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.

01/12/2021

Ready to Serve Aces for Title Industry

ALTA President Bill Burding NTP Eager to Defend Industry

Bill Burding cover_altTalk to Bill Burding NTP and you’d never know he was born and raised in New York. A move to Arizona while in junior high not only led to him ditching his goalie mask for a tennis racket, but it also opened the door to a successful career in the title industry.

“There wasn’t much hockey in Arizona at the time,” Burding said. “I went from about 20 minutes outside of New York City to an extremely rural part of Arizona. We lived in the middle of nowhere and attended a three-room schoolhouse. It was a culture shock.”

The change of scenery and solitude provided the perfect opportunity to help Burding develop his tennis skills. At the age of 15, he took a job as a tennis pro teaching other kids his age.

“Play tennis is kind of all I did,” he said. “You could play people at all varying ages, and when you didn’t have anyone to play, the club had a ball machine so I could hit for hours.”

Spending time on the court, Burding had the opportunity to face off with players with varied backgrounds and skills. One player he recalls was Ken Rosewall, a professional tennis player who had won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open.

“He would just hit with me and offer tips,” Burding said.

Over the years, Burding would have the opportunity to hit balls with tennis royalty, including John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. He also was able to play with celebrities such as Elton John, Clint Eastwood and Charles Shultz.

Burding’s work ethic on the court easily transferred to the principles he has followed during his career in the title industry. Serving as general counsel for California-based Orange Coast Title Co., Burding was installed in October as ALTA’s 2020-21 president.

“Bill has the confidence, resilience and legal acumen that is essential to leading ALTA and its members through a global pandemic and economic recession,” said ALTA CEO Diane Tomb. “He will help enhance the understanding of the title insurance industry with government agencies and policymakers focused on federal real estate and housing policy and collaborate with industry stakeholders and partners on laws and advocacy efforts regarding data privacy and digital closing adoption. The challenges we’re facing require Bill’s experience and foresight to help our member companies excel in an ever-changing business and regulatory environment.”

Finding the Right Fit

Coming out of high school nationally ranked, Burding had numerous academic and athletic scholarship offers to play tennis at lower-tier Division I colleges across the country. He just wanted to find the right fit. Burding eventually enrolled at Claremont in Southern California. After deciding Claremont wasn’t what he was looking for, Burding planned to accept a scholarship offer at the University of California San Diego.

On the way to San Diego, Burding got in a car accident in Whittier. Without any money, Burding called Whittier College’s tennis coach to ask for help. The coach offered to let Burding stay on campus for free. Shortly after that, the coach let Burding practice with the college’s tennis team.

“I started warming up with the team, and I’m thinking these are really nice guys, I could do this,” Burding said.

After practice, Burding went to the Admissions Office and applied. Within a week he was enrolled and playing tennis at Whittier.

“What was nice is that we were Division III, but we played against a lot of Division I schools,” Burding said. “I got a chance to have a really good level of competition without having to get to get on a plane and fly all over the country to play.”

In the classroom, Burding studied political science and Russian history. Why Russian history? The first reason, according to Burding, was that the professor’s wife was an amazing cook. With only three students enrolled, the class would often be held at the professor’s house and they would be treated to some home cooking. The second (and more relevant) reason was that Burding was considering going to the Harvard Kennedy School.

“I just thought Russia was our major adversary and it would be beneficial for me to know what our major rival was doing,” he said. “If I was to get into government or go into the state department it would be beneficial for me to understand the psyche of our major foe in the world.”

After graduating from college cum laude, Burding attended Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. With his law degree, he spent the next five years in private practice. But much like his experience at Claremont, Burding wasn’t enjoying what he was doing. After handling two major trials involving RICO and federal racketeering charges, he decided a change was needed.

“I couldn’t see doing it for the rest of my life,” he said.

An offer to serve as the attorney for the Village of Vail tempted Burding. “That would have been an amazing lifestyle. Lot of skiing. I gave that serious thought before I declined it,” he said.

‘No Idea What I Was Doing’

Then he got connected with a family member who owned a Denver-based title company, but was considering dissolving it. Burding looked at the financials and thought it sounded a lot more interesting than practicing law, “even though I had no idea what I was doing.”

