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Graphic welcoming Rebecca Wood and Theresa Kane-Mackenzie

New Hires Rebecca Wood And Theresa Kane-Mckenzie Represent Our Commitment To You

Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are known as the “Sunshine,” “Keystone” and the “Garden” states respectively. They are each aptly named due to Florida’s perpetual rays, Pennsylvania’s colonial history and New Jersey’s lush orchards and farms. Within Alliant National, however, these states are known for something else: Each region offers incredible opportunities to empower the independent agent. Read how the underwriter is investing resources in both areas through two strategic hires, which will enhance its operations overall up and down America’s east coast.

Florida – A Rich Past and a Strong Future

Florida is one of those states that everyone knows even if you’ve never been there. Sprawling beaches. Delicious oranges. Disneyworld. The Everglades. At Alliant National, Florida is also well known, as it is one of the organization’s largest and oldest markets.

Alliant National started operating in Florida in 2009 and has seen stunning success over the last 15 years. Headed by SVP, Florida Regional Manager, Debra Coffie, and featuring underwriting leadership from Jeff Stein and Brenda Cannon, the company’s presence in the state has grown from a small shop to a sprawling network encompassing hundreds of agents. Despite these achievements, Alliant National is not resting on its laurels. “While we have experienced significant year-over-year growth,” said Coffie, “there is still ample potential to further impact in the market.”

Alliant National has seized this potential by continuing to invest in Florida, an important move given the state’s ever-increasing population and bustling real estate market. According to experts, Florida is one of the nation’s top relocation destinations. In late 2023, 4 of the top 10 cities for incoming residents were in Florida – including Orlando, Sarasota, Cape Coral and Tampa.[i]

Alliant National recently hired Rebecca Wood as Assistant Regional Counsel and VP to keep up with this demand and ensure that agents have adequate support. A long-time Floridian, legal professional and title insurance expert, few people are better equipped to take on this newly created role. Armed with three decades of experience, Wood is an industry authority and consummate professional. She is comfortable managing everything from analyzing legal details and risk assessments to interfacing directly with agents and claims professionals.

Alliant National Florida-based agents are undoubtedly in good hands with Wood joining the team.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey – High Growth and a New Frontier  

From one perspective, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are the opposite of Florida. One area is often cool, while the other is hot. One is in Canada’s orbit, and the other borders the Gulf of Mexico. Yet at Alliant National, these seemingly unrelated regions share a common characteristic: thriving title communities with which to build partnerships and drive shared success.  

Overseen by SVP, Central-West Regional Manager, Manoj Purohit, Alliant National has been active in Pennsylvania since 2022 and is aiming to expand due to encouraging market signs. While housing inventory and affordability remain low in much of the state, significant urban areas near its western border offer competitive price points that have attracted sizable numbers of aspiring home buyers. Pittsburgh and Erie in particular reported median listing prices in late 2023 far lower than the national average of $412,000 from that same period[ii] – making both metros major domestic migration destinations.

New Jersey is an entirely new market for Alliant National, although its decision to establish operations is fueled by a similarly optimistic market picture. The Federal Reserve announced in recent months, for example, that further interest rate increases are unlikely in the year ahead, causing mortgage costs to trend downward. On top of this, aspiring home buyers are flooding into the state from neighboring big cities like New York, increasing the potential for robust real estate demand.

Alliant National’s New Jersey operations will also be overseen by Purohit, who commented that both states area great opportunity waiting to be realized. “As it has across the country, Alliant National’s ‘agent only’ business model resonates deeply with independent agents in this region,” he said.

Alliant National’s hiring of Theresa Kane-Mackenzie is the most significant step it has taken in the region so far. With Kane-Mackenzie at the helm, the underwriter will develop its agency network and offer the type of uncommonly valuable help on which it has forged its reputation. “We expect to see strong growth and greater market share by bringing a proven industry veteran like Theresa on-board to head up our expansion efforts,” said Purohit.

Kane-Mackenzie’s vast expertise will be incredibly helpful in bringing this goal to fruition. Having built a respected, multi-decade career, Kane-Mackenzie has done it all. She has worked everywhere from national underwriters to title insurance technology providers. Her resume also includes experience in everything from underwriting and title production to marketing and continuing education. She is a one-stop shop that both current and future regional agents can leverage to improve processes and better serve customers.

