07/25/2017

Convert Your Customers into Influencers

By Elizabeth M. Russo

Have you claimed your business on YELP? Do you have consistent feedback from customers online? Do you know the most effective strategies for obtaining reviews from your best customers?

We can all easily name the customers who regularly refer us business and tell their colleagues why they love our team, but how can we get this same recognition online?  81% of the US population has a social media profile and over 70% of consumers trust peer review sites. It is a necessity for modern businesses to build their presence online through the same word of mouth connections that have helped them for years.

Managing your online presence is essential in today’s world. Failing to engage on social media leaves an impression that you don’t care what your customers think about your service.  You could even be completely unaware of negative feedback circulating about your business. Promoting your positive business connections online puts you in control of your businesses reputation.

“When we are closed to ideas, what we hear is criticism. When we are open to criticism, what we get is advice.”

–Simon Sinek, best-selling author

Social media marketing is still new for many title professionals who spend their day resolving title issues.  That’s why a successful marketing plan must include the participation of all team members, not just the dedicated “sales people”.  For a business to thrive, the entire team should be engaged with customers in all platforms.

During thisALTA ONE engagement lab, we hope to bring title professionals together to share advice on engaging with your customers, asking for reviews, responding to negative reviews, and maximizing the benefits of having loyal and happy customers advocate on your behalf!

 

Elizabeth Russo is the managing member of MCP Title Services, LLC and has a passion for helping title professionals meet the needs of today’s customers. Russo will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “Convert Your Customers into Influencers” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

Enhanced Up Selling

By John Haynes

The peace of mind and protection afforded by having an Owner’s Title policy is invaluable. So why doesn’t every home owner have this policy?  One possible reason is that as an industry, we don’t clearly explain the benefits of owning such a policy.  A second possible reason is that insufficient time is given to the consumer to make a decision.

No one really likes to be sold anything.  Even if it is important to them, most people naturally resist being sold.  The other side of that coin is that people love to buy stuff.  Even stuff they don’t need.

So what is the difference?  In the sale scenario, customers often feel that the sales person is more interested in making the sale than in listening to their needs. They become defensive. In a buy scenario, customers are guided to see the value in what they are buying. They feel the buy decision is theirs.  When the consumer is made to feel this way, they are less defensive and more willing to listen to features and benefits.

Those who are most successful in using the buy scenario have developed two important skills.  They have learned to ask relevant, open ended questions and to listen to understand.  Asking open ended questions allows them to collect information that can be useful later in the conversation, or later in the relationship.  Listening to understand allows them to focus and concentrate on the customer’s needs.  By doing these two things, it increases the likelihood of the customer reaching the buy decision.

The final key to success in getting your customer to buy is giving them sufficient time to decide.  Suggesting they purchase an Owner’s Policy at the closing table is in no one’s best interest.  Suggesting they purchase this insurance when they open their transaction and giving them material to read and research, allows them time to ask any questions they may have. This in turn creates a greater likelihood of them seeing the value in an Owner’s Policy and making the buy decision; giving them better protection, and growing your bottom line.

 

For the past fifteen years, John has worked as a coach and consultant to the title industry and is the owner of Make Sales Happen, a business development consulting company. Haynes will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “Enhanced Up Selling” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

07/21/2017

Marketing with Your Real Estate Partners: The Non-MSA Way…So, What Can I Do?

By Dawn Lewallen and Sharon Sluder Risch

With all of the buzz surrounding how to market and advertise with your real estate partners in compliance with RESPA, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of questions about what you can do to connect with customers. Join us at ALTA ONE for this interactive session where you will enter the courtroom of Judges Lewallen and Risch.  After providing a recap of RESPA and the impact of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s enforcement actions, the judges will divide you into jury teams! Each team will be presented with a series of RESPA scenarios for deliberation and your jury team will be asked to render a verdict on their compliance – breaking down what you can and cannot do under RESPA.  This high energy, competitive session will teach you how to market with your real estate partners – without violating the law. Prizes will be given to the top two jury teams.

