Digital Closings Are Here to Stay, But What That Looks Like Remains to Be Seen

Posted by Amrock

Amrock CEO, Brian Hughes, joins panel discussion at NS3 on navigating the future of digital closings.

The need for non-traditional closings in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic left many in the mortgage and settlement services industry, as well as state and county legislatures, scrambling to adopt new processes in a very short time. While the housing industry has for some time been experiencing a slow and steady move toward digitization of many consumer-facing processes, the recent environment has created an unprecedented momentum toward what industry experts have long been forecasting as inevitable. Today, projections indicate that it’s highly likely that the majority of consumers will have some sort of digital closing option available to them within the next 48 months, according to the consensus among the featured guests of the recent National Settlement Services Summit (NS3) panel discussion “Mastering Remote Closings.”

Amrock CEO, Brian Hughes“The approach we’ve always taken in all of this, even before the pandemic, is that we’ve got to have a diverse menu of options,” said panelist Brian Hughes, Amrock’s Chief Executive Officer. Hughes was among the industry experts discussing the topic during the informative session at this year’s virtual conference, which took place online Sept. 1-3.

While all on the panel agreed that the future of digital closings is certain, they also agreed that what a standard digital closing will look like remains to be seen.

“We don’t see one platform over another or one process over another,” said Hughes. “It’s really got to be what the consumer wants to do and what the lender wants to do. We meet them where they are.”

Whether the consumer’s choice includes an in-person electronic notarization (IPEN), a hybrid closing, which combines digital signing with traditional paper signing or a remote online notarization (RON) closing, is still largely a legislative question at the state and county level, as much as it is a capabilities question at the industry level.

But the tides are turning faster than they were pre-pandemic. As states struggle with the challenges of providing their own services that require notarized forms, more and more legislators are realizing that tools such as RON are critical.

“Over the last six months, a lot of the states became much more open to conversations,” said Hughes. “Those kinds of conversations are going to continue to get us to critical mass so that we can operate fairly the same across most states.”

Hughes pointed out that there is currently a more unified understanding happening in the industry. As larger players are increasingly making the necessary investments to align their processes with the move towards digital closings, consumers are expected to find the scope of digital options widening.

“What has been surprising and great to see is how many consumers have become educated in this timeframe,” said Hughes of the rapidly evolving landscape of digital closings since last March. “I’m thrilled with how many different options we now have, and excited about how this is impacting the long-term consumer experience.”