So, armed with the basic knowledge of real estate he learned in law school, Burding bought a half interest in National Title in 1993. He jumped right in—answering phones, conducting searches and doing examinations. He then turned to the escrow side of the business.

“I did almost everything and learned the business from the ground up,” Burding said.

The title company almost exclusively handled commercial transactions. This meant Burding was often jumping on a plane to handle high-profile hotel deals in New York or Las Vegas. One notable deal was the Ritz-Carlton in Aspen.

“I learned a lot, but eventually sold the company after five years and didn’t know what I was going to do with my time afterward,” Burding said.

He planned to take some time off, but his rest didn’t last long. Through sheer blind luck, Burding’s resume made its way to Rich Macaluso, president of Orange Coast Title. Less than two weeks after interviewing, Burding was running Orange Coast’s operations in Arizona.

“I didn’t even know Orange Coast at the time,” Burding said.

He spent a year commuting for the Arizona job, before relocating back to Southern California. It’s been his time at Orange Coast over the past two decades that cemented his passion for title insurance. There’s a reason why everybody jokes that the title industry is Hotel California, because once you’re in, you’re in.

“You can check out, but you can never leave,” Burding said, riffing off the Eagles’ song.

Industry Mentor

With nearly 30 years now in the industry, Burding views Macaluso as his industry mentor.

“Rich allowed me to create my place at Orange Coast. I’m forever grateful for that,” Burding said. “He has given me the freedom to do what needs to be done for the company. He’s allowed me to color outside the lines.”

Macaluso volleyed back the compliments, saying how proud everyone at Orange Coast is of Bill’s work at ALTA.

“He has provided our industry with a lot of energy and time, along with all of his great integrity, skill, knowledge, experience, leadership and understanding—the same qualities that have made him a great general counsel for Orange Coast,” Macaluso said. “Bill’s contributions to Orange Coast and ALTA have been enormous and will continue to be this year and beyond.”

The two were instrumental in developing the title company’s core values, called The OCT Way.

“We’ve done a series of videos, it’s on the walls of our of our offices and it’s how we think about getting deals done,” Burding said. “The OCT Way permeates every single decision that I make, from when we talk to clients, how we talk to clients and how we deal with underwriting. All those core bedrock principles are utilized every single time that I work on something at Orange Coast.”

Mike Marconi, chief operating officer for Orange Coast Title, also recognized Burding’s loyalty and commitment to do whatever it takes is at the core of his contributions to their company.

“It shows in everything he does, from his work as general counsel to serving on the board of our title insurer,” Marconi said. “This includes finding creative yet safe ways to close each transaction for the consumer. Bill also has a firm understanding of local issues that affect all states such as remote online notarization and working toward a national solution.”

What’s the day in a life of a general counsel?

According to Burding, “There’s so much that I do that’s very non-general-counsel-ish.” 

He’s handled mergers and acquisitions, managed companies and handled underwriting. He also oversees the company’s HR department and chairs its COVID-19 task force.

Having been a goalie when playing hockey during his youth, Burding compares his role in the industry to his time between the pipes.

“I feel like a goalie because every day I go into the net and never know what’s going to be thrown at me,” he said. “I love that. I absolutely love that.”

Bill and CherylState Involvement

Like most ALTA presidents, Burding has been also heavily involved at the state level with the California Land Title Association, where he was awarded the 2010 and 2016 President’s Awards for outstanding contribution to the California title insurance industry. In 2007, Burding helped negotiate the state’s current anti-rebate legislation. His efforts garnered the attention of Anne Anastasi, who served as ALTA’s 2010-11 president.

“We were at the CLTA convention and playing golf,” Burding said. “She asked if I’d get involved at ALTA. We had a nice round of golf and we did not win. I think I’m the only person who doesn’t win a golf tournament with Anne.”

Already participating in ALTA’s Title Counsel, a round of golf with ALTA’s then CEO Kurt Pfotenhauer led to Burding becoming more involved at the national level.

“I thought I was just going to be chair of one of the committees. I didn’t think I was going to be on the Board,” Burding said.
In addition to the Board, Burding has served on the Agents Section and numerous committees. He also served as chair of ALTA’s Title Insurance Political Action Committee (TIPAC).

