08/17/2016

ALTA Develops Tools to Help Comply With FinCEN Order to Identify Money-laundering Schemes

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on July 27 announced new Geographic Targeting Orders temporarily requiring all U.S. title insurance companies to identify the individuals behind companies used to conduct high-end, all-cash real estate transactions in six major jurisdictions. The GTOs are effective for 180 days beginning on Aug. 28 and apply to underwriters’ subsidiaries and agents. Click here for more on the order.

ALTA has created several documents to help title professionals comply with FinCEN’s order.

In addition, ALTA has created a handout that title professionals can provide to real estate professionals to explain the GTO:

Fincen_GTO_real_estate_agents

The Future of the Title Company

Staff

 

By George Holler and Dan Mennenoh

Any small-sized title agency will tell you, it’s all about your people. The big firms have the decisive edge when it comes to marketing dollars, MBA management and high-end technology, but you have something they don’t—the personal service that your people provide. We are getting it from all sides, including greater regulation, higher compliance costs and squeezed margins. Smaller firms need to double down on the real value they bring to the market, and that value rests with your own people. 

This session will lead you through the successful strategies we have used to create teams that work.  Dan Mennenoh ITP, is president of H.B. Wilkinson Title Co. An ALTA Board Governor and ALTA president-elect, Mr. Mennenoh has been in the title insurance business for over 34 years. He is a second-generation title professional and his daughter, Devon Irby, is now the third generation in the family business. Their company has nine locations that service northwest Illinois, southwest Wisconsin and much of Iowa. 

Attorney George Holler is the managing partner at Holler Law Firm LLC.  A frequent contributor to the Connecticut Law Tribune, Holler has spoken at national real estate conferences, participated in the drafting of the Uniform Law Commission’s Home Foreclosure Procedures Act, and currently manages a multi-state law firm which primarily services national title agencies in attorney states.

Getting the most from your team requires open communication, leadership and enrollment. Your team needs to believe in what you do as a company and understand how they contribute to the company’s success. One generation of title professionals is reaching retirement—how will you replace your key performers?  A new generation approaches work with a different world view—how will you maximize the strengths of these millennials and incorporate their differences?  In this one-hour session, Mennenoh and Holler will share how they have shifted the cultures of their organizations—what’s working and what’s not. You will learn, from their own experiences, how they retain key employees and on board new staff.      

George Holler and Dan Mennenoh will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled "The Future of the Title Company" during ALTA's Annual Convention. Click here to register.

5 Reasons to Explain Owner’s Title Insurance to a Seller

Peaceofmind

 

By Joe Grabas, Lynn Hightower-Moore and Elizabeth Wysong-Berg

Join the HOP Players in the interactive production of the timeless Western, “Pale Closer.” In this story, the mysterious, but informative, Pale Closer helps to protect Ms. Sarah Seller and Ms. Bonnie Buyer from bad advice being given about the importance of an Owner’s Policy being provided in a seller pay state.

We will explore ways your agency can effectively communicate to the Owner and Seller the importance of the owners policy, why early communication eases the stress of a sale, how communication about owners policies protects your agency, and ways to handle the “optional” discussion. All of this leads to peace of mind for all parties and potential additional business for your agency.

Will Sarah agree to pay for Bonnie’s Owner’s Policy? Will Bonnie understand what was purchased for her?  Will Pale Closer be able to provide everyone with a peace of mind? Come find out with us!

Joe Grabas is Director of Grabas Institute for Continuing Education. He can be reached at jgrabas@continuingeducationnj.com. Lynn Hightower-Moore is Managing Member of Common Bond Title, LLC. She can be reached at Lynn@CommonBondTitle.com. Elizabeth Wysong-Berg is NE Region Underwriting Counsel of Agents National Title Insurance Company. She can be reached at eberg@agentstitle.com. Grabas, Hightower-Moore and Wysong-Berg will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled "5 Reasons to Explain Owner's Title Insurance to a Seller" during ALTA's Annual Convention. Click here to register.

The Anatomy of Local Commercial Deals

Commdeal

 

By Nancy Landmark

Commercial transactions are fundamentally different from residential transactions in two key respects:  the amount of risk being assumed and the demands of the customers. It is important to remember that while the lure of a big payday is tempting, it must be tempered with a solid understanding of what is involved in commercial transactions. 

Often, real estate is only tangential to the “real” transaction that the parties are focused on. As a result, title considerations are often delayed and must be addressed with rapid fire response, based on a solid understanding of the title policy and endorsement coverage available. Unlike residential transactions, there is a great deal of negotiation involved in providing title insurance and settlement services in a commercial transaction. Details of both cost and coverage are subject to minute review.

