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Jan/Feb 2017 - Volume 8, Issue 1 (Web Version)

  Vol. 8, Issue 1, Jan/Feb 2017   Click Here for a PDF Version of This Newsletter    
 

IN THIS ISSUE >

Excellent Electronic Execution Knowledge (EEEK!)

Company Announces Strong Fourth-quarter Financial Results

Business Development Spotlight:

BreakthroughBroker.com
PalmAgent

Real-time Resources: Linking Agents to the Latest Resources and News


HAVE A SUBMISSION?
Agents can send a brief submission and any related photos to their agency rep. Agency staff can share submissions with Linda Grahovec, NTP, VP, Marketing and Communications, at linda.grahovec@fnf.com or 630.222.0778.

 

 
 
MEET THE EXPERT: JOE REINHARDT, EVP AND GENERAL COUNSEL, FTNG



As title insurers, words like “claims” and “litigation” cause most of us to cringe. Instead, our objective is smooth closings with minimal problems. But for FNTG EVP and General Counsel Joe Reinhardt, properly handling claims and litigation matters are what he and his team of 600 employees strive to do each day. This team includes FNTG’s Omaha and Jacksonville Claims Centers, In-House Litigation, Underwriting and Risk Management.

A 21-year company veteran, Joe brings a unique perspective to the job that includes underwriting and claims expertise, as well as direct and agency operations management. His experience includes serving as Southeast Regional Claims Manager, Florida State Manager, Southeast Regional Counsel, Co-Chief Underwriting Counsel and Chief Claims Counsel. Joe took on his current role as General Counsel in 2013.

WORKING WITH AGENTS
According to Joe, FNTG’s expertise in legal matters and strong customer service skills create a winning formula for success. “The underwriting and claims management teams at FNTG are clear industry leaders. Yet, we understand it is equally critical to recognize our integral part in a service-oriented organization,” he explained. “We cannot act in a legal silo; we are as critical to business development efforts as anyone in sales or title operations. When a customer is served with a lawsuit involving their home or when an agent encounters a complex commercial transaction, we can provide the greatest value as an organization. In these circumstances, our customers rely on us, and we have the opportunity to make the most impact.”

The Claims and In-House Litigation groups work closely with agents to resolve any claims issues that arise. Currently, about half of FNTG’s title claims involve policies issued by one of our agents. “We recognize that the agent is the party closest to the transaction and is, therefore, a major asset in assisting us to reach the most efficient resolution to a title claim or litigation,” said Joe.

The Corporate Underwriting department is a key part of any large commercial transaction involving agents. Joe emphasized, “Our senior staff underwriters are very sophisticated real estate attorneys and lead the industry in structuring the most complicated transactions. Not only are they able to offer the highest level of experience, they also capitalize on their role as a facilitator to effectively close deals without unnecessary risk.”



CYBER FRAUD: A TOP CHALLENGE FOR AGENTS
When asked to share — from a legal perspective — agents’ biggest challenge, Joe said that cyber fraud tops the list. “Every day, a tremendous amount of money gets exchanged in the real estate sector. Criminals realize this and are always looking for ways to infiltrate transactions for their benefit. Fraudsters understand the significance that technology now plays in the real estate transaction, so that is where they focus their efforts,” Joe explained. As a result, we must focus on preventing cyber fraud, including business email compromises and data breaches.

“Many title agents and real estate agents continue to use free email services, which don’t always provide the highest level of security. The current-day fraudsters have seized on this vulnerability and can duplicate email credentials and pose as a party to the transaction — typically the buyer, the seller, their agents or attorneys — and request that sales proceeds be wired to an alternate account,” said Joe. (See box below for more detail.)



Joe explained that title agents’ escrow files contain confidential customer information, such as account information, social security numbers and more. Much of that information is ultimately uploaded into hard drives and servers. Similar to business email, agents must ensure that they secure this data from unauthorized intrusion. Additionally, agents should review their existing E&O policies to make certain they contain specific coverage for cyber crime. Such coverage isn’t part of a typical title agency E&O policy and is only available by separate endorsement or policy.

FUN FACT
When asked to share a little known fact about himself, Joe said, “I grew up in Kansas, the farthest U.S. point from any ocean. So when I have free time, it usually involves something to do with salt water.” 