Wherever you are, Alliant National is committed to you!

Alliant National has long invested in its greatest resource: its people. Recent steps in Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey reveal the depth of that commitment. The story of these two areas shows that Alliant National’s founding principles are alive and well in the present day. If you’re an independent agent, it doesn’t matter where you are or how long you’ve been with us, Alliant National is dedicated to ensuring that you always come first.


[i] Florida Housing Market Predictions: Forecast for the Next 5 Years (themortgagereports.com)

[ii] Median Home Price By State 2024 – Forbes Advisor

3 players reaching for a basketball

How To Team Build Year Round

There is no off-season for building effective teams.

In our working lives, we hear a lot of chatter about team building. Yet, even though it is widely acknowledged that strong teams are the cornerstone of successful businesses, the exact mechanisms for how you build them are less clear-cut.  

For Stacy Stolen, HR Director at Alliant National, creating an environment where staff feel connected, safe and collaborative requires a holistic, year-round approach. She shared insights on how to successfully implement team building in your organization for impactful results.Team building: A critically important conceptWhile incredibly important, team building can sometimes feel cliché and superficial, evoking images of trust falls and three-legged races. Yet when done correctly and with genuine, year-round commitment, few things can be as impactful for creating high- functioning organizations. But why exactly should you prioritize team building? “The lone wolf is becoming an endangered species,” said Stolen, when discussing the subject. “From health care to hospitality, startups to big business, teamwork has become the favored way to get things done.” This view is echoed by those who study team building. “The world is so complex, no one person has the skills or knowledge to accomplish all that we want to accomplish,” says Susan McDaniel, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center who is known for her scholarship on team-based work. “Interdisciplinary teams are the way to make that happen.”[i]Here are some of the tangible benefits agencies can realize through investing in team building: ·         Enhanced collaboration: When teams understand and trust one another, it becomes easier to communicate openly and honestly, which reduces silos and promotes alignment.

  • Better employee morale and retention: Meaningful team building promotes safety, camaraderie, and care. This can lead to lower turnover and higher retention. Higher productivity and profitability: Close-knit teams promote the free exchange of ideas and faster, more impactful feedback, which results in higher productivity and profitability.Improved organizational culture: Team building creates a more affirming, positive and compelling culture. When teams like, respect and collaborate well with one another, businesses enjoy easier recruitment and competitive advantage in the market.
  • How to Team Build Year Round Clearly, team building can deliver big benefits, but establishing a year-round team building program can be a tall order, especially at a busy agency. Still, there is no need to feel overwhelmed, says Stolen. “Begin by breaking it down into bite-size steps. Start by defining what teamwork means to your organization and do your research. Also, never take a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to teamwork. Make it your own and ensure it is a good fit for your team.”This last point is a critically important one, particularly when viewed in the context of remote work. “As a new manager, or first-time manager, you now have the unique freedom to choose talent from all over the world,” said Stolen. “But you also face an equally unique challenge: Leading a team who you may have never met in person. This includes building trust and camaraderie between people in different time zones.”But whatever type of team building program you land on, make sure it’s sustainable. Without easily repeatable plays, you won’t be able to continue nurturing a strong team at different points of the year. Keep it simple and do not overthink it. Some strategies aligned with this philosophy include:·         Build “buffer time” into your meetings that leaves time to chat openly and informally. ·         Do ice breakers/team builders at as many meetings as you can. This creates increased cooperation, builds trust and creates a sense of belonging.·         Create “team rituals,” repeated actions or activities unique to your team and help them bond. Rituals can be as simple as “Meme Monday,” where everyone shares an image or GIF that captures how their weekend went. ·         Avoid communication gaps by scheduling a daily stand-up meeting for people to share updates. This process can also be repeated over digital channels like Zoom.·         When it comes to meetings, share the pain. Consider the different time zones your teammates are in and rotate start times so that everyone has a few convenient meetings on their schedule.·         Create an Employee Resource Group.Team building can be difficult but well worth the effort Finding time to develop new initiatives at a busy title agency can be a formidable challenge. Yet the importance of well-executed team building can’t be understated. Sticking to these tips can help you create a well-honed operation that delivers results. Better yet, says Stolen, you’ll create an ideal environment that meets your team’s “individual work preferences and needs.”

    magnifying glass looking at an aerial view of a neighborhood

    Legal Descriptions: Wait! I Can’t Locate My Real Property 

    In the automotive world, each vehicle is uniquely identified by a vehicle identification number (VIN), a distinct code used by the car industry. This identifier is used in various ways, such as for insurance and department of motor vehicles records, ensuring each vehicle is clearly and accurately tracked.