Commercial transactions may have a “shelf-life” in your office of as little as a few days, or it may be closer to a decade. As a result, making an impression in the commercial title insurance marketplace takes more than a pricing strategy, it requires careful thought about staffing and resources, as well as ongoing research and education—bout the product we sell, the services we offer and real estate title law in the jurisdiction where the property is located. 

The key to success lies in building the best team for your foray into commercial transactions and equipping them with the tools and other resources to succeed. Your team should consist of a closer who is used to, and comfortable with, complex transactions; an examiner who is competent with full title examination skills and understands the criteria that must be used when examining title to various interests in real estate, including easements and leases; someone with solid knowledge and underwriting experience with respect to endorsements and policy coverage; and (if you are an agent), a strong partner at your title insurer to provide guidance, clarity and necessary approvals for your transactions.

Nancy Landmark is Senior Title Counsel for Commercial Partners Title, LLC. She can be reached at nancyl@cptitle.com. Landmark will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled "The Anatomy of Local Commercial Deals" during ALTA's Annual Convention. Click here to register.

How to Strengthen Your Security in a Cost-effective Manner   

Protectdata

    

By Matthew Froning and Christopher Gulotta

Striving to be a data secure company does not necessarily mean spending a ton of money. You can strengthen your security posture through “quick wins” and by instilling a sense of urgency from the top-down in your office culture.

A one-time payment for creating and implementing policies and procedures is a small cost that will set the stage for a more compliant and secure environment. Having guidelines in place shows lenders, auditors and regulators that you’ve created a baseline for compliance and articulates for staff, what the new compliance-oriented requirements are. Making sure your employees are armed with the knowledge to safeguard NPI and become more wary of various risks will go a long way in creating a more secure environment. Keeping items such as passwords complex and file cabinets locked are just some of the actions you can take that have no cost.  Policies and procedures not only help to prevent a data breach by enacting a level of security compliance staff should uphold, but in the event of a breach, can help a company avoid a severe loss of data by guiding a company on how to react in an efficient manner.

Training employees is a small cost that can strategically enhance a company's compliance posture. Remember, you are only as strong as your weakest link, and because humans are the greatest single risk vector in the security world, training all staff will help prevent human error or negligence from being the cause of a breach. Training can be in the form of online web-based training, speakers or free literature provided by ALTA, the FTC and CFPB.

Employee training and strong policies and procedures are the smartest and most cost-effective strategies your company can take to avoid a security breach and ensure compliance with federal and state laws, rules and regulations, and are a great first step in the compliance journey.

Matthew Froning is Chief Information Officer at Security Compliance Associates, Inc. He can be reached at mfroning@scasecurity.com. Christopher Gulotta is CEO and Founder of Real Estate Data Shield. He can be reached at cgulotta@redatashield.com. Froning and Gulotta will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled "Protecting Customers Data Doesn’t Have to Cost an Arm and a Leg" during ALTA's Annual Convention. Click here to register.

Best Practices Manual is Not a Rotisserie Oven

Infinity

 

By Nancy Gusman and David Townsend

Ron Popeil was famous for selling his rotisserie ovens with the catch phrase, “Set it, and forget it!” If you do that with your ALTA Best Practices Manual, you are destined for failure. ALTA Best Practices was designed as a program to demonstrate evidence of a complaint environment. This in ongoing process, not a snapshot in time.

Lenders require a certain level of compliance from their vendors. Not just today, tomorrow, or next week, but as long as they are doing business with you. The expectation is that they could walk in unannounced, pick up your Best Practices Manual, and do a spot check of your procedures and see how you are doing. If you are not doing this yourself, then you should implement a program to review and update your procedures. Also, staff training is critical to making sure that what you set up actually gets done.

It is critical to perform evaluations on your policies and procedures to insure that they are being followed, and that they are still valid. It is worse to have procedures and not follow them, than to not have any at all. So now that you have your Best Practices Manual, what do you do with it?

First, we would recommend that you attend “Aligning to Comply” at the ALTA Annual Convention in October. We will present an Engagement Lab that will help you set expectations with your staff and implement training to insure that compliance is a focus. We will have an interactive discussion on how to take the next step in your evolution as a compliant title company. Join us to lean how you can maintain evidence of a complaint environment after you have established your Best Practices policies and procedures.

