Erica Stoltz - welcome aboard graphic

Please help us welcome Erica Stoltz

Alliant is excited about our newest addition to the Southwest Underwriting team!

Alliant National is pleased to announce the addition of Erica Stoltz as Texas Underwriting Counsel for the Southwest Region! Erica joined Alliant National on March 23rd and she has been working closely with the underwriting team for the last two months learning internal processes and requirements. During this time, she has demonstrated the genuine ability to understand complex underwriting issues and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively with title agents. Erica holds an undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University and went on to graduate from Texas Tech University School of Law. Her experience as a Disaster Relief Attorney for the U.S. Small Business Administration became immediately valuable as the government rolled out the PPP Disaster Relief Loans where she provided immediate, first-hand knowledge to Alliant National on the best way for affected companies to apply for disaster relief funds.

As a title insurance professional, she learned the industry from the ground up serving as a clerk/runner for a law firm, and then she worked in the Title Commitment and Policy Department for a title agency in College Station while at Texas A&M. Following law school and her time at the SBA, she became an Examining Attorney for a large independent agent in Dallas/Fort Worth where she spent many years performing in-house underwriting for both residential and commercial transactions. After a few years out of the industry raising a family, she is back in the game!

We are very excited to have her join the Southwest Underwriting team!

Cindy Koebele, CEO TitleSmart

Making Everyone Feel Valued is Paramount

Alliant National Agent finds work-arounds amid COVID-19

It feels almost impossible to stay connected right now. Though we’re starting to see stay-at-home orders lift across the country, social distancing protocols remain. As we continue to be separated from each other, title agents are finding innovative ways to make sure their clients and employees are safe and feel valued. Cindy Koebele, owner of Minnesota-based TitleSmart Inc., recently joined us on a webinar about doing just that.

When her home state started to close in response to COVID-19, Cindy’s first focus was to see who could work from home and make sure those team members had the tools to do so. Cindy and company also started scheduling smaller appointments to ensure client safety.

Cindy’s team also faced the same roadblocks everyone has experienced over the past several months – a shortage of everything. The offices needed to be stocked with essentials like disinfectant wipes and masks for staff and clientele, but there was a long period where nothing could be found. Thankfully the team at TitleSmart is just that – a team. A joint effort to equip company offices was quickly underway. Staff members would even text Cindy late at night if they managed to score a hard-to-find item.  

Nearly everything about day-to-day work had to change. The team was issued clipboards so they could hand papers to consumers who sat in their cars for “no contact” signings. Meanwhile, the “little things” Cindy’s team does to help clients feel welcome had to change a great deal. In the past, they’d bake fresh cookies and have an assortment of other goodies for clients taking the next big step in their lives. It was an important way the TitleSmart team connected with customers.

Thankfully, having to change the way you connect doesn’t mean giving it up entirely. Though the homemade touch of fresh baked cookies has to be put on pause, Cindy and team are still making yummy goodie bags for their closers. The focus of ensuring everyone feels welcome is more important than ever, and it’s something everyone at TitleSmart is taking very seriously.

Cindy notes that she refuses to lock her doors. She has no intention of making anyone do something they don’t want to do during these difficult times. Accommodations are being made both for those who want as little human interaction throughout the process as possible, and for those who still want that in-person experience.

The most critical takeaway from the discussion with Cindy is that connection isn’t impossible right now. It simply requires a little bit of innovation. Our situation may be a complicated one, but it’s one that we’re all in together. Making your team feel valued and showing your clients that you’re still willing to go the extra mile no matter what it may look like is the smartest business move that you can make right now. 

doodle style illustration of two road signs representing the new way

Inventing as We Go: Post-Pandemic Business Operations

With many states choosing to lift their stay-at-home orders, many people are left wondering how to move forward in this new and uncertain landscape. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that there is no real “going back to normal.” A new normal will be achieved, but the idea that things will return to the way they were across the board is wishful thinking.

The notion of forming a new normal can be overwhelming on both a personal and professional level, but it’s something we find ourselves obligated to do in order to keep our businesses moving forward. Adding in the fact that everything feels topsy-turvy at the moment doesn’t help, either.

