Cloud computing can increase your firm’s scalability, flexibility and productivity.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard quite a bit about the cloud over the past decade and a half. Anyone with a smartphone has at least a basic understanding of this type of computing. Yet the cloud is far more than a convenient place to hold photos, videos, documents or other data for individual use. Cloud computing has, in fact, become an integral component of how today’s businesses operate. It offers firms unprecedented ability to scale their operations, off-load cumbersome maintenance, improve productivity and even cut costs. Let’s look deeper at the advantages it offers to small and large businesses alike.
The most obvious advantage of cloud computing is expanded flexibility, which can mean a couple of things. First, our economy is experiencing tremendous upheaval, with the Great Resignation and the ongoing push for hybrid work shaking old paradigms to their core. Cloud computing represents an incredible opportunity for businesses to free their workers from being tethered exclusively to on-site technologies, giving them access to the tools, documents and systems they need from anywhere at any time.
The second way cloud computing improves flexibility is by supporting customization. It’s highly likely that your business’s IT needs will grow and change over time. By migrating systems to the cloud, adding new seats, deploying new functionality and carrying out updates becomes much easier.
Businesses must always be mindful of their costs, which is another advantage cloud computing brings to the table. The cloud can reduce IT spending in several ways. First, when you migrate to the cloud, you can say goodbye to dealing with expensive hardware, which the cloud vendor owns and manages off-site. Lower maintenance comes along with cloud adoption as well, with responsibilities also transferred to the vendor and allowing you to reduce your internal IT budget. Don’t discount productivity gains either. With cloud computing, companies can easily update their systems. Staff then will have more time to focus on creative work.
Closely connected to the issue of worker flexibility are recruitment and retention. Cloud computing is a key enabler of the hybrid worker revolution, as it supports communications and collaboration solutions like UCaaS, CPaaS, CCaaS, DaaS and more. With the demand for hybrid or fully remote work on the rise, having the infrastructure to support these workers is a fantastic advantage when trying to attract the best talent.
Be Mindful of Security
If you choose to adopt cloud computing for your agency, always remember to inquire about the vendor’s security and data protections. In a heavily regulated industry that deals every day with sensitive information, agencies must be mindful of the security of their technology systems. The good news is most cloud computing vendors will offer products and services that already feature robust safeguards like DDoS protection, data integrity and 24/7 support. However, there is a great deal of variation between providers, and it is always a good idea to inquire directly about your security needs to ensure you have adequate protections in place.
Each year that goes by seems to validate the increasing adoption of cloud computing. With cloud computing often leading to additional flexibility, higher productivity and cost savings to boot, it’s no wonder more businesses are seeing it as a powerful method to gain new efficiencies and spur exciting growth.
Do you want to learn more about cloud computing and how it can help your business? Check out this great article. And if you’d like to discover top companies that provide cloud services, this piece details some of the top companies in the field.
Participating in events is a shrewd way to promote your business. Here’s how to fully leverage your presence.
Despite the importance of digital marketing in today’s economy, sometimes the old ways are still best. Person-to-person marketing is often the most impactful method for spreading the word about your business. Participating in events or tradeshows is a great way to deploy this type of outreach. Here are a few tips for making the most out of these opportunities – before, during and after the event!
Before the Event
While participating in events is about person-to-person marketing, digital marketing still has an important role to play. Let’s be honest, if you don’t let people know your business will be at an event, people won’t seek you out and you won’t get a chance to have the type of conversations that can drive eventual business gains.
Start promoting your attendance at an event well in advance. First, determine your goals, audience, messages, channels and budget. Then, structure these items around a realistic timeline. Next, establish some effective strategies and tactics to get your message out, such as:
- Creating a social media campaign communicating where you’ll be located at the event site and a value proposition for why attendees should visit your booth.
- Putting notices about the event in your newsletter.
- Establishing an email marketing campaign.
