Notarize’s Nicole Booth talks RON advocacy
Today’s episode of HousingWire Daily continues our Women of Influence series and features an interview with Nicole Booth, the executive VP of public affairs at Notarize. Booth joined Notarize in 2020 and has over 15 years of experience working with governmental bodies and advocacy groups. During the interview, she shares her experience with digital inclusivity, including her advocacy for more RON legislation and adoption for consumers.
Booth also discusses her work with policy and industry relations at Notarize and shares what the past year has looked like for the fintech space.
Here is a small preview of the interview, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity:
Alcynna Lloyd: As the world rushed to digitize and the legislature attempted to better understand the immediate needs of their constituents, including RON, a part of your job was convincing lawmakers of the need and benefits of RON and then passing legislation for its adoption. When advocating for RON adoption, what are some of the most important factors to present to legislators? Do you believe there’s been a significant movement adoption because of advocacy?
Nicole Booth: I think of advocating as education. Legislators and their staff have so many issues that they’re covering at any single time. The question is, “How do we get our message across as clearly as possible with real life examples? Have the legislators or staff refinanced or bought our home? What was their process like? How could it be easier?” Do the best to highlight the safety and security of any closing using a remote online notarization, as well as the accessibility and putting power back into the hands of the consumer.
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Below is the transcription of the interview. These transcriptions, powered by Speechpad, have been lightly edited and may contain small errors from reproduction:
Alcynna Lloyd: Hello HousingWire listeners. Welcome back to another segment of HousingWire’s Women of Influence. I’m Alcynna Lloyd and today I’m joined with Nicole Booth, executive vice-president of public affairs at Notarize. Thank you for joining me on HousingWire Daily.
Nicole Booth: Thank you for having me.
Alcynna Lloyd: Of course, Nicole, we are so happy to have you here. You’re a Woman of Influence so we know we can learn a lot from you today. Our listeners, Nicole is going to explain to us how she became a Woman of Influence and discuss some new movements in the fintech market. But before we dive into today’s conversation, Nicole, can you tell us more about yourself? When and where did you begin your journey in the housing industry?
Nicole Booth: Sure. Well, I’m gonna go way back. I lived in Washington, D.C. and worked on Capitol Hill for a couple congressmen. I then moved to a law lobbying firm where I got to work on issues important to the state of Michigan, which is where I’m originally from. And at that point, Dodd-Frank was moving through Congress so I was fortunate to have an intro to housing through Quicken Loans were a wonderful leader. Shawn Krause saw something in me and said she could use me so my crash course in learning was my first day I had to read the QM proposed rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. So was really able to navigate and rely on building relationships and conversations to understand the industry and found that I loved the idea of making it easier through technology and focus on that arena in the housing space.
Alcynna Lloyd: Wow. Well, it seems like your early days really prepared you for what you’re doing today now so thank you for sharing your background with us. Now I want to focus on why you’re here, which is to discuss how you became a Woman of Influence. Nicole, as EVP of public affairs at Notarize, you lead the organization’s efforts and strategy to build and maintain trust among the external audiences, including government affairs, policy, and industry relations and community engagement. So I imagine in a COVID-19 world, this duty has become even more important. So my first question for you is what has you experience been like during such an unpredictable time in housing?
Nicole Booth: So my challenge, or if you want to look at it the other way, the opportunity, was how do we build meaningful relationships and partnerships to move policy, whether it’s government or industry, forward in a virtual space? And I’m a big believer in breaking bread to bring people together and so it got a little tricky. So something that I was able to rely on was the long term relationships to still move the needle. And it was really exciting to see perceptions change and just general awareness around digital services like an e-closing or an online notarization in a time where you weren’t able to make those in-person connections and really rely on a technology to help you promote technology. It was really exciting.
Alcynna Lloyd: Wow. So that is a really exciting start. So I want to continue on my last question so we saw the COVID-19 pandemic spread market to market. We saw the industry really harness technology as a means to keep businesses going. For a fintech company, I can assume this boom in demand produced some significant growth in business as well as more attention for your products. So how did you make sure your team was prepared for this transformation?
Nicole Booth: So I took a risk and made a jump in the middle of 2020 from an amazing, well-established organization to a startup. So for me, being prepared meant building a team at all. Notarize has a wonderful tradition and philosophy around working towards being partners with the government and I needed to think about how do I keep our culture and this philosophy and how do I hire a diverse set of team members that embody this belief, as well as the energy to head towards whatever the future is? So I’m really grateful and fortunate that Notarize has given me the resources to be engaged in the housing industry while also building an amazing public affairs team and one that has a seat at the decision-making table of the organization.
