MBA 2020 Tech All-Star Rick Triola: The Crusade for Remote Online Notarization

One of the most remarkable mortgage technology developments in the past couple of years has been emergence of Remote Online Notarization as standard operating procedure. And the industry has Rick Triola to thank for that.

Rick Triola

Through Triola’s tireless educational efforts (along with effective work at the state level by MISMO, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the American Land Title Association), more than half of all U.S. states have a RON law in effect. Many of the nation’s largest title insurers have begun issuing policies for mortgage transactions executed via RON, thus vastly reducing two of the largest hurdles to conducting digital mortgage closings.

“It’s exciting times,” Triola told MBA NewsLink. “Most of us have been waiting a couple of decades for this to happen. Now, we’re exploding. That is music to my ears.”

If Triola’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s won this award before—in 2017, when MBA recognized his work with eClosings. Triola is founder and CEO of NotaryCam, Newport Beach, Calif., whose eClose360 platform securely brings together closing documents, signers and National Notary Association-certified notary signing agents through an online interface for real estate closings.

Having conquered one part of the eClosing experience, Triola set his sights on another aspect—RON. He said even as the mortgage industry became increasingly sophisticated about mortgage technology in recent years, it remained primitive in many aspects of the end-to-end lending process—particularly remote notarizations.

“There are countless arguments that have been made regarding why lenders should embrace remote online notarization, but in my eyes it all boils down to a few questions every lender should be asking themselves,” Triola said in a recent NewsLink op-ed. “How do I make it more convenient for my borrowers to do business with me? How do I fully realize the benefits of an eClosing? How can we increase loan officer referrals?”

At its core and in the simplest terms, Triola said, RON delivers “security, convenience and quicker closings. RON provides borrowers with the flexibility and convenience to close whenever and wherever they want. Borrowers feel that is 99% of their loan can be completed online, the closing should be digital as well.”

Triola has made it his personal mission to drive RON/ROC adoption by becoming a grassroots advocate for RON throughout the country. He founded NotaryCam in 2012, and the company completed its first ROC for the mortgage industry in 2014.

Triola secured a number of domestic and international patents on NotaryCam’s behalf as far back as 2000, and today, NotaryCam’s technology remains the only RON platform that scales in every jurisdiction to provide mortgage lenders and their settlement agents the competitive advantage of closing how the client wants to close; allows multiple parties to join the signing ceremony; and boasts a robust, nationwide network of trained eNotaries available 24/7 to ensure a seamless, error-free remote online closing ceremony. 

Triola also guided completion of the first ROC for a purchase and sale transaction in Virginia in December 2018. Even though Virginia legalized RON several years ago, this transaction marked the first instance in the state where both parties to one real estate transaction completed their portion of the closing remotely. The lack of nationwide buy-in makes transactions like the one in Virginia and the countless others NotaryCam facilitates incredibly important, as each one represents a proof of concept for RON/ROC. By pioneering RON and ROC in real estate, developing company-wide and national de facto standards and advocating for RON legislation, Triola continues to drive technological innovation in real estate.

Triola is also active in the Mortgage Bankers Association and MISMO. He is also a member of the Electronic Signatures and Records Association, the American Land Title Association and the Texas Land Title Association. Furthermore, Triola also devotes a significant portion of his time to speaking at various conferences, particularly state land title associations, with the goal of educating attendees about RON while also enabling them to earn continuing education credits.

“We started seeing momentum last summer,” Triola said. “And now, we’re in 2020 with an additional 22 states on board with RON.”

Triola wryly notes the industry has come a long way from the days in which he was a realtor in New York and California. In New York, he had to attend all of his closings in person. “The stress around the closing was unwarranted, he said. “My goal was to do a New York closing over the internet. “We needed to get the ecosystem of a real estate closing going.”

Having Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac come on board was important, Triola said. “We understood that if Fannie and Freddie weren’t going to buy into it, lenders weren’t going to buy into it either. The change–the last mile–was getting the title industry comfortable with this so that we could enable the transactions. We had to turn that ship, get them comfortable. The insurers play an important role. MBA played an important role as well. That was the last mile, with MBA and ALTA lobbying the states, they realized that this was the future and this is something they want to offer their customers.”

The results have been impressive. “What improves our process is our experience,” Triola said. “We’ve done almost 300,000 RON transactions now and we have gotten a lot of experience doing these. After seven years it translates into a much better experience. We were closing only 52 percent of our transactions; now it’s 99 percent. The difference was experience.”

Looking ahead, Triola said, “what we’re anxious about is getting the lender more involved. The boxes are checked; we have integrations with Docutech and DocMagic; so we’re starting to see the lenders coming to us, instead of us coming to them.”

Triola said he anticipates creating a self-serve gateway for lenders and borrowers to streamline the lending process earlier on. “Typically, we get a lot of our documents an hour before closing,” he said. “We’d like to see the clients get their systems updated earlier in the process so that we can better manage the pipeline; getting documents together well ahead of the process so there are no surprises an hour before closing.”

And Triola notes current events—the coronavirus, economic shutdown, social distancing—underscore the importance of a nationwide RON standard—now.

“We’ve seen a tremendous increase over the past few weeks in requests from lenders and closing agents across the country, many of whom are stymied because of the lack of RON legislation in their state,” Triola said. “Delayed closings aren’t just an inconvenience. There can be serious consequences for lenders from a compliance standpoint, not to mention the financial implications for everyone involved in the transaction–consumers included.

Triola said the Uniform Law Commission has already crafted the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, which is in use by many of the states that have legalized RON to date. “So the standard exists and is being applied in many parts of the country today,” he said. “Authorizing RON nationwide would not only eliminate the logjam many real estate professionals are currently experiencing, but it would also help keep an important sector of the economy moving.”

A nationwide standard has also caught the attention of Congress. Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Kevin Kramer, R-N.D., have introduced legislation that would allow RON nationwide; a companion bill is working through the House. Triola said a national standard would be more effective than a patchwork of state laws.

“A national standard would afford clarity and safety on this practice well into the future,” Triola said. “A RON is a RON, just as a notary is a notary, and interstate recognition has been a well-settled point of law for generations. Furthermore, conducting real estate transactions across state lines (or even from other countries) has been par for the course for a while, but our processes and the law haven’t kept pace with this change. Allowing RON nationwide would eliminate many of the unnecessary barriers to conducting real estate transactions in the modern era, and the proof points already in place in the states that have already legalized RON provide ample guidance on best practices for introducing RON nationwide.”