01/09/2019

Survey: Most Title Companies Have E&O Coverage

More than 95 percent of title companies have errors and omissions (E&O) insurance coverage, according to a nationally representative survey conducted last year by ALTA’s Data & Analytics Work Group. Additionally, almost a quarter have made claims on that insurance over the past five years. (see chart below)

The survey of over 650 title agents nationwide was conducted in February 2018 by ALTA’s Data & Analytics Work Group, a group of agents and underwriters from ALTA’s two section executive committees. The survey asked agents about their experience with different insurance coverages, including E&O, fidelity bonds and cyber insurances. This article is the first in a series designed to offer insight into the various types insurance supporting the title industry.

E&O insurance provides coverage if a client holds you responsible for a service you provided, or failed to provide, that did not have the expected or promised results. There are numerous risks that can warrant protection with an E&O policy. 

The survey found that larger title companies are more likely to have E&O policies. All title companies with more than 50 employees reported having E&O insurance. This compares to 94 percent of title agents with less than 10 employees that have E&O policies.

Additional Findings:

  • The most popular Per Claim coverage amount is $1 million to $2 million. Regardless of their size, the majority of title agents reported Per Claim coverage of more than $1 million, but less than $2 million.
  • Smaller agents appear to prefer smaller Per Claim Deductibles. For example, those agents with less than $2.5 million in annual revenue reported a deductible less than $15,000. However, agents with over $15 million in annual revenue selected various higher deductibles, up to more than $50,000. One possible explanation is larger agents may dedicate more capital or balance sheet to “self-insuring” their risk, indicating an apparent preference for a catastrophic policy approach.

If you require more resources and information about E&O Insurance or other insurance coverages supporting the title industry, you can find them at ALTA’s Marketplace

Ultimately, the decisions around E&O policies are worth exploring with an insurance broker or agent. They can assist you in designing insurance coverage to align your business, its risk, risk tolerance, contract expectations and budget to an appropriate coverage.

Andrew “Andy” Wert, a vice president in the Agency Division at First American Title Insurance Company, serves on ALTA’s Data & Analytics Committee. He can be reached at pwert@firstam.com.

This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of this author, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of this author’s employer, First American Title Insurance Company.

E&O survey chart

12/20/2018

Pitch Perfect: ALTA President Cynthia Durham Blair’s Blend of Attributes Will Guide Industry to Amazing Harmonic Heights

Blair BridgeCynthia Durham Blair NTP always desired to be a professional singer. After high school, she hoped to go to New York City and try her luck on Broadway. “My dad put the kibosh on that and told me I had to get a college degree first,” she said. Broadway’s loss was the title industry’s gain. In October, Blair became the first title professional from South Carolina to serve as ALTA’s president. She’s also the fourth woman to lead the association, following in the footsteps of Cara Detring, Anne Anastasi and Diane Evans.

Described as an eloquent attorney, loving mother, keen entrepreneur, inspirational leader and a trusted friend, Blair’s also someone who’s not afraid to rock out to AC/DC. It’s all these intertwined attributes and invaluable assets that will help ALTA and the industry have the perfect pitch over the next year, capitalizing on opportunities and braving business challenges.

“I am truly privileged to lead such a strong group of title industry professionals who work diligently every day to ensure our customers don’t have to worry about their property rights,” said Blair, who is also a founding member of the law firm Blair Cato Pickren Casterline LLC in South Carolina. “Helping unite our more than 6,300 members and the land title insurance industry under the ALTA umbrella is a job I am humbled to have and one I take seriously.”

Path to Becoming a Title ‘Nerd’

Blair grew up in Columbia, S.C., in the house where her mother still lives. She’s the middle child of three siblings. A younger brother also lives in Columbia. An older sister lives only an hour away near Charlotte. Their father was a commercial real estate broker and developer.

“We started out at a very young age looking at property and buildings,” said Blair, who added that her father instilled a strong business sense and money management skills in his children.

While Blair was in graduate school, her mother turned in her stay-at-home mom apron and became a certified antiques appraiser. Her mother has operated that business—in addition to dealing sterling silver flatware and collectibles—ever since.

