Share Your #GoodDeeds

GooddeedsCommunity is not based on our ability to physically see and touch each other, but rather the connection and care we show for each other—especially in times of need. ALTA would like to hear how you are continuing to serve your customers and communities during this uncertain and unprecedented time. We know how involved you are in your local market even when there’s not a pandemic, so we know you are actively involved in helping those that might need it most. We would like to highlight all the great volunteerism that is happening across our industry and the creative ways you’ve modified processes to get deals closed. 

Here are three ways you can share your story with us:

  1. Email your story at communications@alta.org.
  2. Post your story in the comments section on our blog.
  3. Share your story on Facebook or Instagram, use #GoodDeeds and tag ALTA.

09/23/2021

Good Deeds: The Right Thing to Do

Voices for children

At age 5, Jessica Gutierrez, vice president for Florida’s Title Insurance Company (FTIC), lost her mother to breast cancer. Questioning whether she inherited the BRCA mutation from her mother, she underwent genetic testing. Having a BRCA mutation means you are at a much higher risk of developing breast cancer and possibly ovarian cancer. At 19, she underwent a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. 

Gutierrez is an avid advocate for young women with a family history of breast cancer, shedding light on the BRCA mutation. To honor her mother and to continue bringing awareness to the cause, the title company decided to raise money for Florida’s Breast Cancer Foundation. FTIC donated $125 for each closing it handled.  

“Around that time, ALTA put out a call to action, raising awareness for its own campaign, challenging its members through the ALTA Good Deeds Foundation,” said Randy Gilbert, chief happiness officer for FTIC. “So, we implemented our own good-deeds strategy.”

Each month, the title company selects a new charity to support. FTIC advertises that a portion of the closing fees generated that month would go to the selected 501(c)(3). 

After the checks clear, FTIC emails a copy of each individual check to both the purchaser of the title policy and their real estate agent, thanking them for choosing FTIC. Gilbert said the customers are told that if it wasn't for them, the donation could not have happened.

“The client and their Realtor can easily see their address on the memo section of the check as verification that they truly made a difference by choosing to use FTIC as their title insurance company,” Gilbert said.

FTIC has raised more than $20,000 for charities since launching the program last year. Recently, the title company raised money for the newly formed LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, which was created to combat discrimination in housing. With the help of FTIC's underwriter, Alliant National Title Insurance, which agreed to do a matching grant, FTIC raised $5,000 for the group. Additional groups FTIC has helped include Voices for Children, National MS Society, Urban Housing League and American Autism Association.

“Companies should leave a footprint and giving feels good,” Gilbert said. “Charitable opportunities open lot of doors to meet and know your community.”

Share Your Good Deeds

Community is not based on our ability to physically see and touch each other, but rather the connection and care we show for each other—especially in times of need. ALTA would like to hear how you are continuing to serve your customers and communities. We know how involved you are in your local market even when there’s not a pandemic, so we know you are actively involved in helping those that might need it most. We would like to highlight all the great volunteerism that is happening across our industry and the creative ways you’ve modified processes to get deals closed. 

Here are three ways you can share your story with us:

  1. Email your story at communications@alta.org.
  2. Post your story in the comments section on our blog.
  3. Share your story on Facebook or Instagram, use #GoodDeeds and tag ALTA.

Turn Times Top Lender Concerns, WFG Survey Shows

LS poll graphic-02Turnaround times are among the chief operational challenges for lenders, according to a survey by Williston Financial Group (WFG). The results signal a marked increase in concern over the impact lengthy turnaround times are having on real estate transactions.

Conducted in June and July of this year, the survey asked mortgage lending executives from community banks, credit unions, bank and non-bank lenders, as well as members of the WFG Executive Roundtable to identify the biggest operational challenges facing the industry. A list was provided, along with a free-form fill-in option, from which they were to select the top three operational challenges they feel are most severe.

Respondents indicated turnaround time (56%) was the most significant operational challenge. In WFG's first survey, taken in fall 2020, only a quarter of those surveyed chose turnaround times as a major challenge.

