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Q&A: Workplace Training Limits Liability Risks

A strong workplace training program for Notaries can minimize liability risk at banks and financial institutions. The Financial & Corporate Sectionspoke with Russell Cruzan, a bank training officer in San Antonio, Texas, specializing in legal and liability issues, about the importance of workplace training. Cruzan has conducted training on a wide variety of Notary-related issues for the Texas Bankers Association and other banking-related educational organizations.

What are important elements to include in workplace training?
First and foremost, the policy should require employee-Notaries to be familiar with state law. It should establish clear guidelines for notarizing in the workplace, which is especially important with increasing employer liability these days. When training new Notaries, I often find many don’t know basics. For example, many Notaries don’t know they aren’t allowed to choose the notarial act on behalf of a signer. Most managers don’t even realize that’s an issue. As part of our training, I make sure our Notaries here look at the educational literature from the state and we discuss it in detail.

What are some other key points a training program should cover?
Training needs to emphasize the basic notarial skills. What must Notaries record in their journal and what must be left out? What signs should warn Notaries to refuse a notarization, and why? All of that would be included in a good policy at a financial institution. The policy should also set up somebody on staff that Notaries can contact for help if they have an unclear situation.

If a bank lacks a training program, what is the best approach to request one?
Unfortunately, when someone tries to get a training program started at a bank, the request is often met with apathy if the managers don’t fully understand the Notary’s role. Try to go through proper channels, research other banks that have training programs and why, and present the information to your supervisor. A bank’s attorney or legal compliance department can be a great ally in getting a good training policy in place. The legal department can usually explain to managers that properly trained Notaries help protect the bank from liability. You can also check if your state bankers association offers any training programs for Notaries that your workplace can participate in.

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