“If you’re in this industry, you’re vested in it. Contributing to TIPAC gives you access. Without access, we can’t tell our story. And, unfortunately, that’s just the way things are.”

Amazed at how resilient the industry has been during COVID, Burding praised companies for how they retooled business models to meet the needs of customers.

While remote online notarization hasn’t been utilized on a large scale by lenders (California doesn’t have RON legislation), Burding said his company is having customers sign many of their documents prior to closing. This has allowed closers to spend more time on the phone working with customers.
“We’re never going back to the old way of doing business,” Burding said. “It doesn’t make any sense. We’re going to continue doing what we do now. We’re so much more efficient. I think the consumer wants the transaction to be completely painless.”

Areas of Focus

Putting the pandemic aside, Burding said wire transfer fraud remains a top concern for the industry, especially since fraudsters have upped their game during COVID. Burding family

“They know that we’re running huge volumes through the trust accounts, so the number of attempted frauds has gone up astronomically during the health crisis,” he said. “If you’re not careful of what you’re doing, you can lose money out the back door as easily as it comes in.”

This is one of the major reasons why Burding was such a proponent of the development of the ALTA Marketplace, which is an online repository that helps connect members with vendors that provide essential services such as solutions to help prevent wire fraud.

“Most small agents don’t have the luxury of a sophisticated IT department,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that these agents had a resource to find vendors. Marketplace basically has done the research for you and provides the contact information of people to call. Small title agencies are so vital to what we do as an industry because they cover most of the rural locations. I know with the amount of resources that I have, I’m very fortunate. I want to make sure that small agencies have the same access to resources, or at least the same access to information that we have.”

Another key priority is to continue the success of ALTA’s Tell Our Story initiative, which is a public awareness campaign launched in 2020 to communicate with target audiences about the industry and the value it provides.

“ALTA has done a phenomenal job, even before I came on the Board,” Burding said. “Now when we meet with members of Congress, they know who we are and ask for our opinions on bills. We have become the middle ground and voice of reason because of our expertise.” ■

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

Six Questions With Bill Burding

  1. Tell us something that others in the industry may not know about you? I was “detained” by the U.S. Secret Service for hitting Alexander Haig, the Secretary of State at the time, in the head with a tennis ball.
  2. Bill and daughterWhat are some of your personal and professional highlights? I missed my personal goal of getting to all 50 states by the time I was 50 by six months, but at least I made it. I also had a goal of 50 countries by 50 and that I achieved. I am also working at going to every NFL and MLB stadium. I think I can do it in the next few years. During my senior year in college, I won the Political Science and History awards, and I was the Scholar Athlete of the year for Whittier College and made Academic All American. As a practicing lawyer, I argued a case of original jurisdiction before the Colorado Supreme Court. Professionally, I am proud of receiving the President’s Award twice from the California Land Title Association for service to the association. One thing I enjoy every year (pre-COVID) is a trip with my daughter Alissandra to see a New Orleans Saints game. It is always a highlight of the year.
  3. If there was an emergency and you could grab  only one item from your house or office, what would it be and why? Nothing. We came close to losing our home to wildfires a couple of years ago when I was at ALTA ONE in Miami. All I could think about was that everyone, human and canine, got out safely. It was amazing how irrelevant all material things became.
  4. If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why? Nelson Mandela. In college, I did Model United Nations and led the South African delegation. I got the opportunity to understand the perspectives of both sides of the racial tension. After college, I continued to read about South Africa and eventually was able to spend time there. What an amazing country. My favorite place in the world!
  5. What’s your favorite book/movie/TV series? Book: I tend to follow authors instead of individual books. My favorites are Steve Coll (Ghost Wars), John Feinstein (A Good Walk Ruined) and AJ Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically). TV Series: I love comedies and my favorites tend to be in the past, Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier and Married With Children. That said, I loved Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix. Something about watching those shows is relaxing. Movies: My two favorite movies are complete opposites. Spellbound and There’s Something About Mary. One very chilling and the other so very funny.
  6. What’s in your music playlist? My playlist is stuck in the past. I listen to Genesis, Matchbox 20, Live, Go-Go’s, Collective Soul and Daughtry. The “newer” music I listen to are Imagine Dragons and Ed Sheeran. This may explain the “Happy” debacle, which I may never live down.