When Blair headed to Florida State University, she was still tempted by music and focused her studies on voice and theater. Blair soon learned there were plenty of technical courses that didn’t interest her. “I realized that to actually major in voice, you had to study music theory and other things I didn’t want to do, so I quickly knew that wasn’t my future,” she added.

With her father encouraging some type of business major, Blair focused on studying multi-national business. Already minoring in Spanish, she thought it was a great fit. As graduation loomed, Blair decided to give the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) a try. She did so well that Kaplan—which provides comprehensive training to help prepare for the LSAT—asked Blair to teach a course. With that, she headed back home to attend the University of South Carolina School of Law. Although Blair thought she’d become an international business lawyer, she clerked for a small real estate attorney after her first year of law school.

After finishing law school early, she earned an international MBA and lived in Chile while doing an internship with a large telecom company. Working as a criminal litigator for several years, Blair realized that was something not in the cards long-term. With commercial real estate in her blood, she landed at a law firm in the title industry. Blair recalled her real property professor during the first year of law school who made property law seem so interesting. “He is still one of my favorite professors, and although he doesn’t teach anymore, I still see him occasionally,” she said. Also fueling the title flame was the attorney she clerked for, who taught Blair from the ground up how to search title and how to be a real estate practitioner.

“To this day, you might find me preparing a Closing Disclosure or putting a loan package together when my closers are busy in the weeds,” Blair said. “I believe it’s important for business owners to know how to do their own business.”

Blair was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1993 and admitted to practice law in Florida in 1995. She also is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the District of South Carolina, and the Northern and Southern Districts of Florida. Her abilities have been recognized by many. She has an A/V Preeminent Peer Rating for the highest level of professional excellence from Martindale-Hubbell and is the recipient of several prestigious professional awards including the 2013 Leadership in Law Award from the South Carolina Lawyers Weekly, the Gold Compleat Lawyer Award from the University of South Carolina School of Law and the J. Lee McDonald award for outstanding service to the title industry.

“I know I’m a total nerd, but I really enjoy preparing closing statements and Closing Disclosures,” Blair added. “I also love when I get a big title search that I need to review, and I have to sit down and piece together the chain or figure out boundaries—it’s like a puzzle, and I’ve always loved puzzles.”

Handling the messy chains of title or vague legal descriptions may get the juices flowing, but Blair says her favorite transactions involve first-time homebuyers. “I’ve handled thousands of closings and reviewed thousands of title searches, but first-time buyers are always so excited, and it reminds me of the first house I bought almost 20 years ago,” she added.

Forging Her Own Path

Being on Broadway or a famous rock star may have been options early on, but Blair always thought she’d own her own business—no matter the industry. So, after several years with another law firm, Blair and a few other attorneys ventured out in 2014 and formed their own firm—Blair Cato Pickren Casterline LLC. Based in Columbia, S.C., the company started with one office, six lawyers and 14 staff members. They now have two offices, 12 lawyers and 28 employees.

“The first few months were really tough trying to get everything up and running, but we persevered and have been extremely successful,” Blair said.

The firm’s accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed. SC Biz News named it one of the state’s fastest growing small businesses in 2018, while readers of The State Newspaper (the local newspaper in Columbia, S.C.) voted the company as the Best Law Firm the past two years. Blair attributes the success to the relationship she has with the other two owners—Gary Pickren and Rex Casterline.

“Our roles in the firm are organically very complementary, meaning we are lucky to each have strengths and weaknesses that have made our management roles in the firm work very well,” Blair said. “The other main driver behind our success is the fantastic team that we have. We have built a very solid, hard-working team of folks who are invested in our clients and customers.”

BlairTractor_200
Balancing Work and Family

Running a law firm while serving on ALTA’s Board of Governors often puts a crunch on the calendar. Often with not enough hours in day, Blair maintains boundaries in the evenings, so she can spend time with her son, Durham, and daughter, Emily Grace.

