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One of the most remarkable features of the pandemic response last year was the ability of many businesses to move from 100% office-based work to 100% remote in a matter of days.
Tapping into existing technology, quickly developing workarounds and making accommodations for problems that couldn’t be overcome, companies shifted from working environments that had endured for decades to working from home.
Some seemingly small difficulties remained, however, and caused significant headaches. One that plagued the insurance and risk management sector was the need for documents to be notarized, said Rebecca W. Wright, Cincinnati-based member partner at Rathbone Group LLC, a law firm that specializes in insurance subrogation work.
“Our clients had put in travel restrictions,” she said. “They were working from home and they were not supposed to go anywhere on behalf of the company, so that meant they could not drive to the local bank to have things notarized.”
Even when the courts reopened, subrogation agreements could not be agreed to without the documents being notarized, Ms. Wright said.
To try to solve the problem, she looked at some existing online notary services but found them expensive, with some charging $25 per signature, and set up to do low-volume work, such as individuals obtaining a mortgage. “That’s not what my clients needed. They needed to be able to do things in bulk and they needed to be able to do things regularly.”
To solve the problem, Ms. Wright first became certified as an online notary and then located an online platform — DocVerify Inc., which was designed for remote signing — and used it to develop Rathbone’s e-notary service, which is a winner of a 2021 Business Insurance Innovation Award.
The service can complete up to 30 notarizations in a session, and the process is completed in minutes, she said.
The platform provides a secure audio-visual connection through which the client submits his or her photo and identification and opens two windows — one showing the notary and the other showing the client.
The documents, which are uploaded in advance, can then be completed using electronic signatures and an electronic notary stamp.
Rathbone completed 350 notarizations in the past year and the system will likely be used beyond the pandemic, Ms. Wright said.
Many companies are moving to a full or partial work-from-home setup and others prefer the efficiency of the process, she said.
Restrictions on in-person collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic do not seem to have stifled innovation in the insurance and risk management sector.