Alcynna Lloyd: I want to highlight some of your personal achievements in 2020. During the year as the world rushed to digitize, as we mentioned previously, legislatures attempted to better understand the immediate needs of their constituents, including RON. A part of your job was convincing law makers of the need and benefits of RON and then passing legislation that allowed for its adoption. So when advocating for RON adoption, what are some of the most important factors to present to legislatures? Do you believe there’s been significant movement adoption because of advocacy? I know RON has been around for a while but I’m curious on how much advocacy has really helped, especially during this time.
Nicole Booth: So I think of advocating as education. Legislators and their staff have so many issues that they’ve covering at any single time so the question is how do we get our message across as clearly as possible with real-life examples? Have the legislators or their staff refinance or bought a home? What was their process like? How could it be easier? So working through that and then doing the best to highlight the safety and security features of an e-closing using a remote online notarization as well as the accessibility and putting power back into the hands of the consumer on a day-to-day basis.
So the first RON bill passed in Virginia in 2011, so it’s not a new concept and the housing industry has been a great advocate for change and movement in the state. 2020 accelerated the awareness and understanding more broadly but because of coalitions and relationships such as with leadership through the Mortgage Bankers Association, the American Land Title Association, and the National Association of Realtors, both the national and state level and because a message was already crafted, it really gave us the ability to move and pivot at the speed of change. So I think for the industry, they were able to see, one, organizations are using RON and, two, maybe they can adjust their processes and technology to tap in sooner than they thought.
Alcynna Lloyd: Yeah, definitely. I feel like with COVID-19 it was impossible to not see the need for digital tools to help people get into homes, to help them better process loans, it was unavoidable, I would say.
Nicole Booth: Agreed. Something that was once a convenience quickly became a need for sure.
Alcynna Lloyd: Yeah, that’s true. I’d also like to discuss some of your work outside advocacy, as you’re also a culture carrier at Notarize. This means you help define the social impact policies of the organization, including bridging the digital divide and creating accessible experiences on the platform. So can you tell us about these policies and what they hope to achieve?
Nicole Booth: Yeah. So when I started, Notarize already had an active diversity, equity, and inclusion committee with such a collaborative community of ideas. So we thought about how do we take our mission and tie it to something greater than the organization? And as a technology company, we believe that all communities should have access to digital services and more control over their day-to-day lives. So we focus on digital gaps. So thinking about what are and how do we find the intersections of digital access in other industries, such as expanding and removing barriers to home ownership.
So one example is a partnership that we were fortunate to have with Windermere, who provided forms to remove racial restrictive covenants from titles. And we were able to use digital services to make the process more convenient for the homeowner by offering a complementary notarization, again, to simplify that process.
And another is we need to educate ourselves internally. We need to understand what the digital gaps are so that how do we know what to work towards if we don’t understand where the current lay of the land is? So at the time of this recording as we’re speaking right now, it is Digital Inclusion Week, which was started by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. It’s an annual campaign to raise awareness of digital empowerment gaps in equity. And in order to think about how we can move the needle in this area, it’s important for our team members at Notarize to understand the issues, terminology, and data behind digital gap. So we’ve been working on that. We did this last year and then we’ve been working with them this year as well.
Alcynna Lloyd: Thank you for sharing that with us. I didn’t know about that and so I’m sure our audience is really excited to hear about that as well to you. That’s wonderful. All right. So before we wrap today, I wanted to know if there’s any advice you can offer to other women who aspire to your level of success? This is my favorite question.
Nicole Booth: It’s tough, right? You know, I’ve been really fortunate to have some amazing leaders and mentors both men and women in my life and I’m grateful for that village of family, friends, team members, and women pioneers who paved the way. So I think, you know, through their support and empowerment, the one piece of advice that I’ve learned from my village is to use your voice. Whether it’s to advocate for a mentee or someone you’re sponsoring as you uplift others, whether it’s to ask questions to advance policy internally or externally of your organization, your personal or your work life, or whether you have the world’s best idea or it becomes a learning experience in the process, if you’re not using your voice, you’re doing yourself and others a disservice and you’ll learn a lot more about who you are and where you want to go in life but then also about others in the community that you’re in when you do use it.
Alcynna Lloyd: Wow. Well, thank you for using your voice today and joining us on our show.
Nicole Booth: Wonderful. Thank you for having me.
Alcynna Lloyd: Of course. Listeners, thank you for listening in and join us next Tuesday for another great interview with a Woman of Influence. Until then, tune in tomorrow for an interview with our host, Matthew Blake, HousingWire’s senior real estate reporter. You won’t want to miss out.