“There’s never a shortage of work that needs to be done. Figuring out how to prioritize all the urgent tasks and projects is always a challenge,” Blair said. “Admittedly, sometimes it is tough. I have great help for the children, and I normally know my travel schedule way ahead of time, so it just takes good time management. I know there are times my law partners get frustrated with me being gone but with phones and laptops, I can do most anything work-related remotely anyway and keep in touch with my children.”

To strike a balance, Blair’s children join her on a couple of ALTA trips each year. Earlier this year, Durham joined his mom on a trip to Anchorage, Alaska. Making their first trek to the state, they visited a wildlife preserve. “My son saw more snow on that trip than he’s ever seen in his life,” Blair joked. In August, Emily Grace was the travel partner as Blair attended the Kansas Land Title Association’s annual convention in Topeka. The trip was a significant milestone as Blair has now visited all 50 states—a goal she set to hit before turning 50. She turned 50 on Oct. 12, the same day she was installed as ALTA’s president.

“I love the opportunity to take my children new places and create cool memories with them,” Blair said. “My children are now counting their states and have a friendly competition between themselves to see who can visit the most states. I think they both have visited something like 16 states, which is way more than I had at their ages.”

Respected Leader and Friend

Blair attended her first ALTA meeting in January 2010. It was at the Large Agents meeting where she met Bill Burding NTP, chair of ALTA’s Agents Section Executive Committee and executive vice president of Orange Coast Title Co. The two have been friends ever since“

Cynthia has demonstrated leadership on both the Agents Section as well as ALTA as a whole,” Burding said. “In a time of changing leadership at the CEO position of ALTA, the organization could not be in better hands during this year of transition. Her work on remote online notary legislation is especially important as that is this year’s major issue confronting the industry generally and agents specifically.”

The first major ALTA conference Blair attended was the Advocacy Summit (called the Federal Conference then) later that year. That’s when she met Shonna Cardello CLTP, NTP, president of White Rose Settlement Services. Both were first-time attendees and quickly understood the importance of getting involved and advocating on behalf of the industry.
Cardello said she was drawn to Blair’s integrity, intelligence and genuine interest in the industry, “not to mention her fantabulous personality.”

“While serving ALTA and any other association, Cynthia has the ability to wear the association hat and leave the personal hat in the office,” Cardello said. “I value this trait in our leaders. Cynthia is a strong woman and I am excited to see where she leads us this year. I know it will be an amazing ride with Cynthia as president.”

Over the years, Blair forged two strong friendships with Lisa Steele, executive vice president of Mother Lode Holding Co., and Nicole Plath, CEO of Fortune Title Agency. They started calling themselves the “Trifecta of Awesomeness,” but have since shortened it to simply the “Trifecta.”

“Cynthia will be an excellent president for our association,” Steele said. “Her passion and knowledge, along with her progressive thinking, will certainly help lead our industry through whatever comes our way. She’s a true leader who is bright, articulate and relatable. I’m proud to call this powerful woman one of my best friends, and I’m so excited for this chapter to begin for her and ALTA. She’s a rock star.”

Plath shared a similar sentiment, describing Blair as “one of the most inspiring and intelligent women I know.” She connected quickly with Blair because they “both know how to play hard and work hard.”

“Beyond her charisma, she has a deep understanding of the issues we face as an industry and of the strategic priorities we want to achieve over the upcoming year,” Plath added. “Over the years, as our friendship has strengthened, I have gained a deep admiration for her as well. She is an amazing mother, a strong and confident leader, and an incredible friend. I am truly grateful to have her in my life and can’t wait to see her in action as she represents our industry this coming year.”

 


Strategic Priorities

The title and settlement industry remains at a critical juncture with the presence of more and more disruptors that could affect how mortgage and real estate transactions are handled, including technology advances and information security threats. Blair is excited to start working on ALTA’s 2019 strategic priorities alongside the Board of Governors, staff and membership. ALTA’s 2019 strategic priorities include helping members:

  • plan for change through innovation and quality operations.
  • stay relevant in the secondary market.
  • communicate the benefits of what they do to consumers.
  • protect their businesses’ and customers’ data and money.
  • harness the power of ALTA’s Our Values and a robust, ethical corporate culture.