- Connecting with the hosting organization behind the event to inquire about joint-promotional efforts or opportunities.
- Writing related content like a blog entry.
As with any other marketing plan, you’ll want to ensure that you also attach evaluation metrics to the campaign to gauge your efforts. It’s difficult to over-emphasize how important this step is. Without metrics, you will be unable to make real-time adjustments to your marketing efforts or fully assess your ROI.
During the Event
One of the most important things to remember is that your marketing efforts don’t end once the event begins. When you’re on-site, you will have three new marketing priorities:
- Continue to attract people to your booth
- Leverage news from the event
- Build prospects
Just because the event has started doesn’t mean you should stop building out and disseminating event-related content. Continue to use social media, blogs or emails to promote your participation in the event and to discuss its highlights to position yourself as a thought leader. Doing this will serve two purposes. In the short term, it will remind people to visit your booth while the event is going on. In the long term, it will enhance your firm’s standing for those who couldn’t attend but may be following via digital channels.
Once you have people paying attention to your presence at an event, however, there are other steps to take. Ensure your business is represented in a way that is professional and unified by creating a fully branded booth with consistent colors, logos and lettering. Including an interactive element is a great way to deepen the impact of your booth and your overall presence at the event. A photo backdrop is just one example of something you could do. Event attendees will be naturally drawn to your booth to commemorate their experience and may even share their photos on social – further extending your reach.
If you pull all of this off, you can effectively grow your business’s brand awareness. Best of all, if people have a positive experience visiting your booth, they will be more inclined to engage with you and share their contact details.
After the Event
Once an event has come and gone, it can be tempting to rest on your laurels; but you can’t stop just yet. After you’ve put away your booth and left the venue, you still need to do something with the contact information you’ve gained. All the business cards you’ve collected or email addresses you’ve compiled need to be sorted and organized.
The next step is to follow up with your new prospects. But before you start emailing contacts or calling them over the phone, just think for a moment. Is that the right approach? Where do people actually spend most of their time these days? Where do they feel the most comfortable interacting with acquaintances? Social media, that’s where! Seek them out on LinkedIn first and build authentic connections before you start marketing to them more directly. People are much more inclined to buy from you if they have a strong sense of who you are and what you can do for them.
Events require a lot of work, even if you are merely a participant and especially if you look at them as a golden opportunity to promote your business. But by adhering to best practices and solid marketing principles, you can fully leverage the unique platform offered by the event environment.
The cost of fraud to title and settlement services companies far exceeds the actual face value of a fraud incident, according to the 2022 LexisNexis True Cost of Fraud Study released recently.
The 57-page report provides information on current fraud trends in the mortgage, title and settlement industries and details some of struggles companies face in addressing fraud detection, prevention and customer experience.
In terms of the cost of fraud, research indicates that for every $1 lost in an actual fraud incident, the cost to a title company is $4.19 or four times that of the face amount of the loss. The number rises to $5.34 for originators.
According to the research, the additional cost is related to the labor required for fraud detection, plus the expense of investigation, reporting and recovery following an incident.
For title companies, the biggest cost is labor, with the actual breakout of related costs as follows:
- 35% attributed to labor costs
- 21% for detection, investigation and recovery
- 18% related to fines and legal fees
- 13% covering fees during application and processing
- 13% accounting for the face amount of the actual fraud
The actual cost is extraordinary, given that title companies reported a staggering 77% increase in fraud over the past three years. The growth in fraud is attributed in part to COVID, as a substantial portion of both mortgage and settlement services transactions moved to online and mobile-only transactions.
According to the LexisNexis report, although fraud originates largely in online and mobile-only transactions, it often the moves to the call center or phone-based point of interaction, which further adds to the risk, with the growth of remote workers handling these transactions.
For title companies working in the online and mobile transaction world, identity verification is the number one challenge.
