Kelly Purcell, digital mortgage pioneer, dies at 58

Kelly Purcell, an advocate for the digital mortgage movement, died on Feb. 6 at the age of 58.

Purcell was a pioneer of electronic signature technology, co-founding SignOnline in 1999, a year before the federal legalization of e-signatures. Since October 2018, Purcell served as NotaryCam’s EVP of marketing and business development.

SignOnline — later renamed eSignSystems — still lives on. It was acquired by Wave Systems in 2001 and again by DocMagic in 2014. The company’s survival is a testament to Purcell’s vision and tenacity, friends and industry veterans said. She committed herself to bettering an industry ripe for innovation and refused to quit, they added.

“Kelly was my go-to whenever I was weary,” Nancy Alley, SignOnline co-founder and vice president of strategic planning at Simplifile, said in an interview. “I remember Jonathan [Kearns] and I were starting to see hope expire a little bit. She just looked at us and it was non-negotiable. She literally became Annette Bening in American Beauty saying, ‘I will sell this house today.”

Purcell made her first foray into lending at GE Mortgage Insurance Group in 1989. Over the years, she heavily involved herself in several industry groups, including the Mortgage Bankers Association, Electronic Signature and Records Association and Progress in Lending Association. She canvassed for new ideas and prioritized thought leadership over bureaucracy. In 2009, eSignSystems won Mortgage Technology Magazine’s Lasting Impact Award.

“To call Kelly Purcell a pioneer is an understatement. eSignatures are a part of our daily lives today but back in the early 2000’s it was such an unknown and considered a risk factor, especially in the mortgage industry,” said Jonathan Kearns, SignOnline co-founder and associate vice president at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “For years we evangelized and moved the needle forward on eMortgages, no one did it better than Kelly. Having an eVault was even more unheard of but from the beginning we knew maintaining the integrity of digital assets would be as important as eSignatures.”

Tim Anderson, SVP and director of digital strategy at MortgageConnect, posted the news of Purcell’s passing on LinkedIn to an outpouring of sympathies from around the mortgage world. Anderson and Purcell met in 1999 and stayed friends ever since.

Purcell’s loyalty and ability to form true connections will be a huge part of her legacy, Alley added.

“She would take anybody in the industry interested in mortgages or E-signatures under her wing, share what she knew, introduce them to the right people and help them find jobs,” Alley said. “She was the best salesperson I’ve ever met. She just had that great connection with people. She was very loyal to her peers in the industry, but loyal to her family above all else.”

Purcell is survived by her daughter, Rachel, her mother, two sisters, three nieces and two nephews.