To help title professionals remain an important piece of the real estate transaction, Blair said one of the best things ALTA can do is to continue developing resources such as the ALTA Marketplace, which is a new interactive vendor directory that provides high-level guidance to title professionals about the products and services available to them.

“Providing a one-stop shop where our members can keep up with what’s new and what’s on the horizon is extremely valuable,” she said.

Blair said one of the things she plans to focus on is helping small title agencies across the country become aware of the resources ALTA provides to help them compete and operate more efficiently. In addition to the Marketplace, the hiring tools are great resources to help smaller operations find new talent and onboard employees.

“There are many resources that are meant to help small businesses be on a more even footing with their larger competitors,” Blair said.

Regulators have put more emphasis on protecting consumers and making the real estate transaction more transparent. This has made it vital for ALTA members to help consumers better understand the important role title professionals play in the transaction and how they benefit from having a title insurance policy. Blair encourages all title professionals to continue telling the industry’s story in terms that consumers can understand.

“The materials that have been developed by the Homeowner Outreach Program are a fantastic utility to do just this,” Blair said. “There is so much material that can be used in ads, social media and classes for industry partners.”

In addition, she says the development of ALTA’s Our Values program has been important to serve as the industry’s culture compass, highlighting the best attributes and reflecting professional strength.

“It has become clear to me that if a company defines its values authentically and its employees buy into the values, the company’s culture thrives, and it becomes a driver of that company’s business and brand,” Blair said. “Values serve as the basis for what all of us do. I think the Our Values program has helped many of our members begin the process of defining their own companies’ values and culture.”

Over the past year, Blair has helped guide ALTA’s efforts to educate the industry about remote online notarization and the need for more advocacy regarding digital closings. She led the recently established ALTA Digital Closing Committee, which will focus on improving and innovating the closing process.

“ALTA should be viewed as the industry leader in digital closings and innovation in the customer experience in real estate settlements,” Blair said. “Digital closings, which are not a new thing, are gaining more traction, particularly with the passage of remote online notary laws in several states. The newest generation of homebuyers want to do business in a different way, so our industry is going to have to adjust our thinking to meet the desires of that market.” 

Jeremy Yohe is ALTA’s vice president of communications. He can be reached at jyohe@alta.org.

The Personal Side of Cynthia Durham Blair NTP
  • While she loves Florida State football, you probably won’t find her sitting at the top of Doak Campbell Stadium. Why? She’s terrified of heights
  • She loves animals and currently has two dogs and three cats. All but one of them are rescues. “I particularly like big dogs, my dogs are mastiffs,” she adds
  • Cynthia loves to read fiction, particularly mystery/crime drama and fantasy. She says, “I’ve probably read almost everything Stephen King has ever written.”
  • Cynthia was a public defender when she started practicing law, trying quite a few cases to a jury.
  • Have a large extended family? Cynthia does, and she loves to entertain. She also enjoys hosting her family for all major holidays.
  • Shoes? Yeah, Cynthia says she has a large extended family but may have an even larger shoe collection.
  • Get her to drink a glass or two of wine and she’ll bring down the house with some karaoke.
  • She visited all 50 states before her 50th birthday. (#50by50)

12/04/2018

Action Plan if Affected by Marriott Data Breach

Marriott International says that a breach of its Starwood guest reservation database exposed the personal information of up to 500 million people. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are steps you can take to help guard against misuse of your information if it was exposed.

According to Marriott, the hackers accessed people’s names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, dates of birth, gender, Starwood loyalty program account information, and reservation information. For some, they also stole payment card numbers and expiration dates. Marriott says the payment card numbers were encrypted, but it does not yet know if the hackers also stole the information needed to decrypt them.

The hotel chain reported the breach began in 2014. Anyone who made a reservation at a Starwood property on or before Sept. 10, 2018 could be affected. Starwood brands include W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts, and other hotel and timeshare properties.

