go through the scrutiny of the SPW.

TRAINING AND EXAMINATION:  The annual Certified Signing Specialist™ Examination demonstrates knowledge of sound mortgage signing practices and understanding of the Certified Signing SpecialistCode of Conduct and the Certified Signing Specialist™ Signing Script.

For new certification applicants, the Examination consists of 50 rotating questions from a bank of 150, and for renewing Certified Signing Specialists™, the Examination is 30 questions and is required each renewal year. An 80% passing score is required for certification.

Examination covers the following topics and will be updated each year to reflect changes in the industry:

• Definitions
• Qualifications
• Notarization
• Impartiality
• Unauthorized Advice or Services
• Illegal and Suspicious Activity
• Privacy and Confidentiality
• Fees
• Advertising
• Professionalism
• Standards
• Certified Signing Specialist™ Script

I actually had a smile on my face when I read their “script” because our graduates have been handling their signings already using a script of their own that is superior to the one created by the SPW.

All of the information covering the aforementioned topics will be available on our website.

INSURANCE STANDARDS: The Standards define the minimum amount of $25,000 professional liability errors and omissions (E&O) coverage for CSSs to maintain in order to be eligible for job assignments from members of the SPW.

SCRIPTED SIGNINGS: This script goes through the Introduction, Instructions, Opening and Closing Ceremony.  I have one question for the SPW and that is who of you went through the Notary2Pro Course? They even talk about directing signers to their seat at the table.  You all have this in the bag!

CODE OF CONDUCT is very lengthy and will take some amount of study.  Most of it is just plain common sense and much of what we do cover in the course.  We will have the entire Code Of Conduct available to you on-line and available for you to print.

So that is it in a nutshell (a big nutshell).  It is really important to me that you not be afraid of these new regulations and in fact we should all embrace the changes. These changes will absolutely put all of you who graduate from the course and pass their certification test on a much higher level which will result in more work and I am hoping more money. 

As always,

Carol

 


Comments

Teri Wilson
11/05/2013 10:21am

I'm just wondering if anyone else in the entire industry must take an "annual" exam. Not that I've ever heard of. I understand the need for what they are doing but some of it is excessive as well as exclusionary, in regards to who you can be certified or bgc through.

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11/06/2013 10:24am

The real estate brokers and salesperson renew every 2 years and have to take 12 CE credits.

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Anne
11/06/2013 10:51am

In my state we need 21 CEU's

Teri Wilson
11/06/2013 11:01am

True. I forgot about RE agents but there are many more things they have to keep up on. I still find it ridiculous that they want us to take an annual exam. The whole purpose is to weed out notaries that don't know what they are doing. Clearly, if you pass it once, you have shown you do. With my 25 years in escrow, I also feel that if you have over a certain amount of time in the business, you should be exempt or grandfathered in.

Carol
11/05/2013 11:49am

Carol, It is sad to see that you are going down this path in support of the SPW. I recall your recent uprising campaign and would have hoped that you would have come up with an alternative to the SPW. Their code of conduct is absurd. We as SAs need to band together to develop our own code of professionalism to show we are already in compliance. The mortgage industry is putting more and more responsibility on the SA, without giving us the tools we need to get the job done for their customer, the Borrower. Wouldn't we love to have documents early, have the HUD provided to the Borrower, have ample time at the table to complete our signings without fouling up our schedules. There needs to be responsibility put back onto the lenders and TC's in this business. What notary would willing backdate a document, or do a loan signing without proper ID? These our pushes and requests coming from the industry that is now trying to regulate us. An industry long known to be corrupt and to have caused the very demise of the economy we are now suffering through.

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Carol Ray
11/05/2013 1:20pm

I am only the messenger here and I was afraid that there would be some people who would determine that I am an advocate for this whole process. I AM NOT! However, having said that I felt that it was very important, since this seems inevitable, that notaries have an insight as to what the procedure will be if they choose to have the CSS designation. I care a great deal about my students and graduate and signing agents and wanted to provide them with the study material so when these exams are given they will be ready.

The ONLY thing about this process is that it will provide the training needed to raise the proficiency level of many signing agents who are to date lacking in professionalism. Some of what they expect mirrors what I have been teaching for 4 years.

