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ALTA And The SPW

Signing Professionals Workgroup Logo

(Originally published in the December 2016 issue of The National Notary magazine.)

When the American Land Title Association updated its Best Practices to include sections dealing with Notary Signing Agents, it raised a natural question: What does that mean for the Signing Professionals Workgroup (SPW)?

Formed in 2013 in response to sweeping regulatory initiatives by the federal government, the SPW initially drafted a set of recommended Standards for Notary Signing Agents in an effort to bring uniformity to the NSA profession. Now that ALTA has updated its Best Practices, does that mean the SPW, an NNA workgroup, is no longer necessary? No. In fact, executives from both groups say the work of the two fit together.

“ALTA’s Best Practices provide a broad framework for how companies should select and oversee NSAs, and the SPW provides detailed, recommended Standards,” said SPW President Chris Sturdivant.

“What ALTA’s Best Practices are to title insurance companies, the SPW’s work product is for the Notary Signing Agent,” said Michelle Korsmo, Chief Executive Office of ALTA. She said that the SPW’s standards will help title insurance and settlement companies gauge how well they deal with Signing Agents. Going forward, the SPW will continue to review and revise its recommended Standards as market conditions and regulations change. In fact, the group published an updated version last spring.

After the TRID roll-out last year, the SPW worked diligently to incorporate numerous industry changes and helpful suggestions from NSAs in the Standards. As part of that update, the SPW decided that decisions about training and testing requirements and service providers should be left to the companies that contract with NSAs. Consequently, the Workgroup will not create a standardized exam or certify education providers.

However, the Standards still include the recommendation that NSAs undergo regular testing. The SPW believes Signing Agents should stay informed about professional practices and industry changes by seeking out training, and testing their knowledge on a regular basis. Regular training and testing also is a good way for title and settlement services companies to verify that NSAs understand their responsibilities and comply with government requirements.

The SPW’s Standards also include:

A Notary Signing Agent Code of Conduct;

Signing Presentation Guidelines;

A recommendation for annual background screenings; and

A recommended minimum level of errors & omissions insurance.

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association.

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