If your information was exposed, the FTC suggests taking advantage of the free monitoring service and taking these additional steps:

  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—for free—by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could signal identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Review your payment card statements carefully. Look for credit or debit card charges you don’t recognize. If you find fraudulent charges, contact your credit card company or bank right away, report the fraud, and request a new payment card number.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you. A fraud alert is free and lasts a year.
  • Consider placing a free credit freeze on your credit reports. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that it won’t stop a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.

Marriott set up an informational website, https://answers.kroll.com, and a call center, 877-273-9481, to answer questions. It says affected customers also can sign up for a year of free services that will monitor websites that criminals use to share people’s personal information. Marriott says the service will alert customers if their information shows up on the websites, and will also include fraud loss reimbursement and other services.

The company said it will send some customers emails with a link to its informational website. Often, phishing scammers try to take advantage of situations like this. They pose as legitimate companies and send emails with links to fake websites to try to trick people into sharing their personal information. Marriott says its email will not have any attachments or request any information. Still, the safest bet is to access the informational website by typing in the address, https://answers.kroll.com.

To learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach, visit IdentityTheft.gov/databreach.

11/27/2018

How Criminals Can Spoof Your Phone

Ever heard of SpoofCard? It’s a scammer’s dream and a nightmare for title and settlement agents. The technology isn’t new, but the application offers the ability to change what someone sees on their caller ID display when they receive a phone call. To spoof a call, a criminal will dial one of SpoofCard's access numbers and enter the destination number followed by the phone number to appear on caller ID.

Spoofcard“The recipient of that phone call will think it’s coming from one person when it’s actually coming from someone else,” said Thomas Cronkright, chief executive officer of CertifID. “Even a trained professional could fall victim to this.”

A current practice in the industry to confirm identity has been to call someone and reach them live over the phone - known as the “call-back” procedure. Cronkright says some errors and omissions insurance policies even require a call back before funds are initiated or coverage may be denied if I lost occurs.  The challenge is often you can’t get a hold of someone in real time, so they need to call you back.

As an example, a hacker could spoof a title company and call the buyer when it’s time to wire funds to close. Likewise, a fraudster could impersonate a seller and call the title company and provide them fraudulent wiring information for net proceeds to be transferred after closing.

“As the industry adopts new techniques to mitigate fraud instances, the fraudsters mimic such strategies to trick someone in a transaction,” Cronkright said.  “Fraudsters know when someone is wiring cash for a closing so they create a ruse through the phone call to disarm them so they will follow the fictitious wiring instructions that will be sent by the fraudster.  It’s a high impact scheme with no signs of slowing down.”

The Federal Trade Commission reported that imposters made more than 250,000 spoofed phone calls in 2017.

So what can title and escrow professionals do?  

“The key is early training and education of all transaction participants on how wiring information will be exchanged so that they can identify a fraudster before it’s too late,” Cronkright said. “Companies should also take a step back and review clinically how they are exchanging and confirming wiring information in order to identify areas where a fraudster could pierce through the communication chain and expose someone to loss. Unfortunately, we can’t simply rely on phone calls any longer.”

11/01/2018

Boost Your Marketing Efforts With These Brandable Ads

Altaprints

ALTA members can modify and brand marketing material with their company information and logo at www.ALTAprints.com. You can customize material and download PDFs for free or order prints that can be delivered directly to your office. 

  • ADVERTISEMENTS: These multi-purpose, customizable advertisements can be used as flyers in coffee shops, handouts at first-time homebuyer seminars and ads for your real estate clients.
  • MARKETING FLYERS: Use these one-pagers as handouts at a conference or add them to your consumer introduction packet.
  • RACK CARDS: These are full of information about the benefits of title insurance in a two-sided half-sheet handout. They are the perfect item for any real estate function. The newest rack card educates consumers about how to protect their money from wire fraud.
  • POSTERS: These advertisements are customizable to print and ship to your next housing seminar, staff training, legislator/regulator meeting or open house.

How have you used HOP material to educate others about the benefits of title insurance and promote your business? Share your story by sending comments, photos or video to communications@alta.org.