“The challenge involves assessing digital identity attributes such as email and phone number,” the report states. “That is contributing to challenges with identifying malicious bots and the ability to determine the source of the transaction. Synthetic identities are a key driver of identity verification challenges, particularly among organizations that do not use fraud solutions that assess digital identities and behaviors.”
LexisNexis noted that the mobile channel especially is contributing to the high volumes in recent years.
“This channel brings device-related risks that are unique from online browser transactions (SIM card swapping, malware, SMS phishing). This allows fraudsters to gain entry through anonymous remote transactions at the very start of the mortgage process.”
Title companies walk a bit of a tightrope, determined to invest in strong fraud prevention, while striving to create a positive customer experience. Customers reportedly get frustrated with the passwords, qualifying questions and multiple identifiers it takes to get through the transaction and have been known to give up and drop out of online and mobile device-related processes out of frustration.
Balancing these two necessities of doing business has been challenging, but title companies that put forth the effort can dramatically reduce their exposure to fraud.
To help our agents assess their efforts, Alliant National released a white paper this year, titled Escrow Fraud/Social Engineering: Recent Schemes and Prevention Tips. The white paper provides agents with useful information, risk factors to consider, and practical action steps that will help you partner with consumers, real estate agents and lenders to defend against the fraudsters.
In addition, the LexisNexis report identifies four recommendations agents should consider, including remaining vigilant to increased fraud, increasing the use of technology, creating multi-layered solutions, and integrating cybersecurity and digital customer experience with your fraud processes.
Here are a few highlights from their list of recommendations:
- Accelerated movement to online/mobile transactions will continue to grow; therefore, title/settlement companies should continue to buildout and enhance the digital customer experience while protecting against fraud.
- Best practice fraud detection and prevention includes a multi-layered solutions approach, and the integration of fraud prevention with cybersecurity operations and the digital customer experience.
- Layering in supportive capabilities such as Social Media intelligence and AI/ML further strengthens fraud prevention.
While fraud prevention in the current environment is challenging, the report concludes that “firms which use a multi-layered solutions approach that is integrated with cybersecurity and digital customer experience operations can lower their cost and volume of successful fraud while improving identity verification and fraud detection effectiveness.”
We encourage agents to continue to explore and implement best practices as we all work together to combat fraud. Download our white paper – Escrow Fraud/Social Engineering: Recent Schemes and Prevention Tips – today to begin your own internal assessment.
To view the full LexisNexis study, click here.
Whether your customer has owned property for years or just purchased property, you know these property owners are not immune from being a potential victim of real property fraud. With the use of technology and access to real property records, property owners are reporting a number of fraud cases. One type of fraud being reported involves foreign property owners. The typical target owns an unencumbered, vacant parcel of land and has an out-of-country mailing address listed in the county records. Fraudsters are most likely finding these properties by searching the county records to identify a potential victim.
Here’s one recent fraud scenario: Months after a sales transaction closed, the title company was advised by the insured of a potential fraudulent sale of a vacant parcel of land which was owned by a foreign investor. An investigation revealed that the sale of the property was fraudulent. The conveyance deed was allegedly notarized by a notary employed at the U.S. Consulate General office in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Consulate General’s office confirmed that there was no notary by that name employed at their office. The owner of the property, who resided in Columbia, confirmed that the property was not for sale.
A few Red Flags we have identified while administering these types of claims include:
- Vacant land sales;
- Vacant parcels that have been owned by the same owner for several years;
- Non-local owners;
- Low sales price; or
- Real estate agent is contacted by a buyer/seller in a rush to buy/sell the property.