 

Dawn Lewallen is a Senior Compliance Counsel for federal regulations and a Senior Underwriter in the national Legal Department of Stewart Title Guaranty. Sharon Sluder Risch is a Vice President and Director of Marketing and Business Development for Trident Land Transfer. Both regulation and industry experts will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “Marketing with Your Real Estate Partners: The Non-MSA Way…So, What Can I Do?” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

New Tech Creates New Risks

By Marjorie R. Bardwell, Justin L. Earley, and Alan B. Fields

The title world has changed.  The quill pen was replaced by a typewriter, then by a fancy memory typewriter.  A short time later, computers replaced the memory typewriter.  Clerks’ records went from bound books, to microfilm to being readily available online at your desk.  Title plants no longer have that musty smell of old books and maps, or the glare of microfiche readers.  Each technological advancement enhanced our efficiency, and changed the way we do things.

Now,  we’re about to make the biggest change of all – moving from physically signed paper deeds, mortgages and promissory notes to electronically signed, electronically notarized e-documents with closings conducted by video-links across the country.  Promoters are promising great efficiencies, and huge savings – and they may well be right. 

But the question remains, have the laws caught up with the technology?  Do the relatively “ancient” real estate laws governing what it takes to have a valid conveyance or mortgage have enough flexibility to work with 21st century technology?

At this year’s ALTA ONE, you’ll hear three industry experts discuss how the law has – and hasn’t – kept up with the technology, and what they are doing to fix it.

 

Marjorie R. Bardwell is Vice President and Director of Underwriting Services for Fidelity National Title Group, Inc. Justin L. Earley is a Vice President in the Corporate Underwriting Department of First American Title Insurance Company. Alan B. Fields is Senior Vice President and Director of Underwriting Service for WFG National Title Insurance. All three title industry experts will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “New Tech Creates New Risks” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

Building the Right Foundation for Your Team

By James M. Czapiga 

Leading by example.  Change comes from the top. Behavior breeds behavior. We’ve heard these kinds of sayings before. But what does it truly mean to change the culture of an organization from one that’s “process or rules focused” to one where the focus is solely on the stakeholder? How is that done?

 “Changing company culture requires a movement, not a mandate.”
- Harvard Business Review

In our session, we will discuss how everyday actions of a company’s leadership team can help transform a company’s culture to focus on achieving goals by walking the walk and talking the talk. Create the movement!

Core values, bottom-up communication and transparency, employee empowerment, polling of stakeholders on improving interactions with the company, and ways to unleash the power and potential of employees will be the topics covered in this interactive session.  

 

A 20-year veteran of the title industry James M. Czapiga has experience in claims administration, underwriting, sale, and operations management. Currently, he is the President and CEO of CATIC. Czapiga will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “Building the Right Foundation for Your Team” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

Beyond Customer Service: Growing Your Business in Today’s Market

By Dr. Cynthia A. McGovern

It wasn’t all that long ago that waiting for the cable guy was an all-day commitment. Remember? They’d be there “sometime between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.”

Or you’d sit on your phone, staring at your PC’s “blue screen of death,” waiting on hold as the 26th person in line, for two minutes of tech support from a grumpy IT person.

Well, that’s not how the world works anymore. Successful businesses have enhanced the customer experience with new technology, whittling down those eight-hour windows and replacing time spent on hold with live chats or call-back options.

Similarly, your clients are no longer satisfied to sit around and wait for transactions and communication about those transactions that used to take days or even weeks. Their expectations have changed, and if you haven’t changed with them, you’d better.

It all starts with knowing their needs. Keeping abreast of what your customers want and expect is an ongoing and full-time occupation. If you had a good understanding of it last year, all that means is that you’re running behind---it’s time to catch up!

You need to do more than just sell to your customers---you need to create a relationship with them, and understand not just how to “fill the order” or “do the work,” but to satisfy the needs that drive the orders and work.