10/18/2018

ALTA Welcomes 2018-19 Board of Governors and Exec Committees

 

We decided to have a little fun since we were in Los Angeles for the installation of ALTA's 2018-19 Board of Governors. Check out who was nominated best actress and best foreign language film, as well as several other "awards."

ALTA 2018-19 Board

10/12/2018

ALTA Announces Title Webby Winners

Webbies

ALTA announced the winners of the Title Webbies, an awards program recognizing member companies that have created or redesigned the best title industry consumer-facing website or page within the past year.

The two Title Webbies were presented during ALTA ONE, the largest annual event for the land title insurance industry, currently being held Oct. 9-12 in Los Angeles. Nominees in the two categories—Best Website-Title Agents and Best Website-Underwriters—were judged on mobile friendliness, overall user experience, social-media integration, image/video use and content quality.

“For many consumers, buying a home is the single largest investment they will make in their lifetime, and ALTA’s Title Webbies shine a spotlight on the importance of consumer education and accessibility,” said Cornelia Horner, ALTA’s interim CEO and chief operating officer. “We encourage the land title insurance industry to focus on clearly explaining the closing process and communicating the benefits of title insurance to consumers. We wholeheartedly congratulate FTIC and Westcor for winning these well-deserved awards. We admire them for their hard work, creativity and ingenuity as well as their obvious thoughtfulness about the title industry’s big picture.”

Florida’s Title Insurance Co. (FTIC) was selected as the winner in the Best Website-Title Agents category. Randy Gilbert JD, FTIC chief happiness officer, accepted the award on the company’s behalf.

Ftic website

“We designed a completely unique approach using original content, cheeky humor poking fun at our industry, simple analogies to help the average person understand title insurance, interactive documents typically seen at a closing, easy-to-navigate buttons for ADA accessibility and over 80 high-definition ‘playful family’ images of multicultural demographics, races and handicaps that real people can relate to so they go in to the closing expecting an experience – not just a paper title policy. Hopefully, our website comes as a wake-up call to the industry to refocus on who our end users really are.”

Additionally, FTIC took an intentional approach to making a mundane product, such as title insurance, fun. The homepage is interactive: The cursor causes the main water photo to “ripple” as you navigate the page. The links, including “Title Insurance for Dummies,” “Who Pays for What,” “70+ Ways to Lose Your Property,” and “Mission Kreplach,” which details the company’s values, provide useful consumer information in an entertaining way.

Westcor Land Title Insurance Co. was chosen as the Best Website-Underwriters winner. Westcor’s website draws consumers in with vibrant colors and the memorable phrase, “Title insurance is boring. We’re not.” The website includes simple language explaining why a homebuyer needs title insurance; a national rate calculator also is easy to find from the top navigation bar.

Westcor website

Westcor COO Scott Chandler, CTIS, NTP accepted the award for the company.

“We are super excited to have a fresh, new look to our company website,” Chandler said. “Being one of the first points of contact many people will have with Westcor, we wanted the website to reflect both our company culture and our Number One asset that makes us who we are: our people. While we’ve greatly simplified the design of the site, we also were able to add new features that make browsing, contacting us and getting more info on becoming an agent much easier.”

09/27/2018

Managing By Metrics: How To Measure Your Success

By Andrew Acker

There’s a classic quote that business leaders and managers love to throw around (and spoiler alert, I’m about too as well). It comes from Peter Drucker, one of the original management gurus. He classically states that “what gets measured gets managed.” 

Before you roll your eyes and cringe from hearing this quote again, let me tell you that it’s most often taken out of context. It’s typically used as justification to eliminate measuring tasks that cannot easily be quantified. However, there’s a big difference between a business quote, and the application to business.

The “business application” that Drucker was addressing was identifying the difficulty in measuring work and making sure the right work was getting done; right work being defined as work that contributes most directly to the bottom line.   

The real challenge in business is identifying the tasks and activities that, when tracked, provide the greatest business insights and ROI possible. To further quote Drucker, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Finding the appropriate measurement is hard work, and often executives apply simple concepts for complex decisions; utilizing models that include straight line metrics for everything from staff reductions, to increased sales, to expense reductions.

