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Conference 2009: Opportunity, Education and Interaction

The opportunities for America’s Notaries to act as identity managers will only grow as virtually every major industry recognizes the critical need to keep its most sensitive and valuable information secure. That was one of the key messages heard by the hundreds of Notaries, government officials and dignitaries who attended the National Notary Association’s 31st Annual Conference in Las Vegas last month.

The message — delivered by experts from various industries — also is one of the reasons attendees came away energized about the future. Overall, Conference delegates explored a number of significant issues that will resonate throughout 2009 and beyond. Here are several of the most important:

Identity Management. Controlling who gets access to sensitive information and communications is one of the linchpins of protecting that information. Security starts with verifying the identities of authorized people, and Notaries are uniquely suited to fill this need through identity proofing, said Conference keynote speaker Paul Donfried. A vice president and principal for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Donfried has helped pioneer identity proofing, and sees an escalating demand for Notaries with specialty training in the field.

The NSA Role. While the fortunes of Notary Signing Agents are tied largely to the real estate market, the NSAs who go above and beyond normal standards to deliver professional service will be the ones to survive the ups and downs of the market. NSAs are the face a borrower sees — the live person between the buyer and lender — when closing their loans. For most people, buying a home is the most important financial decision in their life, and it’s critical for NSAs to understand their vital role in those transactions.

This message and more came out of an NSA panel, titled “Shirt and Shoes Required: Professionalism Gets Hired.”

Notary Professionalism/Best Practices. One of the most persistent developments to emerge from the collapse of the real estate and mortgage industries is the need to follow ethical conduct and best industry practices. And the need is great for America’s 4.8 million Notaries. Abiding by a strict ethical code and following best notarial practices is the best way for Notaries to protect the public, their employers and themselves. And that starts with education.

Notaries can no longer depend solely on their state laws for guidance. Tom Wrosch, a senior policy advisor for the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, and Andrew Whitfield, Deputy Director for the Licensing and Enforcement Division with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, both urged Notaries to take the initiative to educate themselves beyond the strict requirements of their respective states. As the precedent-setting Illinois case — Vancura v. Katris — illustrated, it is possible for employers to be held liable for their Notary-employee’s mistakes even if a state’s laws do not spell out education requirements.

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