How do you find that out? Well, there are dozens of communication tools at your disposal, far more than even just a couple of years ago, and there’ll be more yet by the end of the decade.

Are you and your team familiar with these tools? Do you know how your customers communicate? How they would prefer to communicate?   

Do you have a professional social media presence? And strategy? Hint: it’s more than posting recipes on Facebook.

And even more importantly---do you have someone monitoring what everyone else out there is saying about you?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. But with a measured, methodical and strategic approach to gaining new business, and maintaining (and increasing!) current accounts, you can position yourself for the continued growth you need to remain successful and profitable.

Because the bar gets higher every day---and you’d better be able to reach it!

 

Dr. Cynthia A. McGovern is the First Lady of Sales at Orange Leaf Consulting. McGovern will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “Beyond Customer Service; Growing Your Business in Today’s Market” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

Make Your Customer the First Line of Defense

By Thomas Cronkright

Cyber fraud is unhinged and has hit an epic level in real estate transactions.  Wire fraud activity increased 480% last year in the title industry alone and cyber crime is estimated to reach $2T by the end of 2019.  To put this in perspective, only eight countries in the world are expected to have GDP above $2T this year.

Cyber criminals are successfully using phishing scams to gain access to the email accounts of trusted parties in a transaction (agents, lenders and title providers) to introduce last minute changes to the funding process so that the buyer and/or seller will transfer funds to fraudulent company accounts.  Most customers are easily tricked and nearly defenseless from these sophisticated acts of crime.

What’s the solution?  It’s a layered approach that must include transforming our clients from fraud targets into strong allies who can help prevent fraud. 

This engaging ALTA ONE session will dive deep into the following topics:

  • Improving internet hygiene;
  • Layering security to lower risk profiles;
  • Seeing fraud before it starts;
  • Do’s and Don’ts for communication; and
  • Things that will “never happen” during a transaction

With the help of our customers, we can reduce fraud and turn our focus back to creating a great closing experience.  Each participant will leave with a Top 10 Fraud Prevention Tips that can be shared with all agents, lenders, buyers and sellers to protect against fraud.

 

Thomas Cronkright is the co-founder and CEO of Sun Title, one of the largest commercial and residential title agencies in Michigan. Cronkright will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled "Stop Fraudsters In Their Tracks" at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

Know Your Customer: The Homeowner’s Dilemma and Why Generation Y Matters More Than Ever

By Mark Fleming

“Homeowners may feel imprisoned by the mortgage rate on their own home. So instead of moving, a nice kitchen renovation may seem more appealing."

It may be hard to believe, but the Great Recession ended more than 8 years ago. Since then, the housing market has slowly recovered in most markets. But, two very important things for the housing market have quietly happened as well -- mortgage interest rates have bottomed out and Millennials have grown up.

For perspective, consider that the housing market has experienced a long-run decline in mortgage rates from a high of 18 percent for the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage in 1981 to a low of almost 3 percent in 2012. Today, five years later, mortgage rates remain just a stone’s throw away from that historic low point. This long-run decline in rates facilitated a turnover incentive engine that encouraged existing homeowners to both move more often and to refinance more often, in many cases refinancing multiple times between each move. First-time home buyers? Who needs them when move-up buyers and refinances generated the majority of real estate transactions.

 

Mark fleming pic jpeg

 

So, now what? Economists are supposed to give forecasts. Here’s mine. Mortgage rates will rise further. Shocking, right? 

Yet, this is more important than we may even realize because the housing market has not operated in a rising rate environment in almost three decades! No longer is there a financial incentive to refinance for most homeowners, and there’s more to consider when moving. Why move when it will cost more each month to borrow the same amount from the bank? Yes, you can re-extend your term for another 30 years, but there was a hope to have the mortgage paid off at some point, right? Homeowners may feel imprisoned by the mortgage rate on their own home. So, instead of moving, a nice kitchen renovation may seem more appealing.