In an industry fueled by people with detailed expertise and an extensive knowledge of the product and process, how do we blend that passion and knowledge with data and strategy to quickly evaluate our most profitable systems, processes, and products?

Data can’t be the final decision maker, but with so much time spent in front of a screen and in software applications, are we missing potential opportunities and threats by not better leveraging data points that are easily accessible? You think Customer X is so profitable, but do you know how much time it actually takes to complete their work? Do you know how rude and unprofessional the customer is to your employees and what this costs in production time? Do you know how happy your employees are at their jobs? Do you know your ‘compliance confidence score’?

In order to find the best answers, we first need to identify the right questions to ask and then we can effectively use data at our disposal to provide better insights and decision making.

Andrew Acker, chief operating officer at D. Bello Associates, and Tish Bush, principle of TDB Advisors, will discuss this topic during the session “Managing By Metrics: How To Measure Your Success” at ALTA ONE. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

The Ultimate Signer Experience: How Tech is Driving Change for Title Agencies

By Michael Chodos

Title agents have always been at the forefront of the mortgage experience: they are trusted guides to usher signers through one of the most important decisions of their lives. With so much riding on the home buying and seller process, it’s up to the title agent to ensure that the consumer’s experience is the best one they can have. So how are today’s mortgage technologies driving change when it comes to the signer experience?

  1. An even more streamlined, efficient process for title agents: Topping the list of benefits that technology affords title agents is a more streamlined, efficient process. Empowered by these tools, it’s never been easier for title agents to interact with their signers or answer their questions ahead of a signing. Streamlining the pre-signing experience provides a solid segue into the signing itself.
  1. Convenience for signers: Signings traditionally happen at the title agent’s office.  With online and remote notarization technology, signing sessions can now happen wherever the signer is located.  There’s more: armed with today’s technology, signings can now also happen on-demand, all thanks to technology platforms that support signers around the clock.

    Borrowers can review their documents ahead of the signing and sign anywhere in the world, as long as they have a wi-fi connection and a camera-enabled cell phone or computer. This is especially helpful for Americans living abroad who are closing on a home. They no longer have to wait weeks for an appointment at the Consulate or take a round trip flight just for the signing. Instead, signers can log on right from their table and sign when it’s most convenient for them.
  1. Reduced opportunities for errors: The combination of humans and hardcopies creates countless opportunities for errors and missed signatures during a closing. With mortgage technology, documents are all electronic, creating a single source of truth for signers and title agents alike. In the event that trailing documents need to be issued, title agents will no longer have to race to print, ship, or send hardcopy documents.  With technology, trailing documents can be issued with just a few clicks.
  1. Simplified post-signing interactions and access: After a document is signed electronically, technology makes post-signing activities easier than ever. Electronically signed documents are easier to track, audit, and record. Consumers can access them whenever they choose.  Recipients can check to make sure they haven’t been tampered with.  And the most critical documents, including e-notes, can now be tracked and indexed throughout their entire life cycle.   

    Technology tools are enabling title agencies of all sizes to create an even smoother signing experience. Unlike some industries where technology has completely replaced the human component, in the mortgage industry technology is enhancing the human interaction between agent and customer, not replacing it. As more and more mortgage technology companies continue to integrate, the signer experience will improve dramatically for years to come.

Michael Chodos, senior vice president and general counsel of Notarize; Alan Fields, senior vice president and director of underwriting services for WFG National Title Insurance; Brian Hughes, president of Amrock; and Nancy Pratt, vice president of partner relations and government affairs for Pavaso, will discuss this topic during the session “NextGen Closings” at ALTA ONE. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

09/25/2018

Let’s Talk Robots – How Will the Forces of Creative Destruction Impact the Title Industry?

By Mark Fleming and Paul Stine

We’ve all heard that artificial intelligence (AI), robots and automation will soon replace our jobs and many people feel real angst because of the perceived threat to their livelihoods. Yet, automation angst is not new. 