The other most concerning operational challenges were operational capacity, volume and staffing (34%), technology implementation and integration (34%), communication (31%), training (19%), time management (19%), and process improvement/QC/errors and delays (16%).

Specific to title and settlement, the chief concern identified by those surveyed was again turn times (41%), followed by communication (34%), and data accuracy and quality (25%). Customer service and process Improvement/QC/errors and delays were tied at 22%.

"This feedback from the industry is leveraged to help us develop products and services that align with, and help solve these challenges for WFG’s mortgage-lending partners," said Dan Bailey, senior vice president of WFG's enterprise solutions and lender services divisions.

09/21/2021

New RULONA Amendment Gives More Flexibility

PronTypeInfographic2It’s not news to anyone in the title industry that there has been an explosion of interest in remote online notarization (RON) since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past year also saw growing interest in paper alternatives to the RON experience.

Performing a RON requires using electronic documents signed with electronic signatures. That means all parties to the transaction, from the lender to the county recorder, must be willing and able to accept a “native digital” document—a document that has never existed in paper form. It’s clear that the long-term trend of our industry is toward paperless closings, even if there may always be a need for paper in some cases. RON is certainly the future. But, for many, the pandemic put a premium on doing remote closings now. Given the short-term hurdles to achieving digital alignment across the entire real estate industry, remote closings have by necessity included using traditional paper processes.

Since last year, we have seen two principal paper alternatives to RON. The first is commonly called PRON (paper remote online notarization) and the second is known as remote ink-signed notarization (RIN). Both involve the use of pen and paper instead of electronic documents. The main difference between the two is that PRON uses the same fraud-reducing consumer protections as RON, such as third-party multifactor authentication to identify the signer, while RIN lacks such consumer safeguards. Remarkably, in some states RIN does not even require the retention of an audio-video recording of the notarization. Finally, the way the paper documents are physically handled—including how they are transmitted to the notary and when the notary completes the notarial certificate—may vary between PRON and RIN. Performing a proper PRON will result in a single, notarized paper document that conforms to settled notarial law and practice, while RIN often does not.

Thus, PRON is safer and sounder than RIN both for consumers and for businesses (like the title industry) that rely on notarized documents. And by requiring third-party multifactor identity proofing, PRON also aligns with ALTA’s principles for remote notarization.

A New ‘Hip Pocket’ Amendment

The Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) was adopted by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) in 2018 to enable both a fully digital RON as well as PRON. It is now enacted in 17 states and is under consideration in several others. To perform a PRON under RULONA, a notary must meet three requirements relating to how the paper document is handled. First, under §14A(c)(2) a notary must reasonably confirm that the document being notarized is the same document that the remotely located individual signed. Second, §15(a)(1) requires the notary to contemporaneously execute the notarial certificate with the performance of the notarization. Finally, §15(f) requires the notary to securely attach the notarial certificate to the notarized paper document.

Until this year, there were two basic ways to perform a PRON under RULONA to meet these requirements. However, both methods could be a slightly awkward fit for how some real estate settlements are conducted. In response to this concern, the ULC convened a working group in late 2020 to draft a “hip pocket” amendment to RULONA to give state legislatures a thoroughly vetted option to add new flexibility to PRON.

Three Ways to Do a PRON

If a state enacts RULONA along with the “hip pocket” amendment, its notaries will have three different ways to perform a PRON. In each case, the paper document is sent to or printed out by the remotely located individual in advance of the signing session. But from that point forward, how the paper document is handled differs between each method.