No refinance business and fewer existing homeowners are moving. Wait, maybe we do need those first-time homebuyers! But Millennials don’t want to buy homes; they are saddled with student loan debt and are inexplicably behaviorally different than their Baby Boomer parents.

Mark Twain said “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Maybe there’s more to this Millennial first-time demand story than we know for sure. After all, in the years ahead, first-time homebuyer demand may be our single largest source of business.

 

Mark Fleming is the Chief Economist for First American Title Insurance Company. Fleming will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled "Know Your Customer: The Homeowner's Dilemma and Generation Why" at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

07/18/2017

Are You Vulnerable to This Hacking Attack?

By Dominic Fahey

Can you spot the imposter?  Don’t feel bad if you cannot, many Democratic National Committee (DNC) employees couldn’t either.

Fake signage

Whether you believe the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was hacked by Russians or a four-hundred pound guy from New Jersey, there is little dispute in the Information Security community on the methodology used. The cybercriminals did not discover a previously unknown flaw in the Microsoft Windows operating system; they exploited the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain – the person behind the keyboard. In a modern twist on a classic confidence scam, hackers were able to fool DNC employees to hand over the keys to the digital kingdom – their passwords.

The cybercriminals sent phishing emails to thousands of DNC employees purporting to be from their email service provider, Google, claiming that the employee’s email had been compromised and that they should reset his/her password. When an unsuspecting DNC employee is conned into believing his email has been compromised, he clicks on the link in the email and is sent to a website that appears to be Google but is actually controlled by the criminals. The counterfeit email and websites were very good forgeries. As with many things digital, it is not difficult to produce an exact copy of Google’s logo, font and password reset webpage. 

Google’s standard sign-in page is located at https://accounts.google.com. In this case, the hacker registered a similarly spelled domain – https://accounts-google.com. (Figure 2) Notice the subtle difference in the ‘.’ and ‘-’ after ‘https://accounts’. This minor change makes all the difference in cyberspace. Also, note the hacker’s use of the encrypted hypertext transfer protocol (HTTPS).  HTTPS is a standard on the Internet to encrypt communication between parties like banks, retailers and their customers. The problem is that, while the communication between a server and the web browser may be encrypted, HTTPS does not ensure the veracity of the identity of the server. That is to say, just because the server appears to be related to Google, HTTPS does not ensure that it is. 

Domain

Furthering the con, the mark’s email address is prepopulated in the email address field on the spoofed password reset page. Upon entering his password and clicking reset, the mark is redirected to the actual Google password reset page none the wiser that his password was stored by the hacker in the background. 

With a DNC employee’s username and password, the hackers were able to download every email ever sent or received by the individual. Unfortunately, it appears a number of DNC employees fell prey to this scam. 

Other People’s Money

Real estate industry participants including settlement service providers, attorneys, real estate agents, homebuyers and sellers are vulnerable to similar attacks. Hackers have discovered that once they get access to real estate industry members’ email credentials, they may be successful in convincing real estate transaction parties to divert funds sent via the US Federal Reserve Banks’ Fedwire (AKA wire transfer) system with forged wire instructions. 

Prevention

Sadly, Information Security experts warned of this exact phishing attack against Google users as early as 2014. Had the DNC read Symantec’s warning, they may have taken steps to protect their employees. 

Practically any unsuspecting email user could become a victim of a similar phishing technique.  Google is not particularly vulnerable, this could happen to the likes of Microsoft, Apple, AOL or Comcast users. Below are some steps you can take to prevent:

  • Train your associates to have healthy skepticism regarding any incoming emails, especially those with shortened URLs/links or a call to action to type in a username and/or password.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on every account that offers it.
  • Never re-use passwords between sites, especially sites with confidential information like your email or financial service providers.