As an example, March and April were two of the heaviest order months in the history of title insurance. That influx is in direct conflict to the majority of other industries, many of which are struggling to stay afloat until whatever “new normal” can be achieved. Opening large numbers of orders is always exciting, but it’s critical that we realize this isn’t an evergreen influx of business.

It’s also important that we find a way to handle the large volume of orders in a way that keeps customers satisfied. Normally, the industry response to such a deluge of business is to hire more personnel. However, several large companies have, in fact, reduced staffing levels despite record orders and near record revenue. In the current COVID-19 world, it means learning to adapt on a company-wide scale.

As we all adapt, keep in mind that there will be very real pressure to reduce or even eliminate some risk management procedures in an effort to save costs. This is a dangerous time to consider such a reaction for either independent agents or underwriters. Many of the normal processes for risk management are difficult to maintain as a large percentage of employees are now working remotely. However, staff being remote does not remove the fiduciary responsibility we have to safeguard the public trust.

Another area of concern for the future is that governors and elected officials across the country are suspending laws and regulations, which continually move the regulatory goal posts. RON, RIN, Mobile Notary statutes, and recording regulations have all been changed using “executive orders.”

What will happen when creative plaintiffs’ attorneys challenge foreclosures, loan defaults, etc.? Underwriters will be called upon to defend lenders under their loan policies. Are courts and juries more likely to side with borrowers? Will foreclosures spike with dramatically increased unemployment? These added complications make it more important than ever for title agents to remain focused on the details, no matter how small they may seem. Be sure you have an underwriter who will stand behind you as an agent, and who can keep you up-to-date on regulatory issues.

While we will gradually return to whatever is the new normal, bear in mind that the surge in orders is a temporary reaction to low interest rates and the need to access equity that is currently locked into homes. These high numbers now don’t guarantee high numbers in the future. Be mindful of the regulatory adjustments that affect your role in the title and closing process, and adjust to the new work-from-home landscape as best as you can.

We have a lot of tools in our respective tool-belts. We just have to use them wisely and correctly.

During these uncertain times, Alliant National seeks to support our independent agents, helping to chart a path forward for continued business growth. Agents can access a wide range of tools and up-to-date Covid-related information at https://alliantnational.com/coronavirus/.

Feel free to reach out directly to me at randerson@alliantnational.com or 214-293-8067.

2 computer monitors facing each other with hands sticking out to exchange a signing pad

Are you ‘RON Ready?’ Let lenders know

Is your agency set up to close transactions using remote online notarization (RON)? If so, the American Land Title Association (ALTA) is encouraging you to let lenders know by updating your ALTA Registry listing.

“RON is in high demand and lenders are actively looking for title and settlement companies that can close their loans using this technology,” the association said in a recent post. “Being RON Ready could lead to new revenue during these difficult times.”

There is no cost to be included on the ALTA Registry.

Update your listing on the ALTA Registry at: https://www.alta.org/registry/

Happy Retirement to Jim Hensley

Congratulations Jim Hensley!

Jim leaves an impressive legacy that spans more than four decades in our industry.

It is with admiration and gratitude for a job well done that we announce the retirement of Jim Hensley, our Midwest regional agency manager. Jim has been transitioning toward retirement for several months, and his last day with Alliant National will be May 29th.

As he enters this new phase, Jim leaves an impressive legacy that spans more than four decades in our industry. When Jim joined our organization in 2013, his deep operations experience on both the agent and underwriter sides made him a crucial hire for Alliant National. We’ve seen tremendous success in the Midwest thanks to his efforts.

But we didn’t just gain an amazing title professional when we hired Jim Hensley; many of us gained a mentor and friend. When you talk to Jim, you always know you’re speaking with someone who lives a life of service to others. His faith, and his love for his family, his country and the people in our industry comes shining through.

In these months as Jim neared retirement, he worked tirelessly to ensure that Regional Manager Manoj Purohit and his team are well positioned to meet the needs of our agents moving forward. I am personally grateful for the time Jim has invested in our company and in teaching me about commitment to this industry.

The future is bright, but like us, we know many of you have come to rely on Jim, his straightforward honesty, and his uncommon ability to find the right words, even in difficult times. We all will miss him.  

Feel free to join us in wishing Jim and his family a happy retirement!

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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