  • Type 1. The first type of PRON works for any kind of notarial act. The notary will get on a webcam, perform multifactor authentication, watch the individual sign the document and perform the notarial act. The key to Type 1 is that the notary complies with §15(a)(1) by completing the notarial certificate on a separate sheet of paper at the time of the signing session. The individual sends the signed document to the notary after the signing session. Once the notary has reasonably confirmed that the received document is what was signed (§14A(c)(2)), the notary will securely attach the notarial certificate to the document (§15(f)). This type of PRON may be slightly awkward for real estate closings where the notarial block is pre-printed in the document and not on a separate page.
  • Type 2. The second type of PRON works for acknowledgments, which is the kind of notarial act required in most states for deeds, mortgages, powers of attorney, and similar documents. With an acknowledgment, the notary notarizes a document that was previously signed—but how long in the past does not technically matter. The remotely located individual will sign the document in advance and send it to the notary prior to the signing session and performance of the notarial act. All the required steps in the notarization—including multifactor authentication, reasonably confirming what document was signed (§14A(c)(2)), and completing and attaching the notarial certificate (§15(a)(1), (f))—take place at the same time during the signing session. Two basic problems make a Type 2 PRON an uneasy fit for many real estate settlements. First, some closing documents (like affidavits) will contain jurats requiring a verification instead of an acknowledgment. State notarial law may not permit a verification to be performed on a document that was previously signed. Second, if the notary needs to conduct the settlement by walking the remotely located individual through the documents as they are being signed, then two separate webcam sessions are necessary: one for the initial signing session and a second for the notarization after the notary receives the signed documents. This makes coordinating and scheduling a single closing date difficult.
  • Type 3. The new “hip-pocket” amendment enables Type 3, which is a variation of Type 1. In addition to signing the document, the remotely located individual will also sign a separate unsworn declaration, under penalties of perjury, stating that the document has been remotely notarized. When the notary later receives the signed document and declaration—which must be sent within a specified timeframe (the ULC recommends three days)—the notary can rely on the declaration to comply with §14A(c)(2). That is, the declaration is legally sufficient to confirm that the document received by the notary is the same one that was notarized.

The key to Type 3 is that using a signed declaration permits the notary to override §15(a)(1): The notary may complete the notarial certificate after the signed document is received and may “back-date” the certificate to the date the declaration was signed and the notarial act was performed. In this way, a Type 3 PRON is similar to how documents are handled in some states under RIN.

Other Notable Features

The new amendment to RULONA gives new flexibility to the signing process. It’s designed merely as a safe harbor. It does not create a single mandatory way to perform a PRON. The notary can still perform a PRON under Type 1 or Type 2 and use any other reasonable method to comply with §14A(c)(2) and ensure proper custodianship of the paper document as it’s sent from the signer to the notary. (Examples we’ve seen include having the signer scan and email or fax the signed documents on the day of signing to permit comparison with the wet-ink original, or the use of custom tamper-evident overnight envelopes.)

The amendment also contains one provision unrelated to PRON. Under new subsection (h), the amendment confirms that a notary may administer an oath or affirmation remotely, even if it does not involve a signed document. Prior to the amendment, there was a question about whether a notary could remotely administer an oath at a deposition or similar proceeding because RULONA’s personal appearance requirement (§6) applies only to notarial acts involving signed documents.

What’s Next?

Work on the “hip pocket” amendment is complete. It is now officially a part of RULONA. It is currently available for use in any state that has adopted RULONA or is thinking of doing so. The ULC is currently drafting official commentary to accompany the amendment. Formal publication will likely occur later this fall.

Michael O’Neal, vice president of corporate underwriting for First American Title Insurance Co., serves on ALTA’s Digital Closing Work Group. He can be reached at moneal@firstam.com.

ALTA Welcomes New Members

Membership map

ALTA is pleased to announce new and associate members, as well as real estate attorneys, who have recently joined ALTA. Over the past month, ALTA gained 36 new members, including seven attorney members and four associate members.

So far in 2021, ALTA has 6,021 member companies.

Click here for a list of the latest members.

Not a member? Click here to join today. You can check out member benefits here.

09/14/2021

2021 ALTA Commercial Network Webinar Series

Check out all four of the recordings from the 2021 ALTA Commercial Network webinar series. The presentations focused on the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the McGirt v. Oklahoma, the new ALTA Policy Forms, the revised ALTA NSPS Land Title Survey Standards and potential changes to 1031 business.