01/11/2021

How to Reset Your Password on ALTA Website

In December, ALTA implemented a new database to manage membership information and purchases. For security purposes, you need to create a new password if you have not done so already.

To reset your password, click here.

You will get a box that looks like this:

Forgot password

You will be prompted to enter your email address so that ALTA can send a link to create your new password.

You will be taken to this page after clicking the link in the email:

Change password

You can login and ignore these steps if you already have reset your password.

Please contact ALTA at service@alta.org should you have any questions or need further assistance.

01/05/2021

Notary Singing Agent Blueprint Provides 13,600 Meals to Feeding America

Notary Singing Agent (NSA) Blueprint provided 13,600 meals to Feeding America.

The company hosted its annual fundraiser online throughout November. With an estimated 54 million people facing hunger, NSA Blueprint contributed directly to the largest network of foodbanks in the United States.

“We are especially proud of our team and donors for stepping up and making an impact of almost 14,000 meals where it counts,” said Jon Snedeker, director of NSA Blueprint. “Our notary signing platform shares a great responsibility in helping others, and what better time than right here, right now. Loan signing agents continue to play a critical role both in their communities and as experts at the closing table for real estate transactions.”

12/22/2020

Alert: Spoofed Email Appears to Come from ALTA

Fake_emailALTA is alerting its members to delete a phishing email with the subject line “December 2020 edition of Title Insurance Law Newsletter.”

The email appears to come from Jeremy Yohe. ALTA encourages you to delete the email. Do not click any links in the email. In addition, you should 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.

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

12/01/2020

Giving Thanks for #GoodDeeds

Alliance title

Closing the Hunger Gap

Since 2012, Idaho-based Alliance Title & Escrow has held its companywide food drive campaign, Closing the Hunger Gap. The company’s branches throughout Idaho, Washington, and Montana gather non-perishable food items and monetary donations to help their local communities fight hunger. This year, the company and its branches collected 13,023 pounds of non-perishable food items and $74,289 in donations. Over the years, the campaign has resulted in the collection of 230,376 pounds of food and $275,565.24 in donations.

Western title

Feeding Families

For the fourth year in a row, Western Title Co. united the title and escrow industry in northern Nevada to help families in need over Thanksgiving.

Through the campaign, seven companies and employees made financial donations of $13,374. The donations provided food for more than 260 families through vouchers to a Raley’s Grocery stores.

“We couldn’t be prouder of our tradition to help the community we love and showcase the #GoodDeeds our industry does every month,” said Patrick Harris of Wester Title.

Catic

Pink Falcons

Over the past several months, CATIC and its employees have participated in several fundraising/community events. Most notably, the company was a sponsor of the Susan G. Komen More Than Pink Walk, which helps support loved ones affected by breast cancer. CATIC’s Pink Falcons was Connecticut’s top fund-raising team.

“Our team also established a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, where a small group of dedicated employees helped the non-profit organization in fulfilling its vision of building strength, stability and self-reliance in partnership with people and families in need of affordable housing,” said Wayne Grant of CATIC.

11/24/2020

Time of Thanks: Check Out These Good Deeds

Iron clad_edited

Helping Their Own

Serving an area that has been ravaged by hurricanes this year, Lake Charles, La.-based Ironclad Title had the opportunity to recently give back to veterans, active military, first responders and the homeless in their community

The title company teamed up with the Southwest Louisiana Association of Realtors and the Affiliates Committee to provide 600 meals. Iron Clad Title thanked First American and Qualia for connecting them with organizations in Houston—El Big Bad, Houston Chuck Wagon and Boh Pasta—that donated all 600 meals.

Included in the picture is Ironclad Title member attorney Jared Watson and Director of Marketing Kaelyn Guillory, along with members of the Southwest Louisiana Association of Realtors and Affiliates Committee.