FOR MORE INFORMATION
For agents interested in learning more about E&O coverage, Riebling Insurance is an FNTG Solution Provider that offers E&O coverage. Click here to learn more. For a full listing of FNTG Solution Providers, click here to link to our website.
 

   
           
 

FOR MORE
INFORMATION >


FNTG has posted a set of definitions that we have been using within the Company to discuss cyber and hybrid closings. Click here to link to the glossary.


 

 
 
EXCELLENT ELECTRONIC EXECUTION KNOWLEDGE (EEEK!)





There is a lot of buzz about all things electronic when it comes to our business. This short article is meant to be a primer on some of those ideas and terms.

First off, let’s discuss the e-closing, which can be the whole closing process from beginning to end, done without paper, or it can be a series of the steps of a “normal” closing, with a combination of paper and electronic parts.

One of the difficulties in trying to discuss these issues is that everyone defines certain terms with an amazing lack of precision. A completely electronic closing means that the documents, the signing, the notarizing and the recording exist only digitally. But many people toss around e-closing to mean the electronic recording of a “wet” signed mortgage and note, which are printed, executed and notarized and then scanned and transmitted for recording. These are more properly referred to as “hybrid” closings, since they are a combination of paper and electronic elements. We have posted a set of definitions we have been using within the Company to discuss these issues. Click here to link to the glossary.

For us to insure that the Title to Land has transferred by either type of e-closing, you need several stars to align:

• The state must have enacted statutes that allow:
> Electronic Signatures (most have)
> Electronic Notaries (we will discuss Remote Electronic Notaries separately)
> The status of electronic instruments to render constructive notice in the Public Record and not be subject to challenge (in foreclosure or bankruptcy situations especially)


The lack of a prohibition in the statutes is not the same as recognition of these activities.

• The recorder or register must be able to accept these instruments for indexing and recording in the format or platform in which they exist.


• The creator of all digital loan documents must have the ability to handle the electronic note, which requires additional security measures including the use of a secure electronic vault.

• The closer must be able to access and use the lenders’ platform(s).

The stars resemble a meteor shower at the moment, but when the cosmic dust settles, this will be the way many closings will take place. The industry has been doing hybrid closings in certain areas of the country for several years. The important issue facing us at the moment is trying to have a meaningful discussion with all parties at the table — including lenders, vendors, real estate agents and others — by understanding the terminology and using it consistently.

As an industry and a Company, we are excited about opportunities that streamline the time and challenges associated with real estate transactions. We are not against this process at all; however, we do not want to assume risk where we had none before, just to be “cool”! Many of the parties to these discussions seem to think that getting the documents recorded is all that is needed. We all know that is not true. Recording is just the beginning of the risk analysis. We want to make sure we move forward with the full strength of the constructive notice statutes behind us, as that is an integral part of our decision to insure.

Throughout the last year, I have heard the following statements:

• “Over half the recorders in the country accept electronic documents.”
… But many only accept releases and assignments, not deeds and mortgages!

• “You are just afraid of change.”
… No, we are not, but we do not see the prudent business purposes in change that is not based in common sense. We welcome any process that streamlines our business in a meaningful way and does not add unnecessary risk.

• “If a bankruptcy or foreclosure challenge is successful at setting aside the instruments based upon the use of a remote notary authorized in a different state, that is just your business risk.”
… Usually said by parties that take no risk as to the insurability of the title.

• “Every state recognizes remote e-notary.”
… Ah, the elephant in the room!

Remote notarization is a specific type of electronic notarization. It is the process in which the notary and the signatory are not in physical proximity. At present, it is only statutorily recognized in Virginia and, to a certain extent, in Montana. In the many other states that allow electronic notarizations, the parties must still physically “appear before” the notary. They electronically sign an instrument by clicking on a keyboard or signing with a stylus on an electronic notepad. The notary still does his or her job of identifying the signatories pursuant to the state’s rules and regulations.

The confusion in this area is one of the reasons why the American Land Title Association has a workgroup to help the state land title associations promote the adoption of statutes and rules on remote notarization that clearly protect the viability of the public records, which is our lifeblood.

This is how I would suggest that you start the quest for the answer to the question: How do I best position myself for the emerging opportunity to incorporate e-closings in my operations?