 

The Dirt on McGirt

Find out how the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in the McGirt v. Oklahoma could impact the title insurance industry and property rights involving tribal land. The webinar also details the ALTA 47 Operative Law Endorsement Series and Policy Addendums.

Speakers

  • Megan Powell | Commercial Underwriter | First American Title Insurance Company
  • Dan Buchanan | Senior Title Counsel | First American Title Insurance Company

 

How ALTA Policy Form Changes Will Impact Commercial Deals

This webinar discusses changes to ALTA's Loan and Owner’s policies, as well as numerous endorsements that were published July 30. It's important to understand the revisions so you can educate your staff and commercial customers.

Speakers

  • Wendy Gibbons | Deputy Chief Underwriting Counsel | Old Republic National Title Insurance Co.
  • Jan Feryus | Senior Underwriter | Old Republic National Title Insurance Co.

 

What You Need to Know About the New ALTA NSPS Land Title Survey Standards

Learn how revisions to the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys could impact your work on commercial transactions.

Speakers

  • Gary Kent | Owner | Meridian Land Consulting LLC
  • Todd D’Amico | Director of Operations | First American Commercial Due Diligence Services Co.

 

How the Economic Proposal Could Curtail Your 1031 Business

The webinar analyzes how the Biden administration’s proposal would hinder 1031 business, as well as the impact like-kind exchanges have on the economy and communities and what can be done to protect this important source of capital for affordable housing.

Speakers

  • John Wunderlich | Executive Vice President | Fidelity National Title Group
  • Dawn Pereyo | New York Regional Manager | Westcor Land Title Insurance Co.
  • Ryan McCormick | Vice President and Counsel | Real Estate Roundtable

ALTA ONE

Interested in learning more about commercial transactions? Join us Oct. 12-15 in New Orleans for ALTA ONE. We are offering an education track dedicated to commercial deals.

Click here for more information.

09/02/2021

ALTA Member Profile: Doma’s Chief Data Scientist Strives to Take Title, Closing to New Galaxy

Andy

Andy Mahdavi

Chief Data Scientist | Doma (formerly known as States Title)
 
How does a person with a doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics land in the financial services sector?

It’s not as uncommon as you’d think! Research labs around the country need many more graduate research assistants than there are future professor jobs available. Being two of the most well-funded areas, physics and astronomy produce hundreds of PhDs each year who immediately go on to do great things—like computing the value of complex financial instruments—in financial services! My own path was a little unusual in that I made the move after becoming a professor. Like most others who’ve made this switch, though, I was driven by a desire to get my head out of the clouds and work on something that could affect earthlings.

How long have you been in the title industry and how did you get started in this profession?

After helping launch a one-of-a-kind fraud prevention algorithm for Capital One Bank, I met Max Simkoff, CEO of Doma. He described a part of financial services that I had never heard of before, which was virtually untouched by decision science. Decision science is the set of mathematical methods used to predict the future in other areas of finance such as credit card lending or car insurance. If we could launch such a system for title, it would be a little like exploring a new galaxy. So, it was as exciting from a research perspective as it was potentially transformational for the process of home loan closing.

What’s a day on the job like for you? What excites you about what you do or what is the most challenging aspect of your job?

The best part of my job is definitely my team. I work with some of the most talented data scientists I’ve ever met, and it’s an exciting journey to be tackling the challenging subject area of settlement automation with them. When I log in each day, I have two main goals. First, are we doing everything possible to let machines do the boring and repetitive parts of settlement, leaving the complex and interesting topics for humans? Second, are my team members finding their jobs rewarding and satisfying? If I can answer “yes” to both questions, I consider it a successful day.

What are some innovative things Doma is doing to make it easier for people to purchase property and refinance mortgages?

Title and escrow professionals have a huge amount of subject matter expertise, but spend much of their time answering repetitive emails, checking mind-numbing lists of fees, or calling about irrelevant or invalid title defects, ad nauseam. By having machines do the most straightforward parts of these tasks, we have significantly shortened the time (and lessened the numbers of errors) involved in closing a home loan. This means that homeowners have a more streamlined closing experience already: an experience which will become smoother and faster as we continue to launch improvements regularly over time.