Nancy Gusman NTP is the owner of Brick House Title LLC. She can be reached at ngusman@brickhousetitle.com. David Townsend NTP is CEO of Agents National Title insurance Company. He can be reached at dtownsend@agentstitle.com. Gusman and Townsend will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled "Aligning to Comply" during ALTA's Annual Convention. Click here to register.

Top 5 Things to Prepare Internally Prior to a Third-Party Assessment

Topfive

 

By P. Kim McConkey

You have been working diligently to become ALTA Best Practices compliant, and you are almost ready for a third-party assessment. How do you prepare yourself internally? This Market Talk will focus on the key steps that you should take to make that assessment run smoothly and quickly.

By attending this Market Talk, you will greatly increase your ability to undergo a third-party assurance certification in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. In turn, you will have an assessment report that you can give to your current lenders to stay on their “Approved List” and can share with prospective lenders to grow your business.

Kim McConkey is Partner in Charge of ALTA BP Assurance Services at Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC. He can be reached at kmcconkey@cricpa.com. McConkey will speak more in depth about this topic during a Market Talk titled "Top 5 Things to Prepare Internally Prior to a 3rd Party Assessment" during ALTA's Annual Convention. Click here to register.

08/04/2016

Connecting With Consumers: ALTA’s Manifesto

ALTA_MANIFESTOAs part of its Homebuyer Outreach Program (HOP), ALTA created the Homebuyer Guide to help members easily communicate the benefit of owner’s title insurance to homeowners, real estate agents, lenders and others.

Included in the Homebuyer Guide is more than 60 free resources, including blog content, sample social media content, marketing one-pagers, rack cards, print advertisements, rich-media ads and Power Point presentations. ALTA members have exclusive access to all of the material.

A popular item among ALTA members across the country is the ALTA Manifesto. The Manifesto in an inspirational piece highlighting many of the valuable services the industry performs to provide peace of mind to the consumer. This resource can be printed as a flyer or poster.

Some ALTA member companies have hung the Manifesto inside their lobbies and outside of their office buildings.

Recently, Maureen Pfaff, general manager and chief financial officer for Olympic Peninsula Title Co. in Washington, used the Manifesto as inspiration for a radio advertisement. You can listen to Olympic Peninsula Title's ad here:

August_2016_Protectors_General

ALTA also has developed an exclusive on-demand print service as part of HOP that allows members to easily customize marketing resources, download modified digital files for free or order discounted print products for use in their local market. To customize, print or download material, go to ALTAprints.com.

How are you are connecting with consumers and using the content in ALTA’s Homebuyer Guide?

07/28/2016

5 Things to Know About ALTA’s Best Practices Maturity Model

ALTA’s Best Practices Maturity Model introduces an alternative method of reporting the results of your company’s Best Practices assessment. But what are the most important things to know about this new tool? Check out the graphic below to learn more!

5 Things - web

 

The a public comment period for the Maturity Model ended July 29. Comments will be considered before the Maturity Model is finalized and becomes effective Oct. 7.

To learn more about the Maturity Model, register for ALTA's Annual Convention. The session titled "The Ins and Outs of ALTA's Best Practices Maturity Model" will discuss how your company can use it to elevate its procedures to meet the Best Practices.

 

07/22/2016

Share Your Thoughts: Best Practices Comment Period Ends July 29

Bestpractices

ALTA’s Board of Governors on June 9 approved proposed changes to the association’s “Title Insurance and Settlement Company Best Practices” to better reflect market needs and trends. In addition, ALTA’s Best Practices Executive and Internal Auditing committees created the Best Practices Maturity Model to help companies evaluate their policies and procedures to ease adoption of Best Practices. Read on to learn how you can provide comments by the July 29 deadline.

All three of the following proposals are under public comment. All comments made during this period will be considered until the proposals go into effect Oct. 7. Your input is essential to ensure that all ALTA services are optimized for members.

These proposed changes include modifications to better reflect contemporary marketplace trends and common business practices. Click here to find a redline of changes to the Best Practices.

This proposed revision to the ALTA Best Practices Assessment Procedures clarifies areas of confusion and better reflects how agents operate. Click here to find a redline of changes to the Best Practices Assessment Procedure.

This new tool allows title companies to determine where they are in their development toward full Best Practices compliance by measuring progress against benchmark compliance levels. ALTA has provided a Maturity Model Guide for answers to the most frequently asked questions and more information. As a note, the Maturity Model does not invalidate any assessment a company may have already received.

Please submit all comments to bestpractices@alta.org.