• If you do closings, discuss with your lender customers how they would like to proceed and which platforms they want to use.

• Verify how they will handle e-notes and the vaulting of them. At this time, MERS, among others, has set up an electronic vault.

• Also verify with your recorder if and how they e-record and how it impacts the indexing and gap period.

• Keep abreast of current developments concerning proposed legislation and regulation of these issues in your state.

• Check with your Company underwriting advisors to see which statutes support e-notary and e-recording in your state and if they have any guidelines that must be followed to insure title based on such instruments.


If you are asked to participate in a remote closing project for a particular customer, please contact your agency representative or state agency counsel for input.

The future is coming. Let’s not make it any scarier than it has to be.
 

   
           
 

FOR MORE
INFORMATION >


To learn more, visit FNF’s website at www.investor.fnf.com.

 

 
 
COMPANY ANNOUNCES STRONG FOURTH-QUARTER FINANCIAL RESULTS



Fidelity National Financial reported strong earnings for its Title segment during the fourth quarter of 2016, generating $1.8 billion in total revenue for the quarter and $7.0 billion for the full year of 2016.

TITLE PREMIUMS & ESCROW
Fourth-quarter results — The Title segment’s total revenue of $1.8 billion for the fourth quarter of 2016 is based on:
• title premiums for direct and agency operations of $1.3 billion;
• escrow, title-related and other fees of $541 million; and
• interest and investment income totaling $33 million.


Agents were responsible for generating $692 million in title premiums, which represents 54 percent of the Title segment’s total direct and agency premiums earned during the fourth quarter.

Full-year results — The Title segment’s total revenue of $7.0 billion for the full year of 2016 is based on:
• title premiums for direct and agency operations of $4.7 billion;
• escrow, title-related and other fees of $2.1 billion; and
• interest and investment income totaling $127 million.

Agents were responsible for generating $2.6 billion in title premiums, which represents 56 percent of the Title segment’s total direct and agency premiums earned during the full year of 2016.


 

   
           
 

FOR MORE
INFORMATION >


To learn more, call Eric Sachs at 970.420.1414, or email him at eric@breakthroughbroker.com.

 

 
 
AMAZING CUSTOMER SERVICE: IS IT HELPING YOU GROW OR HOLDING YOU BACK?



As a former high-producing real estate agent, it meant a lot to me when title companies provided good service. It’s always nice when companies mean what they say and follow through to get the job done. Honestly, I’ve never met a title company that didn’t showcase their awesome customer service. So by this measure, outstanding customer service is a fundamental necessity rather than a value add or differentiator for most real estate agents when considering title service providers.

Think about going to get your oil changed and having the attendant look at you, very excited, and tell you he is going to give you new oil and a fresh filter. The expression on your face might say, “Well, of course, that is why I brought my car here!” This doesn’t mean that great customer service is easy to provide or unimportant; without it, any company is going to have big problems.

The issue I see for title companies is that great customer service is not going to earn you more business. In order to grow, you must set yourself apart, be seen more than the competition and become relevant to real estate agents’ success in your market. AgentEngage, powered by breakthroughbroker.com, is a solution designed to do just that. Our automated platform brands your company on the most popular real estate agent resource in the industry, delivers weekly content to your clients (real estate agents) and, ultimately, keeps you in front of them more than your competition. The solution is currently the most referred direct-to-REALTOR® marketing platform in the industry. With a low-cost, month-to-month subscription, you can start reaching out to your real estate agents like never before.




 

   
           
 

FOR MORE
INFORMATION >


To learn more about PalmAgent, contact Caleb Tidwell at
817.681.2705 or ctidwell@palmagent.com.
 

 
 
DO YOUR CLIENTS EXPECT EVERYTHING AND APPRECIATE NOTHING?

At PalmAgent, our philosophy is simple: If you work hard for your clients, you should receive value from that relationship. We have seen that real estate agents expect a lot from their title partners, but don’t always appreciate the services/products you provide. With over 350,000 users nationally, PalmAgent has created real estate’s No. 1 closing cost app. The secret sauce is our strategy that not only brings value to your clients, but also provides an effective way to track and grow market share for your operation.