The title industry continues to innovate to deliver for its customers. What do you think the homebuying process will look like in five years?

I think in five years we could see many dramatic changes on the homebuying side. The idea of excellent service for millennials is very different than for past generations. For example, millennials value being able to conduct complex tasks purely via apps and without interacting with humans. So, I expect to see the likes of Zillow and Redfin grow in their ability to conduct both in-person and virtual home viewings and make offers (with and without lender integration), without the need to organize it all through a single person. I think we’ll also see greater adoption of digital mortgage closings and that this will help significantly improve the homebuying process.

Why is the title industry a great career opportunity for those entering the workforce?

Land rights, land ownership, and rules around the transfer and the encumbrance of land are a fascinatingly complex topic, with rules that vary state-by-state. There are still many challenging and satisfying problems to solve in terms of automating the processing, comprehension, and communication of these complex topics. We need both talented technologists with a passion for automation, as well as legal and title subject matter experts to help inform the algorithms the technologists will build.

What advice do you have for professionals starting their career in the industry?

At social gatherings, when someone asks you what you do, tell them you take people through the process of closing on their homes in a trouble-free way. Do not say the word “title.”

How has the industry evolved since you began your career? How has your company had to change in order to remain competitive?

We’re seeing the expansion of data services around real estate, with many more high-quality title data sources available via technologies such as REST APIs (application programming interface designed to take advantage of existing protocols), with ever increasing and greater coverage. We’ve needed to be constantly on top of newer offerings to make sure we are leveraging the highest possible quality data sources.

What have you learned about yourself or your company since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?

That I can hire someone, trust them and become friends with them when all I experience about them is pixelated video and audio. That’s an incredible realization for the future of many jobs: that they can be carried out on what is truly a deeply human level by streams of audiovisual data.

Tell us something that others in the industry may not know about you.

I can make thin crust pizza from scratch in under 30 minutes.

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?

Would love to meet up for dinner with Alexander the Great and learn more about his diplomatic prowess, influence and accomplishments.

What’s your favorite book/movie/TV series? Why?
  • Book: The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh: I thought meditation was bogus before reading this book.
  • Movie: The Matrix. Explored many of our modern ideas around AI and the human/machine interface while being extremely stylish. Still feels fresh.
  • TV Series: The Expanse. Well-crafted characters in a sci-fi setting with minimal pretend magic.
What’s in your music playlist?

Atmospheric/House/EDM music: Hybrid, BT, Unkle, Odesza, Driftmoon.

Cyber Coverage Premiums Increase 25%, Survey Shows

Cyber premiumsThe average premium for cyber insurance coverage increased 25.5% during the second quarter of 2021, according to a survey from the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers (CIAB). This is on top of an increase of 18% in the first quarter of the year.

The increase for cyber insurance was caused by more ransomware attacks, poor risk management protocols and lack of employee training, CIAB reported.

“Carriers continued to approach writing Cyber risk with caution in Q2 2021,” said Ken Crerar, president/CEO of CIAB. “The rapid increase in ransomware attacks highlighted the need for brokers to work with clients to develop and practice robust risk management strategies to confront the growing threat. In a world where costly cyberattacks are becoming the norm rather than the exception, the broker is in a unique position to help clients identify vulnerabilities, find coverage and protect their firms.”

Brokers who took the survey emphasized that adapting to and adopting new technologies to meet the needs of their clients would be crucial to growth in the coming years. This included being more open to employees working remotely from different geographies, demonstrating the shift in attitudes towards remote work. Overall, “Brokers need to remain strong advocates for their clients by telling both the underwriters and the clients the harsh realities of the day,” said one respondent from a large Northeastern firm. “We need to pursue new products that may be more tailored to specific client needs and be ready to create bespoke policies and procedures to respond to these needs.”