I am personally worried that they will make it impossible for me to be given the approval to certify students to be CSS (Certified Signing Specialists). One way they could do that is to require that we pay for the automated exams which will may need to be on our website. I do not have the kind of money that may be demanded of me to have access to the exams.

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11/05/2013 6:15pm

Carol, since the insurance is a requirement; I really don't want to renew my E&O insurance with NNA. You have to pay the membership fee plus.... I've spent a good portion of the day looking for cheaper insurance. Any ideas? Anyone?

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Jose Maestre
11/05/2013 6:28pm

@Anne,
I purchased my E&O through the American Association of Notaries. I paid a better rate and the company was Western Surety. You can also become a member of the AAN at a fraction of the cost of the NNA membership, they provide many of the same services, notary help, supplies that the NNA does. You can also try Notary Rotary, but the price i received through the AAN was very good.

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11/09/2013 5:46pm

I use State Farm, they have better coverage for a comparable price. Not only that, I can contact my agent anytime for information and not wait on hold for ever.

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Carol Ray
11/06/2013 1:27am

I agree with Jose. The American Association of Notaries offers very good prices on everything.

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11/06/2013 9:03am

They don't offer insurance in Maine

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Anne
07/24/2014 2:47pm

I did get my insurance through them and their supplies are also better.

11/06/2013 11:32am

When I read that the NNA is requiring that their members must go through their course every year to maintain their certification, my first question was why! Once you are trained you ARE TRAINED and experience will provide all the additional training you need!! When we issue certification through Notary2Pro you are certified PERIOD.

Would we make a lot of money if we demanded that our students be re-certified every year or two? Sure. Do we feel that is necessary or fair to our students? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!

And I so agree with you when you say that with all of your experience as an Escrow Officer (and I know first hand what 25 years teaches you), you should not ever have to go this certification process more than the first time.

It's time we all stand together to initiate some changes - in favor of the notaries for a change!

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Anne
11/06/2013 11:37am

Carol I agree. In my opinion it won't weed out the bad notaries, it can't they already passed both the certification and BGC. What it will do is push out the poor. That said, I have a job interview at 6PM EST please every one pray I get it. I can't be homeless In a Maine winter, it's too cold.

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Jose Maestre
11/06/2013 1:54pm

@Anne
Prayers on the way! Hope things improve for you, i am hoping we can stick together and make our voices heard loud!
@Carol
I spent about an hour on the phone with the NNA this afternoon. Here is their take on this,
Even though i have a VALID BGC through the NPBC,Crimcheck that is valid till 03/2015, if i provide a copy of my receipt they will graciously give me a $65 credit to use twords notary supplies, excluding membership, or E&O insurance. You can only use the credit to purchase notary supplies, ie, stamps, affidavits, forms, etc. Then you have to pay $99 for a 2 yr NNA BGC . As for my current CSA certification, they will not do anything with that. I must take the NNA exam for SA, They will not recognize the Notary2Pro course or exam I took. I must take their NSA certification course & I must also be a member of the NNA
I also spoke with Griff at Notary Rotary, he advises that their NPBC fulfills all the SPW requirements and then some. He stated that there have been many calls from NSA regarding the same issue. They will provide a detailed copy of the BGC and certificate for an SS requiring it at no additional cost. I will not get another BGC, i refuse to give in to the NNA. I guess if i am not good enough for the SS and lenders unless I submit to the new standards then so be it! I will not accept any last minute signings or calls from any of them any longer. I just hope many more notaries do the same. If we all stick together and follow thru, and they have no one to do signings, then maybe they will listen

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Anne
11/06/2013 2:04pm

Thank you Jose.

Now that is completely contrary to what Phil told me. He said they would update our BGC FREE of charge if I sent them a copy of my current one from anywhere. Hmmmm.

I bet those last minute calls come in once things pick up and they run out of their notaries.

I'm sticking with Carol. I want NOTHING to do with NNA ever again.

FYI I just had a back & forth with a company who demanded a 10 yr BGC and wouldn't accept NNA's. I don't think th extra $ for NNA will be worth the money.

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11/09/2013 6:01pm

Okay here is my big issues on BGC:

1. If you have lived in several areas or are a notary in more than once state, it raises the price of getting one and it shouldn't.

