I recently had an opportunity to speak with Diane Tomb, CEO of the American Land Title Association, about the organization’s educational initiatives, the adoption of remote online notarization, the SECURE Notarization Act, COVID-19, and more in our latest podcast episode of Title Talks. Here are some of the highlights of my conversation with her as well as some useful resources for title and real estate professionals.
Listen to the interview now.
About Diane Tomb
Diane is the current CEO of the American Land Title Association (ALTA). She was previously the Executive Director of the National Rental Home Council (NRHC) and served as Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Educating and Connecting with Consumers
Within the first year appointed as CEO of ALTA, Diane has focused some of the top strategic priorities of the organization on homeownership and homebuyer education. Through the Homeownership Program (HOP), ALTA has helped consumers understand the benefits of title insurance, but there is still a disconnect between the consumer and the people providing this valuable service.
Diane goes on to explain, “People kind of know what title is, they know that it’s something they should have, but they aren’t really sure who does that, who are the agents, who are the underwriters. How’s that all work?”
“As an industry we’ve done a really good job of talking to each other, but we haven’t really shared it with the outside world.”
With that in mind, ALTA has launched a new video campaign, Our Title is Protection, to introduce the people who are the defenders, private investigators, guardians, and bodyguards of the American Dream.
Watch Our Title is Protection
The Adoption of Digital Closing Tools
Diane recognizes that the adoption of more technology in real estate transactions is inevitable. She sees ALTA playing a vital role in providing the support necessary for title agents, agent attorneys, loan signing agents and other real estate professionals to accommodate consumer needs and demands while maintaining the highest caliber of service.
“When I was interviewing for this role, that was sort of the big discussion about how the industry is shifting. Some like it. Some don’t... Some have the ability to adjust and others don’t. ALTA needs to play a big role… making sure we have all the tools in place so people can be successful.”
Digital Boot Camps
In order to help agents adopt these digital tools, the organization partnered with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) to offer a series of Digital Bootcamps. The first boot camp took place in person in Phoenix during the winter of 2019. Diane and her team expected some interest, but were surprised by the turnout.
“We were shocked that people came from all over as far as the east coast, west coast. I mean people were just thirsting for this information. These are the folks that I would say are early adopters. They really wanted to get their arms around it and some were sort of doing it in a hybrid fashion… You could tell people wanted more. There just wasn’t enough.”
Diane and her team are now adjusting the events to a virtual offering to continue to meet the demand of more education on digital and remote closings. More information can be found here.
The SECURE Notarization Act of 2020
The Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (SECURE Notarization Act) is a significant piece of proposed legislation to create nation-wide adoption of remote online notarization, which allows parties to execute transactions remotely with the use of electronic signatures, electronic notarizations, and two-way audio-visual communication.
ALTA and MBA in addition to the National Association of Realtors have spearheaded the campaign to pass this legislation. It’s seen as not just an important step in providing a convenient option for consumers, but in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a necessary option to keep vulnerable signers safe.
The legislation provides a framework of minimum standards so all states can safely and securely allow professionals to provide remote services. When passed, it will immediately allow the nation-wide use of remote online notarization (RON), set minimum standards, and provide certainty for the interstate recognition of RON.
Some of the minimum standards in the SECURE Notarization Act include:
- Multi-factor authentication like Knowledge-Based Authentication questions and credential analysis
- Use of tamper-evident technology
- Audio-visual recording of the notarial act
For states that already have RON laws in place, the act will not supersede any of those regulations as long as it meets the minimum standards. Additionally, this doesn’t replace the traditional notarial process. Instead, RON provides another option for consumers to use.
“At one point Ron was primarily thought to be about consumer convenience, but times have changed, and now it’s about consumer safety. Obviously when it comes to the industry and lenders in particular, RON is one resource in the toolbox to get us close to enabling the broader adoption of eMortgages,” Diane said.
Turning Challenges into Opportunities
In the second half of the interview, Diane provides her assessment of COVID-19’s impact on the real estate and title industry, new habits of buyers and professionals that are forming, and opportunities for the industry to reflect on who our clients are and encourage more diversity and inclusivity in the homebuying experience.