    There is a similar concept that applies in the area of real property, and it’s not the parcel identification number shown on a county appraisal district or a property appraiser or assessor’s website. The true identifier for real property is the property’s “legal description.” However, errors with a property’s legal description can lead to complex issues affecting transactions. Let’s discuss some common issues and strategies to prevent and address these problems.

    Legal descriptions come in various types, such as metes and bounds, or plats, just to name two. The legal description is created by a professional surveyor and is used to locate and identify the real property it describes. This information is located on deeds, deeds of trust, mortgages, and other instruments pertaining to real property. Without a legal description, it is nearly impossible to determine where a property is located and the boundaries of the property on the ground. Absent a legal description, it is also extremely difficult to determine who holds title to the property, who can convey title, what property is being pledged as collateral to secure a loan, and much more.   

    At Alliant National, the claims team regularly sees cases involving legal descriptions. Here are just a few of the more common issues:

    • the legal description is not included with the recorded deed, mortgage, or deed of trust;
    • the legal description is incomplete;
    • the legal description has typographical errors;
    • the legal description references an incorrect subdivision or references an erroneous plat book or page; or
    • ownership of property is being challenged due to a gap in the property or an overlap of the property’s legal description with that of a neighboring property owner.

    When a legal description is missing or not correctly identified in an instrument, it may result in a title claim involving intervening conveyances or liens on the real property. In some cases, a person may not be able to convey title to property they believe they own, or they may face challenges from others who believe they have better title.

    Legal description issues can be timely or difficult to cure. In some states, there are statutes that permit certain legal description errors to be corrected through the use of a correction affidavit. However, states that have such corrective statutes generally limit their use and have certain requirements that must be met before a correction affidavit may be utilized. If the situation is not covered or the requirements are not met under the statute, then a correction affidavit is not available. In those cases, it may require a corrective instrument be obtained from a party or costly litigation. Even though it is not an exhaustive list, the Resources section below includes links to a few states’ corrective statutes.

    Familiarizing yourself with your state’s laws is crucial to understand if there are corrective statutes relevant to legal descriptions, along with their specific limitations and requirements.

    Happily, experience teaches that attention to detail can significantly reduce the occurrence of legal description issues. Here are a few tips for avoiding legal description headaches:

    • Purchase Contract and Addendums. If parties make changes to the purchase contract’s legal description, make sure to have those changes incorporated into your real estate closing platform to ensure, when it is time to print documents, that the documents properly reflect the accurate legal description.
      • For example, the parties may have originally contracted for Lots 1, 2 and 3, Main Plat. Subsequently, through an addendum, the contract now only dealing with Lots 1 and 3, Main Plat. Make sure the documents reflect only Lots 1 and 3, Main Plat.  
    • Who else should know of changes? Let your team and any third-party vendor know of any changes made to the legal description since the last time products were obtained and request that the products be revised, and new products issued to reflect the change. Then, distribute the revised products to the proper parties.
      • Remember to let the lender know of any changes to the legal description as soon as you know. Lenders may use this information to obtain an appraisal of the property to determine its value and may have to adjust the lender’s underwriting review.
      • In some cases, if the lender prepares the deed of trust or mortgage, it may pre-print the legal description on the instrument.  Review the instrument prior to closing for accuracy of the legal description. If the legal description is inaccurately reflected, contact the lender immediately to discuss.
    • Review and ask questions. If a survey was purchased or a prior survey is being reviewed showing the property’s legal description, review the survey for any differences shown in the seller’s vesting deed (and those in the chain) against what is being prepared to be conveyed. If there are differences, ask questions and review with the surveyor and the parties to clear up any discrepancies and document your file indicating how the parties addressed and resolved the situation. 
    • The parties. Review all documents prior to the closing to ensure they accurately reflect the legal description the seller intends to convey and the buyer intends to purchase. Don’t forgot to review and compare any legal description changes that the parties agreed to in the contract or purchase contract addendum.
    • Recording. When sending the instrument to the county recorder’s office, remember to include the correct legal description with the instrument.
    • Policies. When a final title policy is issued, review to make sure the correct legal description is included in Schedule A before sending it to the recipient.