Some tips to help a title company avoid this type of fraud:
- Be extremely careful with emails from out-of-country sellers rushing to close the transaction;
- If you receive a rush sale request from the purported seller or a real estate agent, DO NOT rush; rather take your time and give the file your full attention;
- Ask the real estate agent how or from whom they received the sale listing;
- Contact the prospect seller via Zoom, Skype or another video-enabled meeting platform;
- Ask the seller questions about the property such as when and how they came to acquire it, and what their plans were for the vacant parcel to see if the seller knows the property’s history;
- Request to see the identification that will be used at the closing transaction;
- Check the seller’s foreign identification. Look at the picture (sometimes you can see that a picture was placed on top of another picture), and check for inconsistencies with the font and signs of tampering. Whenever possible, compare to a standard version of the identification, whether using a guidebook, an online resource, or even Googling samples of identification for comparison;
- Check the property appraiser’s website for the current owner’s address, and consider forwarding a letter to that address;
- Check the tax collector’s website, and review the history of tax payments to see if you can determine who the payor has been, and their mailing address;
- Research the notary and contact the Embassy or Consulate to confirm the notary works there. We have learned that many of the foreign officers are aware of this type of fraud; and
- If your gut tells you something is wrong, please follow your gut. That feeling is usually right!
For our agents, remember that you can be rewarded for your efforts through Alliant National’s Crime Watch Program if you prevent a fraudulent transaction from closing. Program details and the nomination form are on our website at alliantnational.com/title-claims/crime-watch-program/.
This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.
Data is all around us. Why not leverage it for better business decision making?
Most people know that modern business runs on the internet. But what does the internet run on you ask? Data, that’s what! How can you leverage your data to drive better business decisions? Let’s explore.
Data Sources and Why They Matter
It may surprise you how much data exists about your business. Whether it be from Google Analytics, social media or a business intelligence (BI) platform, there are multiple ways to gain actionable insights into your customers’ demographics, not to mention your business’s projects, performance, costs and revenues.
But why does any of this matter? Well, by better understanding your customers, their behaviors and your own internal processes, you can adjust buyer journeys and touchpoints, optimize your operations, reallocate your resources and more. Changes like these can lead to improved customer sentiment, increased employee morale and a stronger brand.
Google Analytics is a free tool and a great place to start gaining insight into how your customers are interacting with you online. To begin, establish your credentials for the Google suite and link the website you want to track. You’ll have to embed the Google Analytics code snippet on your site to accomplish this. While this isn’t exceptionally complicated, many people are uncomfortable trying to read HTML. Consult with your webmaster if you need assistance.
Once your account is set up, it’s time to start tracking some metrics. Some of the most important metrics include sessions, users, average time on page, bounce rate, acquisition sources and entrance and exit pages. These will give you a good starting point to understand how people are finding your website and what they’re doing once they’re on it. After that, you can take steps to encourage positive trends or address negative ones, such as putting more marketing dollars toward your most effective acquisition sources or optimizing your landing pages to make them more effective.
Although it may not look like it at first, social media can also be a powerful source of business intelligence. The medium has become a primary method for sharing business updates, but prospects and customers now often use social media to collect information on companies’ product and service offerings.
Many of these platforms offer free, built-in analytics where you can gain these insights. Facebook’s business suite, for instance, provides exportable, in-depth reports on your audience, including age and gender breakdowns, as well as top cities where they are located. It can also shine a light into whether your posts, updates and offers are resonating with these followers, and allow you to provide more effective content that will encourage them to engage with you.
For those who are serious about BI, however, nothing beats the power and depth offered by investing in a business intelligence solution. These platforms are designed with the specific purpose of helping firms gather and analyze large amounts of business data. These platforms often include striking data visualizations and can create a comprehensive, 360-degree view of your business. Not only will you gain a better sense of your audience through these platforms, but you can also track your company’s projects, resources and revenues. Staying up to date on this information may help you make tough decisions in real-time that can ultimately benefit your bottom line.
Take a look at some of the best platforms currently on the market.
Better Insights Equal a Better Business
In a fast-paced world that shows no signs of slowing, understanding all aspects of your business is critical to making the best possible decisions. Luckily, we live in a data-rich world. By deploying a BI platform or even leveraging free, pre-existing data sources like Google Analytics and social media, you can gain information to help position your company for even greater success.