2. In reality a BGC is only good for that moment in time, you can commit grand larceny the next day and it won't show up on that BGC.

3. We pay for E&O insurance for errors and omissions, so why are we needing more checks involved.

4. I actually have business insurance and a business license, so I have more at risk then a BGC going bad if I do something stupid.

5. I also have an EIN registered with the IRS so that I do not have to give out my SSN to anyone with an W-9.

6, We are self-employed not an employee, if they are dictating what education we have to have to do a notary job that does not comply with the state requirements for training then they are over stepping their grounds. Each state has their requirements on getting their notary, some actually require a BGC, some conduct their own, others require Bonds and morality checks by known associates.

I understand the need to use qualified notaries but Carol's site does a great job of training and continued education with the emails she sends out with updates to the industry.

As an accountant and forensic accountant, I know there are many ways to get around the rules but you always get caught in the end.

Those of us that have been doing this awhile and are successful at it will continue to get the jobs.

Chase requires that you do the signing with the loan officer present and during business hours, so why are then needing more of a BGC.

I am getting maybe 2 signings a month right now, I know I can't afford any extra costs. It is hard enough to keep the insurances that I do have and the other costs related to my business paid up to date.

I don't go into another persons business that I want them to do something and ask if they have a BGC on file. I can however go to the state website and ensure that there are no complaints and they have a valid business license. I check signing agencies for business licenses so that I know they are an actual business and I have faith that I will be paid in a timely manner.

Title Companies hire Signing Agencies to find the notary, let the Signing Agency do their job. They get our information, including everything they need to do a quick check if needed.

Sorry for the soapbox but this is getting way out of hand.

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11/10/2013 10:33am

Robin,

I agree with EVERYTHING you said!!

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nice posts

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Anne
07/24/2014 3:03pm

So time has passed and business has picked up a bit. In my area the cheap Notaries found they couldn't make it on the pay being offered.

I am now seeing the pay rate closer to where it was. Do I get calls from the companies above? No But I never did before.

I have not and will not sign the release or pay for extra education. I won't read their script because I am NOT their employee. When I get a call I make sure they understand this up front. I still get hired.

I see nobody ever addresses the issue of the release giving them the authority to hand out your ss# like candy. How many companies have disappeared in this economy? Where is your information now?

Have they been hiring other Notaries and found that just because one signed the release, read the script etc they weren't up to par? Maybe.

I just want people to know don't forget to look at the big picture, don't forget YOUR privacy YOUR information is also at risk.

Reply
07/24/2014 3:03pm

So time has passed and business has picked up a bit. In my area the cheap Notaries found they couldn't make it on the pay being offered.

I am now seeing the pay rate closer to where it was. Do I get calls from the companies above? No But I never did before.

I have not and will not sign the release or pay for extra education. I won't read their script because I am NOT their employee. When I get a call I make sure they understand this up front. I still get hired.

I see nobody ever addresses the issue of the release giving them the authority to hand out your ss# like candy. How many companies have disappeared in this economy? Where is your information now?

Have they been hiring other Notaries and found that just because one signed the release, read the script etc they weren't up to par? Maybe.

I just want people to know don't forget to look at the big picture, don't forget YOUR privacy YOUR information is also at risk.

Reply
07/24/2014 3:03pm

So time has passed and business has picked up a bit. In my area the cheap Notaries found they couldn't make it on the pay being offered.

I am now seeing the pay rate closer to where it was. Do I get calls from the companies above? No But I never did before.

I have not and will not sign the release or pay for extra education. I won't read their script because I am NOT their employee. When I get a call I make sure they understand this up front. I still get hired.

I see nobody ever addresses the issue of the release giving them the authority to hand out your ss# like candy. How many companies have disappeared in this economy? Where is your information now?

Have they been hiring other Notaries and found that just because one signed the release, read the script etc they weren't up to par? Maybe.

I just want people to know don't forget to look at the big picture, don't forget YOUR privacy YOUR information is also at risk.

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CAROL RAY
07/24/2014 3:21pm

The SPW has been very quiet for a long time and I do not see any of what they originally were going to mandate happening for a long time, if ever.

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Anne
07/24/2014 4:15pm

I agree!

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