    Taking a moment to thoroughly address a property’s legal description can greatly reduce potential errors that could lead to claims. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me or any member of the Alliant National claims team. We’re eager to help!

    Resources:

    Colorado Revised Statutes Title 38, Sec. 38-51-111 – https://leg.colorado.gov/colorado-revised-statutes

    Florida Statutes, Title XL, Sec. 689.041 – http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0600-0699/0689/Sections/0689.041.html

    Texas Property Code, Title 2 – Conveyances, Chapter 5 – Conveyances, Sec. 5.027-5.031 https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PR/htm/PR.5.htm

    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.

    virtual digits abstract illustration, shadow figures with magnifying glass oversight

    Breach Detection: Top Signs Your Business Has Been Hacked

    Breach Detection: Top Signs Your Business Has Been Hacked

    In 2024, cybersecurity has firmly entrenched itself in the public imagination. It seems like barely a week goes by, for example, without a high-profile data breach. Terms like “hacking,” “malware” and even “multi-factor authentication” have become part of our everyday vernacular. Even extensive security training is now routine at many workplaces.

    Yet despite this welcome increase in awareness and understanding, it can still be difficult to know exactly when your network has suffered a breach – which can have serious consequences for your business. That’s because the faster you can detect a malicious incident, the faster you can begin remediation, prevent financial or reputational fallout, and get your agency back on track. Let’s explore what potential breaches can look, feel and sound like. We will also examine steps you can take to respond in the unfortunate event of an incident.

    What does a breach look like?

    One of the biggest warning signs that something is amiss with your business network is simply unusual activity that you can typically see within your technology or security software. While this can sound like vague advice, it really isn’t when you know what to look for, including:

    • Strange or unrecognized logins.
    • Odd purchases made through business accounts.
    • Unauthorized changes to your account settings.
    • Unfamiliar devices connecting to your systems or network.
    • Abnormal spikes in data use or activity.

    What does a breach feel like?

    The warning signs of a breach are not solely visual. You can also be tipped off by how your network feels and the way your software performs. A cyberattack may result in a dramatic slowdown in performance. There is no universal experience, of course, but some of the common performance problems include:

    • Slow network speeds or crashing applications.
    • General connectivity problems.
    • Inefficient CPU or system memory usage.
    • Poor customer experience.

    What does a breach sound like?

    When it comes to network breaches, it may feel a bit odd to talk about warning signs that you can hear. While your technology systems aren’t typically going to tip you off this way, your agency’s human stakeholders might. Keep your ears open for feedback from those who interact with your digital assets and infrastructure. Their thoughts, feelings and experiences may prove crucial to discovering a breach and taking corrective action. Some comments that you need to take very seriously are:

    • Reports of increased phishing attempts or other suspicious emails.
    • Complaints from customers about using your digital assets.
    • Increased IT support desk tickets, depending on if you have managed security in place.
    • Occasionally, albeit rarely, compromised devices can also emit auditory signals that suggest something has gone wrong.

    A four-point plan to respond to breaches

    If you notice these abnormal activities, don’t brush them off! Instead, take the following four actions to contain the potential damage and reestablish your security perimeter.

    • First: Secure your compromised accounts, which can involve switching passwords and establishing multi-factor authentication if you don’t have it in place already. You should also disable affected accounts, notify all affected stakeholders, and begin preserving evidence of what has occurred.

    • Second: Focus next on investigating the malicious activity. Develop an overview of the incident by assessing the “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where” of the network breach. The purpose of this exercise is two-fold: You want to determine the scope of the problem while also determining the root causes so you can ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    • Third: Build a plan to improve the long-term security of your IT systems and to prevent similar breaches. Conduct a comprehensive review of your vulnerabilities. Implement stronger access controls, encryption protocols and cybersecurity approaches. Finally, update training programs to keep employees apprised of security changes and reinforce security standards across your organization.