NET SHEETS MADE EASY
Using local title fees, closing costs and all other county-specific rates, we have built the simplest yet most comprehensive Net Sheet app in the industry. Your real estate agents will save time and make more money. Our programming team will include your company’s branding on all emails and printouts, while working across all major platforms: iOS, Android, Windows and Mac. It’s also jam-packed with other features including: offer/loan comparisons, social media marketing, cloud syncing and much more, making it a must-have for any real estate agent.

TRACKING AND LEVERAGING
The PalmAgent Dashboard is what really pulls this product together and puts the power back in the title company’s hands. We never want real estate agents to use our Tools/Services but close with the competition. The Dashboard enables you to fully manage your database of clients, track usage, view user information, generate reports and, most important, give you transparency with your marketing dollars.

DO YOU CURRENTLY HAVE A NET SHEET APP FOR YOUR CLIENTS?
Contact Caleb Tidwell at 817.681.2705 or ctidwell@palmagent.com to learn more.


 

   
           
 

Linking you to real-time resources for you and your customers. Links are updated each issue, so be sure to visit often!

 
 
LINKING AGENTS TO THE LATEST RESOURCES AND NEWS





FNTG’S DEDICATED CFPB WEBSITE:
FNTG’s CFPB Website was created with agents’ customers in mind. It’s a tool agents can use for customer presentations — linking directly to the site.

Calendar Feature: This closing calendar (found on our CFPB website) helps real estate agents assess their potential closing dates and lets title agents or customers know when they should receive their CD in order to close on a targeted date.

CO-BRANDED MARKETING TOOLS AND RESOURCES:
FNTG offers agents a variety of sophisticated and educational brochures and fliers to use with customers. The pieces can be co-branded with the agent’s underwriter logo and the agent’s logo. Available pieces include:
• Five Different Marketing One-pagers
• Various Policy Comparison Fliers
• State Laws and Area Customs
• Various Brochures, Fliers and Trifolds


Contact your local account manager or rep for details.




Check out recent additions to FNTG’s National Agency Website (some sections are password-protected):

Lender Updates and Correspondence: This section provides a full listing of recent lender correspondence.
The Solution Partners tab (top menu bar) and a shortcut icon (left margin) provide ease of access to the new website.
Cyber Crime Updates & Information provides important resources and contacts for agents.


TRAINING & EDUCATION
2016 FNTG Fact Sheet: A great fact sheet to provide to your customers and prospects to speak to the financial strength of your underwriter.
Escrow/Settlement Training: Check out this valuable training section, which offers e-learning modules for both new and seasoned employees.
Want to Learn, We Love to Teach: The ALTA/FNTG-sponsored Title Topics webinars cover timely topics.




FNTG Solution Partners Website — Our Solution Partners website easily connects FNTG agents and their customers to more than 40 of our hand-picked solution partners.

Printable PDF of the Solution Partners Listing — Link to an alphabetized, printable PDF of FNTG’s Solution Partners listing.

Best Practices Partner Resources — Connect with Solution Partners that can assist agents in attaining Best Practice compliance.




NewsDesk — FNTG’s NewsDesk provides industry news from a variety of resources. It’s a simple way to boost your social media efforts. Post one or two articles to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. We’ve done the work for you!




FNF’s Fraud Insights: Vol. 12, Issue 2 — Fraud Insights is produced for company staff and agents. Click above to link to a recent issue. If you aren’t receiving the newsletter and would like to, contact your agency rep.




ALTA Website — Be sure to visit ALTA’s website for the latest on business tools, advocacy, education and news.

Recent News: ALTA Supports Effort to Improve Real Estate Closing Process

Homebuyer Outreach Program enables ALTA members to easily share the benefits of owner’s title insurance and includes a Spanish Language Suite. Click here for details.

Home Closing 101 Website is dedicated to consumers and the buying process.
 

   
           
 

Agents can send a brief submission and any related photos to their agency rep. Agency staff can share submissions with Linda Grahovec, NTP, VP, Marketing and Communications, at linda.grahovec@fnf.com or 630.222.0778.

 
 
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

Agency Insights is produced for our valued agents and staff. We’d like to hear from you! We invite you to submit write-ups of special events and activities, including:
• industry-related recognition for individual or office accomplishments;
• involvement in industry-related events;
• compliance or Best Practice stories; and
• involvement in community-focused activities.


   
           
           
 

Agency Insights
 

 

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