Shortened URL/Links

URL/Link shortening services came into existence in the early 2000’s to make it easier for people to deal with long links on the WWW such as http://www.njlta.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/78584-Advocate_Spring_Digital2017.pdf.  One such popular service is Bitly. When clicking on a registered link, such as http://bit.ly/2ppAFV7, users are redirected to the last copy of the New Jersey Land Title Association's Advocate. While shortened links have advantages, they can also be used by fraudsters to hide attacks. For example, a user cannot easily determine if the shortened link will redirect them to the official Google website or the imposter; such was the case in the DNC email hack. 

Two-Factor Authentication

Single-factor authentication grants access based on a password alone. If your password is stolen, a fraudster could be granted access. Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report found that “sixty-three percent (63%) of confirmed data breaches involve using weak, default or stolen passwords.” Two-factor authentication (2FA) gives an extra layer of security by requiring a second mechanism to prove identity in addition to a password. This second factor could be a number sent to your cell phone or a generated on a hardware token or an app on your mobile device. 

You may be utilizing 2FA in your everyday life and not realize it. That PIN number you use with your debit or ATM card, or that RSA SecurID hardware token you utilize to sign into your banking website – both are examples of two factors for authentication.

Security experts recommend enabling 2FA on all services that offer it.  Many online providers including Google, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo offer 2FA. Had the DNC enabled 2FA on their Google email service, it is possible that WikiLeaks would not have had anything to publish. For more information, on enabling 2FA on your accounts, check out the site https://www.turnon2fa.com/

Password Reuse

Did you ever register for a Myspace account?  Did you happen to use your “regular password” and have long since forgotten about the site?  Well your password reuse may come back to haunt you. In 2016, over 300 million usernames and passwords for Myspace were discovered on a hacker forum. It would not be difficult for hackers to test those usernames and password combinations with the popular providers like Google, Apple and Microsoft to see if any are successful. 

If remembering complex and unique passwords for every site is the last thing you want to do, take a look at a password manager such as Dashlane or LastPass. But if you do, be sure to enable 2FA on that password manager otherwise your emails could end up as fodder for WikiLeaks or even worse, involved in wire fraud.

Dominic Fahey, senior vice president of strategy & corporate development for North American Title Group, is a Bruce Springsteen fan who does title insurance, in that order. He can be reached at dfahey@nat.com.

 

Survey: Developing Cyber-savvy Workforce Vital to Reducing Risk

One in five U.S. organizations that participated in the Willis Towers Watson 2017 Cyber Risk Surveys reported that a cyber breach in the last year with 6 percent of those incidents having been significant, consistent with publicized recent large cyber breaches. 

Willis Towers Watson carried out web-based surveys with 163 U.S. employers and with over 2,000 employees. A quarter of these employees work in a corporate IT function.

“Creating a culture of cybersecurity and building a cyber-savvy workforce is of key importance to effectively manage the people, capital and technology risks across every organization,” the company reported in its survey results. “Cybersecurity is a challenge and part of a journey toward mitigating risk involving human error and improving operating procedures.

To date, technological responses have led the way. However, growing recognition of the human element in cyber risk means that most companies that responded to the survey expect to focus more heavily on operating procedures and creating a more cyber-savvy workforce in the months and years to come.

And with good reason it would seem. Willis Towers Watson’s recent Cyber Claims Database shows that by far the largest proportion of cyber claims reported to insurers stems from employees’ actions, or collective inaction.

Claims by breach

The concurrent employee view of the survey appears to offer some explanation for the claim statistics, by showing a disconnect between cyber awareness and accountability of the workforce and organization’s views of their preparedness.

Toward a Culture of Cybersecurity

While most companies feel they are on the right track in terms of data privacy and information security, many say they are looking to create a culture of cybersecurity in their organization. Most admit, however, to being currently on the lower rungs of the ladder to reach this goal, although they have aspirations to climb it quickly. Over half have no formally articulated cyber strategy now, but over 80% want to be in a position of having embedded cyber risk management within the company culture within three years

So, how will they get there? The unequivocal answer is by making more progress on improving business and operating processes and on addressing factors tied to human error or actions.