FTIC

Doing Their Part

During November, Florida’s Title Insurance Company is donating $162 for every new file received to JFS’ Cupboard to help feed three families. In October, FTIC donated $130 of each order to the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation to aid breast cancer research. The campaign raised $1,690.

Share Your Good Deeds

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. Send your stories and photos to communications@alta.org.

10/29/2020

Why HR Matters for Small and Medium Businesses

HR pic

Image credit: Pexels

By Grace Collins

Small businesses are the backbone of any economy. It rings true particularly here in the U.S., where small- to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) make up 99.9 percent of all businesses. That translates to over 30 million businesses that employ upward of 59 million Americans. A good Human Resources (HR) Department is crucial to every type of business. Yet in today’s current climate of uncertainty and cutbacks, HR has become even more important to SME owners. In this post we will cover why human resources matter greatly to small businesses and should not be part of any cutbacks.

More Than Hiring and Firing

Hiring talent, and firing them when necessary, is one of the primary tasks of HR. However, HR also performs a variety of vital tasks, notably preparing employees' payroll and benefits, initiating performance reviews, disseminating company announcements and policies, creating manuals, and taking care of any onboarding. Just as crucial, HR makes sure that all the above are accomplished in compliance with state and federal laws, in turn keeping the business safe from potential lawsuits. A company that cuts down on HR to cover costs will find themselves struggling to complete these tasks putting not only their hiring process at risk but the entire business operation. In order to avoid this, a small business must see the value in having a strong HR department.

Why HR Matters

Recruitment in the new normal

The success of any business depends on its employees. HR professionals can help attract and secure talent that fits the SME’s needs. This year has demonstrated how companies need to be very efficient with who they hire as an ill-fitted employee could cause a lot more issues than before. One benefit of the shift to operating online across industries is that traditional recruitment is giving way to remote recruiting. The ongoing pandemic has forced companies to reimagine the way they attract, recruit and retain employees. In particular, organizations need to bridge the virtual event recruiting gap through the use of available technology, like video conferencing platforms and artificial intelligence-assisted talent management platforms.

The way to bridge this gap is by employing HR professionals who are knowledgeable about the latest recruitment paradigms and equipped with expertise to adapt to the changing norms. The good news is that while remote hiring may be a new process to many companies, those who are now studying HR management at degree level will already be familiar with remote work due to the increasing number of students taking online degrees in the field. Graduates with an online human resources degree will have covered the latest emerging technologies, current issues and trends in HR. They will be able to apply them to the current situation. SME leaders who may have valued traditional qualifications over modern methods, like online learning, should now see that not only are the two equals, but those studying online may even have an advantage when it comes to remote recruiting. This is particularly crucial to SMEs, who will need to cast a wide a net as possible to bring in top talent in order to survive the coming years.

Employee Training, Development and Recognition

Finding and hiring top talent is one thing. Keeping them is another. HR helps in this regard by taking point in keeping employees engaged. Central to this is constant training and development, which will benefit SMEs greatly when done correctly. HR, for instance, can organize no-cost or low-cost training programs that will improve employees' skills, or they can even cross-train employees, in turn preparing them to take on multiple functions or tasks.

HR also makes sure that employees get compensation, benefits, and recognition. This can include aiding with a retirement plan or opening a 401(k), running a bonus system, and coming up with recognition programs and activities that will make employees feel valued. A company that is on top of this will improve employee engagement, empowerment and retention.

Legal Safety Net

Save for retaining an actual lawyer, HR can help protect SMEs for possibly crippling lawsuits stemming from unjust labor practices, illegal firings and similar cases. That's because HR professionals are well-versed in employment laws, which vary from state to state. This knowledge will help SME owners avoid mistakes that could have serious legal consequences. HR can ensure full compliance to state and federal laws, from displaying FMLA and OSHA notices and posters in the workplace, to keeping the business from potential fines and other penalties.

Ostensibly, quite a few SME owners think that having HR is an unnecessary expense, especially with a limited workforce. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Yes, it is an additional expense, but it is also essential that SMEs have a good HR department if they want to continue growing.

Grace Collins is a business and financial blogger. She provided this content exclusively to ALTA. Send feedback to communications@alta.org

10/14/2020

E-mortgage Volume Spikes During Covid

FHFA emortgage chart
The increase of e-mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac spiked significantly over the first six months of 2020, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported.

