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Notary Bulletin

Q&A: Corporate Notary Policies

At banks and financial institutions, customer service is a key to success. But what if customer service conflicts with state Notary law? As a Notary in the banking industry, how do you balance your employer’s wishes if they clash with law? We spoke to Chrissey Ladd, a Notary and Assistant Vice President at Audubon Savings Bank in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, to address these issues.

What are the most common issues Notaries working at banks or financial institutions face?

There are often unspoken policies pressuring Notaries to make things “easier” for customers, even if state law says otherwise. A bank official may tell a Notary that the bank’s “known customer” standard is sufficient to identify the signer. But no matter how uncomfortable a request to see identification might make the customer, Notaries are required to identify their signer according to state law — not just meeting a bank’s guidelines for customer service. Unfortunately, some banks are reluctant to refuse a customer service request. An unethical or illegal request may leave a Notary in an awkward position with little support from a supervisor.

How do you resolve these issues?

We have a clear, written policy in place that say our Notaries must follow state law and recommended NNA ethical practices. In creating our policy, we started with the 10 Guiding Principles from the Notary Code. For example, Guiding Principle V says to give precedence to the rules of law over the dictates or expectations of any person or entity. So our policy requires Notary-employees to follow state law and ethical practices recommended by the NNA when the law isn’t clear. Having this written policy gives Notaries support from outside their immediate supervisory chain if they encounter a request for a notarization that would violate state law.

Many Notaries tell us they are asked to notarize free for customers, but to charge non-customers, which violates the Notary’s duty to charge impartially. How do you suggest Notaries resolve this?

In our written policy, our Notary-employees must choose to either charge everyone equally, or charge no fees at all. Currently, all of our Notaries opt not to charge.

If statutes in your state are silent on this matter, the best and easiest way to deal with this issue is to charge everyone equally.

Do you feel keeping a journal is important even if state law doesn’t require it?

This is the number one protection of any Notary, bank employee or otherwise. A bound journal is essential. All our Notary-employees are provided such journals, and are provided comprehensive training in how to use it. Should any act be questioned, irrefutable evidence in that journal proves who appeared, when, and what document they signed. No question, journals are a must.

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