Nearly 80% of respondents said there was an increase in cyber claims in Q2 2021, supporting assessments that the rise in claims was one of the main reasons for the rapid increase in cyber premiums.

Despite the increase in prices, 95% of respondents said there was an increase in demand for cyber insurance. CIAB adds that insurers also have started to cut limits and demand customers complete additional risk management protocols.

08/19/2021

FHFA Proposes Affordable Housing Goals for Fannie, Freddie

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) proposed housing goals​ for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to promote equitable access to affordable housing that reaches low- and moderate-income families, minority communities, rural areas and other underserved populations over the next three years.

FHFA is proposing two new single-family home purchase subgoals to replace the existing low-income areas subgoal. One new subgoal targets minority communities. The second continues to target low-income neighborhoods.

The new minority census tract subgoal is designed to improve access to fair and sustainable mortgage financing in communities of color. A mortgage qualifies under the new subgoal if:

  • the borrower has an income at or below area median income (AMI); and
  • the property is in a census tract where the median income is below AMI and minorities make up at least 30 percent of the population.

“The new subgoal for minority census tracts was designed to help preserve and support affordable housing in communities of color. The subgoal benefits families at or below area median income, allowing them to stay in the communities they helped build," said FHFA Acting Director Sandra Thompson.

Single family goals 
Multifamily goals

During the mortgage market bubble, the government sponsored enterprises’ (GSEs) share of the market dropped to about 43 percent in 2005. That share rose to about 65 percent in 2012, but declined to about 55 percent in 2015. This share remained relatively stable until 2019, then jumped to 66 percent in 2020, as the GSEs continued to acquire mortgages even as other private market participants stepped back.

Over the same time period, the total government share of the mortgage market (including the Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Rural Housing Service) has generally expanded. In 2015, the total government share accounted for about 30 percent of  overall mortgage originations, considerably up from about 5 percent a decade earlier. That share was relatively stable until 2019, then declined to 22 percent in 2020.

Conforming mortgage market

There are many factors that impact the affordable housing market. Changes to any one of them could significantly impact the ability of the GSEs to meet their goals. In developing the market models, FHFA used Moody’s forecasts as the source for macroeconomic variables where available. The expected increase in mortgage interest rates and house prices likely will impact the ability of low- and very low-income households to purchase homes.

In many ways, 2020 was an unusual year as it saw record volumes of both home purchase and home refinance loans. Low interest rates coupled with rising house prices created an incentive for many homeowners to refinance, resulting in a surge in refinance activity in 2020. The refinance share of overall mortgage originations since 2001 increased from a low of 28 percent in 2018 to 61 percent in 2020. Moody’s forecasts this share to sharply decline to 42 percent in 2021, and continue to decline to 39 percent in 2022, and then to 31 percent and 24 percent in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate peaked at 14.8 percent in April 2020, and fell to 5.9 percent in June 2021. The Congressional Budget Office projects this number to be 4.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021 and that employment will surpass its pre-pandemic level in mid-2022.

FHFA will continue to monitor how these changes in the housing market and recent legislation may impact various segments of the market, including those targeted by the housing goals.

Interested parties are invited to submit comments on this proposed rule within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register. Comments should be submitted to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Division of Housing Mission and Goals, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, D.C. 20219 or via FHFA.gov.

08/12/2021

Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Through Corporate Social Justice

DiversityBy Damon Carter

The ongoing protests against unjust policing of Blacks and Hispanics in various communities, along with the numerous acts of violence impacting the LGBTQ and Asian-Pacific Islander communities, continue to bring increased awareness to the cumulative impacts of systemic racism in our society. Consequently, both large and small companies across the United States must play an active role in driving transformational shifts in their respective workplace cultures, which will collectively help dismantle systemic racism in our society. Therefore, business leaders must learn to fully embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in a holistic and sustainable way through the implementation of corporate social justice initiatives.  

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Corporate Social Justice is a framework regulated by the trust between a company and its employees, customers, shareholders, and the broader community it touches, with the goal of explicitly doing good by all of them.” 