Figure two progress

Business-related activities expected to figure prominently in companies’ plans include more stringent reviews of contractors and third-party suppliers and testing of emergency response plans. To offset risk, a large majority of companies are also reviewing or adding to their cyber insurance coverage as the available market has expanded, with the higher levels of activity seen in the U.S. so far reflecting the fact that American companies have historically bought more of this type of cover, compared to European companies that have tended to focus more on business interruption and continuity. Fifty four percent of U.S. companies have added to or enhanced cyber coverage in the last two years.

Two thirds of companies have also already taken steps to centralize data privacy and information security. Two thirds of companies have also already taken steps to centralize data privacy and information security. This may account for most companies believing they have or need appropriate levels of corporate support and clear lines of responsibility for data privacy and information security—leaving more to do on supporting processes and employee engagement.

Among the specific people-related actions that companies expect to take in the next couple of years, training programs for both employees and contract workers frequently top the agenda.

Does Employee Behavior Match Company Policy?

As companies adapt their cybersecurity approaches to more actively address people risks, they will of course need employees to step up to the plate and play their part.

Combining the results of our employee and employer surveys shows they have some work to do here, including doing more in some cases to create and maintain an environment in which employees are comfortable reporting data privacy and security incidents.

One dangerous but apparently common belief among employees is that the company’s IT and security systems are the ultimate protector. Even though a significant majority of companies feel they are doing what they need to in setting up and communicating robust protection systems, policies and processes, the message does not always resonate, judging by some current employee behaviors. Around 40% use a work computer or cellular device to access confidential company information and discuss work-related topics in public places. About 30% admit to logging in to a work device on an unsecured public network or using a work computer in public settings. Roughly 25% take confidential paper files home and use unapproved devices to do work at home. Some employee attitudes toward opening email attachments, changing passwords regularly and sharing personal information, such as employer name and job title, on social media sites may also leave companies more vulnerable, particularly to social engineering, where cyber criminals use impersonation techniques to trick employees into divulging confidential information or data.

Given these findings, there certainly seems to be a need to more closely assess the reasons why employees continue to engage in risk producing behaviors.

A root cause may be that nearly half of U.S. employees surveyed said they spent less than 30 minutes on data protection and information security training last year. Around 60% said they had only completed any training because it was a company requirement, although many claimed to have derived some knowledge and benefit from whatever they had done.

Segmenting Employees

Such results inevitably lead to employees with different levels of understanding, accountability or engagement with cyber risk management. It may benefit companies, therefore, to segment their awareness training and other learning tools in order to refine an approach for different groups of employees/workers. For example, executive-level employees may need more training on confidential corporate information and use of company devices while traveling in foreign countries, while HR training may focus primarily on protection of employee data.

From the responses to a range of questions on the employee survey, we have defined four types of employees according to how they use technology at work or at home.

  • Alert – those who protect personal information in daily life and are aware of information security at work.
  • Comply – those who follow data/information protection policies at work but are careless on a personal level.
  • Ignore – those who pay attention to protecting personal information, but who don’t act with the same care at work.
  • Unconcerned – those whose technology usage patterns at home and work may lead to potential cyber risks.

Figure 4 characteristics

Conclusion: Beyond Technology

The findings from our surveys signal a shift in cybersecurity strategies. Although companies still think there is more work to do on technological responses, most feel they are broadly on track and making progress in addressing potential weaknesses in their IT infrastructure.

Attention is now increasingly turning to the operational- and people-related risks that cyber claims experience shows leave companies exposed to cyber risk even with state-of-the-art technology strategies.

There is growing impetus behind the view that building effective cyber resilience has to have its roots within the organization culture and its people. Solutions are likely to be complex and multidimensional, as is always the case for any kind of cultural change. Certainly, companies may have to adapt their operations to the constantly changing nature of cyber threats. Nor should they ignore the expanding risk mitigation options available through the insurance market. But employers will increasingly look to foster a more cyber-savvy workforce, including the use of innovative employee engagement, talent management and reward strategies, to fortify their cyber security posture.