The term luddite, one who is resistant to technological change, exists because Ned Ludd led an uprising of handloom weavers in 1779 to protest the adoption of mechanical, steam-powered looms. Ned and handloom weavers were not alone in the industrial revolution. After World War II, automation angst appeared again with the mechanization of agriculture in the U.S. Today, the angst is based on the belief that the information revolution and advances in AI will make robots smart enough to take over many of the jobs humans perform today.

With each “revolution” jobs that humans performed are replaced by machines, but new jobs are created. Think of all the people building mechanical looms, farm tractors or apps for your smartphone. This process of creative destruction is one of the primary reasons economic productivity, the amount of work output one can produce per hour, is almost 4.5 times greater that it was 70 years ago. AI should not be feared as it represents the opportunity to innovate in ways we have not thought possible before and make us more productive and better enabled to do our jobs.

Automation chart

More importantly, AI is already here. Over 80 percent of people have used AI in some form in the last year. And 50 percent of people interacted with AI in the last year without even realizing it.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Consider the following examples of AI we utilize on a daily basis without even knowing it:

  1. Email Spam Filters
  2. Predictive Search Terms
  3. SIRI
  4. Online Virtual Assistants
  5. Facebook Recommended News
  6. Online Shopping Recommendations
  7. Home Virtual Assistants (Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod)
  8. Reverse Image Searches

Not that scary, huh? In fact, most AI is extremely helpful and makes our lives better. In fact, Google’s AI will soon be calling restaurants and theaters to secure reservations and movie tickets for you. These examples just start to scratch the surface of the benefits AI can provide.

As it relates to customer service, AI is changing the landscape. 81 percent of consumers now say that businesses are meeting or exceeding customer service expectations, but the way that service is being provided is changing. Today, more than 6 out of 10 U.S. consumers say their preferred channel for simple inquiries is a digital self-service tool.

That’s a LOT of people. And in the title industry, we’re focused on the needs of the consumer, as well as the Realtor and mortgage professionals involved in a transaction. And each of these customers is demanding digital tools.

With all that in mind, here are three digital self-service tools to consider when shifting your customer service strategy to keep up with customer demand:

  1. Chatbots

Chatbots are defined as, “a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet.” Or in other words, virtual assistants/companions that communicate with us through text messages, websites, applications or messengers. Believe it or not, 80 percent of businesses want to deploy a chatbot by 2020 and 85 percent of consumers prefer to interact with a bot.

The good news is that implementing a simple chatbot is pretty easy. Most of the high-rated providers claim a 15-60-minute implementation time. So, even if you multiply that implementation time by five (because we all know tech typically takes just a little longer than you think), it’s still very reasonable in terms of the return it could provide.

  1. AI Virtual Email Assistants

Have any idea how much time you and/or your employees spend in email every day? Perhaps we’d prefer not to know. Yikes! AI virtual assistants can help you automatically read, route and respond to emails. In title, we’re opening and closing orders all month long. While there are always complex problems to solve, there are opportunities to enhance efficiency that could free you and your team up to be more strategic and drive your business forward.

  1. The Smart Speaker

With Google Home and Apple’s HomePod entering the market, the smart speaker went from a gimmicky Amazon concept to a full-blown product category. Ok, so perhaps Amazon would argue that it had already done that, but analysts predict it will be a $12 billion market by 2023. It might sound like a stretch, but the smart speaker is the next frontier for customer service. Giving customers on-demand information through Alexa, Google Home or HomePod raises the bar in terms of meeting customers where they currently are, and more importantly, where they will be. Like chatbots, building an Alexa “skill” isn’t terribly difficult, and you could be up and running more quickly than you think.

Creative destruction can mean a lot of things and can take on many shapes and sizes. AI is driving creative destruction in customer service and offering new opportunities to change how we’re approaching it. Remember that more than six out of 10 U.S. consumers prefer a digital self-driven customer service tool. The good news is that AI-driven customer service is more attainable than ever. We can and must adopt new technologies to drive our businesses forward.

Mark Fleming, chief economist for First American Financial, and Paul Stine, co-founder of CloseSimple, will discuss this topic during the session “Let’s Talk Robots” at ALTA ONE. Make sure to stop by for more ideas on how you can start bringing AI into your customer service offering. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.