Effectively applying this strategic approach over time can be a key differentiator for business leaders as it relates to successfully advancing DE&I strategy in an impactful way for their respective organizations. Therefore, all leaders committed to driving meaningful changes must execute some key strategic actions.

Step 1: Lead With Purpose and Conviction

Leaders must consider initially taking the following steps as they start their own unique journey to successfully cultivating a fair, equitable and just workplace culture for people of color, including:

  • Acknowledge the problem exists: It’s impossible to effectively address a problem without first acknowledging the problem exists. Given today’s prevailing social justice issues, silence from companies could be easily interpreted by employees as indifference or acceptance of the status quo. Instead, business leaders must first acknowledge systemic racism exists in society and clearly communicate their desire to be a part of the solution moving forward. 
  • Reflect and discuss: Business leaders should create a safe space for their respective leadership teams to collectively reflect and confidentially discuss to what extent implicit biases have negatively affected the company’s workplace culture.
  • Make a genuine commitment to being better: Business leaders must make a firm commitment to mitigating the negative impacts of all forms of social injustice in the workplace for people of color and cultivate a workplace culture that consistently promotes equality for all.

Furthermore, business leaders must actively lead with conviction by reimagining a workplace culture that consistently demonstrates equality, equity and justice for all employees, at all times.

Step 2: Build Genuine Connections

Business leaders must work to thoroughly understand the specific elements of the existing workplace culture that have contributed to the present state of inequality for all marginalized groups of employees. This includes obtaining a clear understanding of key diversity metrics to begin identifying areas of strength across the organization as well as opportunities for improvement. Furthermore, obtaining a deep understanding of the current state of the work environment requires leaders to thoughtfully engage, listen and learn from all employees adversely impacted by disparate treatment in the workplace. Leaders should take the following actions to do so:

  • Develop an informed perspective: Before engaging employees to discuss how to establish a fair and equitable workplace culture, business leaders should conduct their own preliminary research to better understand the unique experiences of people of color. Proactively educating themselves about key aspects of people of color in the workplace will go a long way toward building personal credibility with all marginalized groups and will have a profound impact on business leaders' ability to make genuine connections. Several examples include concepts such as unconscious bias, white privilege, microaggressions and code switching.
  • Listen to understand: Business leaders must be open to having challenging conversations with people of color regarding their experiences at work. Most importantly, leaders must reassure people of color that their perspectives matter to the organization and that their feedback will directly influence the fostering of a fair and equitable work environment. Additionally, leaders should remember to express gratitude to all participants for their vulnerability and commit to following up regarding next steps in the process.
  • Create a “speak-up culture”: Business leaders must employ various inclusive leadership practices to cultivate a workplace environment where all employees feel valued and respected on a daily basis. According to research conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation, key characteristics of a “speak-up culture” include the following:
    • Ensure that everyone gets heard.
    • Make it safe to propose novel ideas.
    • Give actionable feedback.
    • Take advice and implement feedback.
    • Empower decision making among team members.
    • Share credit for team success.

Furthermore, leaders must be committed to establishing genuine connections over time, rooted in mutual respect and trust, with any employees who have historically been made to feel ignored and disconnected. According to Michael Slepian, associate professor of leadership and ethics at Columbia Business School, “Learning about individuals’ unique strengths and unique experiences, and showing recognition for these, is what leads employees to feel valued and respected. … This is what enables going beyond surface-level inclusion in favor of real, individual-based inclusion.”

Step 3: Take Deliberate Strategic Actions

Next, business leaders must thoughtfully apply targeted strategic actions that will begin to actively address prevailing inequalities for people of color in the workplace. Ideally, leaders should utilize familiar management practices, with proven tools and resources, to effectively develop and implement an effective DE&I strategy. Additionally, leaders must create a comprehensive action plan to improve the organization’s current state by identifying specific diverse talent strategies that target each stage of the employee life cycle. Several examples include:

  • Recruitment: Build strategic partnerships with a variety of diverse professional organizations to regularly source and hire people of color with desired skill sets.
  • Development: Create targeted professional development strategies for people of color and encourage networking opportunities, both internally and externally.
  • Advancement: Ensure people of color are included in annual succession planning efforts.
  • Retention: Institute exit interviews, stay interviews and/or focus group sessions.