In a September white paper, the FHFA reported that e-mortgages comprised 4.25 percent of all single-family mortgage purchases made by the Government Sponsored Entities (GSE) during the first half of the year. This accounted for $38.8 billion in mortgages. As a comparison, e-mortgages comprised 2.8 percent ($29.3 billion) of all single-family mortgage purchased made by the GSEs in 2018.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac attributed the spike to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The FHFA reported that lenders have accelerated their e-mortgage implementation plans because of social distancing requirements and borrowers’ desire to conduct business remotely.

“As a Fannie Mae official explained, the COVID-19 crisis put e-mortgages front and center, and lenders began to realize some of the benefits, such as speed and efficiency,” FHFA noted.

in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of jurisdictions have implemented emergency or permanent orders relaxing notarization laws, including allowing remote online notarizations (RON) in those areas. In addition, the GSEs have extended temporary loan measures, including the use of RON.

The FHFA reported the GSEs expect e-mortgage purchases to increase during the second half of 2020 and 2021. Its estimated that e-mortgages will represent 5 percent of total GSE volume by the end of the year.

GSE officials said longer-term expansion could be impeded because e-notarization (including RON) was not available in all 50 states. Additionally, despite initiatives and orders allowing for RON, an official with Freddie Mac said the number of notaries certified and available to act as electronic notaries is low.

Use of e-mortgages carries both risk management benefits and potentially heightened risks.

Both the GSEs said e-mortgages offer fewer signing errors and ensure that documents, pages and signatures are not missing from the closing package, which minimizes post-closing review delays.

Other benefits noted in the report include:

  • may reduce the need for settlement provider and lender back office teams to perform quality post-closing reviews for missing signatures and unsigned documents and can help minimize efforts associated with trailing documents.
  • GSE systems can automatically certify the loan when it is delivered by verifying that all the information in the note, such as loan terms and property information, matches the loan delivery data.
  • Eliminating the need to physically transfer a note improves efficiency, reduces costs and eliminates the risk that it will be lost.
  • Borrowers can review and electronically sign some documents before the closing, making the closing faster and easier.

While underwriting parameters are the same for an e-mortgage versus a traditional paper-based mortgage, differences for signing processes introduces potential risk.

According to Fitch Ratings, e-mortgages can increase risk if counterparties do not have proper controls and remediation plans for their e-mortgage systems and platform. For example, Freddie Mac told FHFA that if counterparties do not comply with the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) in the e-mortgage and e-closing processes, then the resulting e-mortgage may have issues or delays in enforcement. According to Freddie Mac, the potential for enforceability issues with e-mortgages is their highest risk.

10/09/2020

ALTA Announces Winners of 2020 Title Webbies

ALTA announced the winners of the 2020 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 Title Webbie award winners were honored during ALTA ONE, the largest annual event for the land title insurance industry. Nominees in 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. New this year, ALTA awarded a third Title Webbie—the #GoodDeeds Award—recognizing a company’s connection to its community through a social media campaign.

ATGATG Title in Fairfax, Va., won the Best Website-Title Agents category. On its new website, ATG Title focuses on providing information to educate consumers. Six tabs in the homeowner section highlight the purpose and benefits of title insurance, a step-by-step breakdown of the closing process, ways to save on closing costs, resources for more information on buying a home, information on ALTA Best Practices and standards and a real estate glossary.

“The main goal of our website is to educate the consumer on the cumbersome and confusing title and closing process in simple and clear language a fifth grader can understand,” said Mo Choumil, founder and CEO of ATG Title. “We collaborate writing original content by professional copywriters explaining all the aspects of closing, settlement and escrow services, with the intent to eliminate ambiguity and confusion from the process.”

FnfThe FNF Family of Companies, which has offices across the United States, was chosen as the Best Website-Underwriters winner. FNF’s Digital Closing Hub helps educate homeowners who are learning about digital closings and need to understand what to expect during a real estate transaction. The site is easy to navigate, mobile-friendly and a safe space for consumers to learn more about digital real estate closing options.