    • Fourth: Don’t forget to adhere to all relevant standards and requirements regarding data breach notification. Then, conduct a review of your compliance obligations to ensure you are taking appropriate due diligence and properly protecting sensitive personal information.

    A thrilling yet threatening business era

    Seven decades into the information age, more people than ever are aware of both the promise and the perils of using digital systems in both life and work. Yet while cybersecurity awareness has never been more widespread than it is today, some of the common signs and symptoms of a data breach are not that widely known. Learning more about them and keeping your co-workers and team apprised is a great way to sharpen your defenses and respond decisively should the need arise.

    A cut-out house in the midst of spring flowers with an oversized hand holding a for sale sign

    Get a Jump on the Spring Selling Season

    Unless you’re a spring chicken, most real estate and title insurance professionals know that as the weather begins to heat up a bit, so does the market. But seizing on business opportunities during this time is not something that happens by accident. Instead, it requires thoughtful, well-executed marketing strategies. Here’s how you can ensure you’re ready for action now that spring has sprung.

    Hope Springs eternal

    Starting a new marketing campaign is always an exciting and even hopeful time, especially during the spring selling season. Time and time again, the turning of the seasons brings increased buyer demand, as house hunters and sellers look to make a change and start fresh. Agencies that get proactive about their marketing can capture greater market share and solidify their position as the go-to-resource. It all starts by taking a good, hard look at your current marketing programs and making improvements where necessary.

    Spring into action

    Nearly everyone has heard the expression “look before you leap,” but it merits repeating whenever contemplating a marketing overhaul. Reviewing your previous marketing activities and taking stock of what has (or hasn’t) worked in the past is an essential first step before embarking on a new campaign.

    To do this correctly, spring into action and go channel-by-channel. Assess whether your current strategies have brought you closer to your goals. If you started a social media feed to bring people to your agency’s website, dig into Google Analytics and review acquisition numbers. If your drip emails are intended to promote your offers, inspect click-through rates to determine if they’ve moved the needle.  

    Apply the principle across the entirety of your marketing output. Only by understanding the historic results of your marketing can you plan for future success.

    Spring is in the air

    When spring is in the air, put the season at the heart of your marketing and freshen up your copy. Begin with your most important digital asset: your website. Consider rewriting important sections of your site to emphasize the concepts of rebirth. Intertwine these ideas with the real estate market and communicate how your company can keep buyers and sellers safe as they embark on this new beginning. If you can, consider offering a spring-themed promotion. You may also want to create an entire landing page that can act as a hub for your spring campaign and which includes a clear, compelling call-to-action.

    Build thematic, impactful campaigns

    Once your website has been polished and freshened up, turn your attention to the channels you want to use to promote your products or services. The best part about spring is how well it lends itself to content and social media marketing. Here are a few examples of marketing actions you can take to raise awareness and convey your value:

    • “Spring cleaning”: Build an educational campaign to get people thinking about how they can ensure a smooth buying or selling process. Instruct aspiring buyers and real estate agents to keep an eye out for anything that may mar title. Frame your copy around the concept of “spring cleaning.” Emphasize how important it is to have all paperwork organized and accounted for prior to proceeding with a transaction.
    • Hit the road: Spring often brings an up-tick in in-person real estate events, which are prime opportunities for title agents to hit the road and network. Doing this can potentially lead to greater brand visibility and leads, but only if you’ve prepared ahead of time by doing things like practicing your agency’s elevator pitch.
    • Out with the old in with the new: Leverage the beginning of spring by timing the release of any new products or services you may be unrolling. Doing so dovetails perfectly with the season’s focus on renewal.
    • Expand your social media: Let’s face it: Title insurance isn’t exactly known for its visual qualities. The spring selling season, however, offers plentiful opportunities to change that. Push as much visual content as you can during this time. Even doing small things like profiling your employees or asking your followers to share their favorite spring memories is a great way to grab eyeballs during a time of increased demand.

    Let’s welcome the return of spring

    As winter reaches its last legs, what exactly “springs” to your mind? For real estate and title insurance professionals, spring is all about the sales. Carefully reviewing your marketing and leveraging the spirit of the season can help you capture new business and success throughout the year. In short, April showers may bring May flowers, but it can also bring a windfall of increased opportunity and profitability to your firm.

    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.

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