Step 4: Activate New Community Engagements

Lastly, companies must partner with other companies and not-for-profit organizations to help address relevant social justice initiatives in their local community. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communication at the Tuck School of Business, proposes that organizations should first consider the following questions:

  1. Does the issue align with your company’s strategy?
  2. Can you meaningfully influence the issue?
  3. Will your constituencies agree with speaking out?

It is important for the leadership team to communicate the overall purpose of the social justice initiatives to all employees and clearly explain how they align with the company’s core values. They should also invite employees to get actively involved in supporting the new community engagement and directly work with the board of directors to strategically support it, as well. Furthermore, establishing strategic partnerships with other companies and community organizations helps create new learning opportunities for employees and increases exposure to diverse perspectives.

CATIC’s Commitment to Corporate Social Justice

In June 2020, Connecticut Attorneys Title Insurance Company (CATIC) publicly demonstrated support for those working to change society for the better and condemned all forms of social injustice due to systemic racism. Additionally, CATIC committed to doing its part to help build better communities through fair and equitable treatment for all. Subsequently, the senior leadership team began developing a dynamic corporate social justice initiative to start actively addressing various housing disparities historically experienced by people of color. The senior leadership team committed to taking the following initial strategic actions:

  • Aligned the goals and objectives of the new corporate social justice reform strategy with the company’s strategic business plan to keep it a top priority.
  • Openly communicated to all employees the company’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in a meaningful way in the future.
  • Launched an employee-led project team to focus on improving the historically low percentage of minority home ownership across the country, which includes establishing new strategic partnerships with various community organizations and key stakeholders in the homebuying ecosystem.
  • Obtained full commitment from the board of directors to activate a new committee dedicated to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives for both the board and the company.
  • Expanded the scope of the CATIC Foundation, the company’s philanthropic organization, to strategically support social justice initiatives through socially responsible investments and charitable donations to not-for-profit organizations committed to improving fair housing standards.
  • Committed to creating new learning opportunities regarding diversity, equity and inclusion for employees and agents through the CATIC Academy, the company’s new learning and development platform.

Starting Your Journey

Every company needs to determine how to best proceed with cultivating a fair and equitable workplace culture in their own way. It starts by taking one deliberate step at a time. Leaders must also acknowledge that taking such actions will be daunting, intimidating and controversial, at times, for various reasons. Therefore, it is imperative for leaders to embrace the idea of “being comfortable with being uncomfortable” because that is where real breakthroughs occur along this transformational journey. Successfully doing so will require a bold commitment by leaders to always being their authentic selves at work and in their local communities. As Langston Hughes once said, “I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

Damon Carter, who has over 20 years of diverse HR experience across multiple industries, is senior vice president and chief human resources officer for CATIC. He serves on the board of directors and is also president of the CATIC Foundation. Carter can be reached at dcarter@catic.com or via LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/damonacarter.

08/10/2021

Alert: Spoofed Email Appears to Come from ALTA


ALTA is alerting its members to delete a phishing email with the subject line “ATTN: TITLE POLICIES." 

This follows a previous phishing email with the subject line "ALTA: VIOLATION IN ALTA RULES AND THE FAA.”

The emails refer to an attachment and use the domain starzbreak.com. The emails appear to come from ALTA CEO Diane Tomb or a member of ALTA's Board of Governors.

Do not open the attachment or click any links in the email. In addition, you should contact your IT department and block the domain of the email or the IP address that it is coming from. Once the scammers catch on, they will likely switch email domains.

It's recommended to use extra precaution when reviewing email on smart phones as it can be difficult to see the actual email address behind the sender's name.

You can be sure that your information is safe. This is a phishing email and our system was not breached.