“The Digital Closing Hub has been an exciting project for the FNF Family of Companies because it has given our agents a way to directly talk to consumers, and the general public, about the changing world of digital closings and remote online notarization,” said Linda Grahovec ITP, IEP, NTP, vice president, National Agency Director of Education and Marketing at FNF Family of Companies. “Always talked about as a topic on the horizon before, the pandemic quickened the remote online notarization (RON) adoption timeline across the country, and FNF is proud to have provided resources and educational materials our agents need to make sure their customers understand these digital options. The Digital Closing Hub is central to these efforts and will continue to be a must-visit website for everyone who wants to learn about the innovation choices they have for a modern real estate closing.”

The Digital Closing Hub includes information about RON, COVID-19 resources, educational materials, digital closing solution partners and recent digital closing news.

ContinentalContinental Title, which operates in Kansas and Missouri, received this year’s #GoodDeeds Award for its #CTCcares Campaign. Started in January 2020, the effort has raised more than $36,000 for local charities, such as several humane societies and Ronald McDonald Houses across the two states.

“We are humbled and honored to be recognized by ALTA for the #GoodDeeds Award,” said Matt McBride, president of Continental Title. “One of the core values of Continental Title Company is ‘We Are Charitable.’ We truly take this to heart. Through the #CTCcares effort, we have donated $36,325 through the third quarter of this year to several charitable organizations in the communities we serve.”

“Over the past few years, the title insurance industry slowly has begun to turn the tide and put homeowners at the center of everything we do,” said ALTA CEO Diane Tomb. “With this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more important that we take care of our customers and communities, whether that means providing much needed informational resources or financial support. I’m proud to see ALTA members stepping up to the plate with these Good Deeds. Congratulations to ATG Title, the FNF Family of Companies and Continental Title.”

10/07/2020

ALTA Announces Winners of ALTA Our Values Awards

ALTA announced the winners of the 2020 ALTA Our Values Awards. The awards program showcases the title insurance industry’s Our Values initiative, which serves as the industry’s cultural compass and highlights the core ideals ALTA members embrace.

The four Our Values award winners were honored during ALTA ONE, the largest annual event for the land title insurance industry. The three individual awards each represent one of the three values:

  • We Lead: We are the authority in real estate transactions. We innovate for the benefit of our customers.
  • We Deliver: Our customers trust us to do the right thing, the right way--before, during and after the transaction. We sweat the small stuff to assure that land transfer is accurate, swift and secure.
  • We Protect: We protect the property rights of those we serve. We reduce risk so our customers have peace of mind.

The program’s fourth award, the Our Values Collaboration Award, recognizes an entire ALTA member office that works as a cohesive team, consistently living Our Values and demonstrating an extraordinary level of positive impact on those who rely on their services.

MccughNancy McHugh WLTP, president and owner of Town n’ Country Title (TNCT), which has multiple offices in Wisconsin and Minnesota, won the We Lead Award for her leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. During March and April 2020, TNCT was going through a large title software upgrade amid the uncertainties created by the pandemic as well as a major increase in business volume. McHugh not only navigated work-from-home accommodations for her entire staff, but also sat with each department to learn their daily activities and help where she could. When she wasn’t working late, she was sewing face masks for her team and members of the community. And when an employee lost a child to COVID-19, McHugh drove four hours to the affected branch and spent two weeks working in the office while the team member took time off. She cried and prayed with the staff member and supported her in her time of need. McHugh leads by serving her employees, community and customers.

“I am humbled and honored to have received the Our Values We Lead award from the American Land Title Association, and I thank them for this recognition,” McHugh said. “These uniquely challenging times have impacted the way I lead our team. We have experienced the incredible volume increase while training and learning an entirely new production software program, just as COVID-19 changed the way we and the title industry do business. It remains important that as a leader I lend an ear and comfort staff through concerns, illness and, unfortunately, the loss of loved ones. It has not been easy. Ultimately, I serve those that I lead by serving our customers alongside my team, by being a part of the team each day, through it all. Whatever it takes.”

HarrisonDee Harrison, president and escrow officer of Alpha Reliable Title Inc. in Orlando, Fla., won the We Deliver Award for closing a transaction at her home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Harrison had a client who needed to close on a property on a specific date not only because the associated rate lock was expiring, but also because the client needed to move her mother before the pandemic became too severe. The client was afraid of exposing her mother to movers and other professionals who might inadvertently put her in contact with the coronavirus. Because the client did not want to meet at an office, Harrison set up the patio at her home for the transaction. The client was blown away that a title agent would open her own home to help keep a stranger safe.

“I am extremely grateful to be the recipient of the “We Deliver” Award,” Harrison said. “Ever since I joined the title industry 30 years ago, it has always been my greatest pleasure to experience the tremendous joy that we bring to our clients by delivering the American Dream. Each file is completely different and comes with its own set of issues that we as title agents have to deal with.  My mission is that my team and I will never give up on a closing as long as there is a way to resolve the issues. My experience has taught me that once the clients are willing to hang in there, we should be willing to invest our time to bring that transaction to the closing table. I stand behind my brand, ‘We Stay Open Until You Close’ and live this every day. Closing at odd hours and strange locations, such as while someone catches a plane, being incarcerated or in the hospital, has made us famous among those we serve.”

PfaffMaureen Pfaff WTP, NTP, ALTA Board of Governor and president of Olympic Peninsula Title (OPT) in Port Angeles, Wash., won the We Protect Award for saving a transaction from a known fraudster who was a fugitive from another state. Pfaff was alerted to potential fraud when a man unknown to her wanted OPT to record documents related to a foreclosure because he claimed Fannie Mae had not paid him for work performed. When Pfaff searched county records, she found several suspicious documents. She eventually discovered that the stranger had been convicted of a home theft scam in Montana and confirmed with the recorder’s office that he indeed was the same man who had recorded the suspicious documents. She then alerted the local sheriff’s office who found the man had warrants out for his arrest. When the man appeared in court for the foreclosure case, the judge dismissed the foreclosure action and the sheriff arrested him on the spot.

“I am honored to receive the Our Values We Protect Award this year,” Pfaff said. “Given our specialized knowledge of the real estate transfer process, I believe we have a duty to protect the public record, question filings that don't seem right and alert property owners to questionable activity. We've all heard stories about fraudulent transfers of title, but it's easy to expect that it only happens somewhere else. When I spotted it happening in my community, I was determined to put a stop to it before it turned into a huge financial mess for the property owner.”  

Closing agentFinally, The Closing Agent team in Orlando, Fla., won the Our Values Collaboration Award for helping not only local real estate partners but also volunteering within the community they serve. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the office pioneered the use of remote online notarization (RON) throughout Florida. President and CEO Barry L. Miller was the first duly appointed remote online notary in the state while Vice President Lyliam Chau was the first woman appointed as a remote online notary. The team has provided multiple classes to real estate agents on the use of RON and the future of closings. They also hold monthly education courses for Realtors. The Closing Agent Attorney Christian C. Walters volunteers regularly with the Orlando Youth Alliance, an organization dedicated to providing nonexploitative, safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth. Walters and Miller serve on the board of directors of The Central Florida Gay & Lesbian Law Association, which is dedicated to the professional development of its membership as well as community legal services outreach. Additionally, the two started a free legal clinic at the LGBTQ+ Community Center of Orlando where members of the community can receive free legal advice on a monthly basis. The program has helped hundreds of individuals with legal issues ranging from real property transactions to divorce and immigration. Additionally, Elizabeth Hernandez, a processor with The Closing Agent, volunteers with the American Red Cross. Her services range from assisting families after the tragic burning of their homes to managing full-blown shelters during hurricanes.

“From serving on the City of Orlando’s boards to volunteering time helping members of our community that are affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters, I am so happy that the team have been recognized for their tireless efforts,” Miller said. “We pride ourselves on keeping it local and look forward to many more years supporting our community.”

During the awards ceremony at ALTA ONE, ALTA Immediate Past President Cynthia Durham Blair NTP announced the honorees.

“The Our Values Committee was very excited to have so many worthy nominees, but the award winners stood out from the rest by going above and beyond,” Blair said. “We are so proud of the ALTA membership for continuing to lead, deliver and protect our customers every day.”