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graphic congratulating Kara Elgin on her promotion to Underwriting Counsel

Alliant National Announces the Promotion of Kara B. Elgin, Esq. to Underwriting Counsel

Longmont, Colo. – (April 04, 2022) – Alliant National Title Insurance Company, the title insurer that is uniquely responsive to the needs of independent agents, announces the promotion of Kara B. Elgin, Esq. to Underwriting Counsel – Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Elgin initially joined Alliant National in March of 2020 as Associate Underwriting Counsel. A seasoned attorney, Elgin brought nearly 14 years of experience in real estate law to the company, allowing her to quickly make major contributions to its regional operations and support its network of independent agents. In her new role, Elgin will leverage this experience to further support agents’ day-to-day title underwriting needs and offer legal guidance on title and real estate-related matters.

“I am beyond thrilled to accept this promotion and continue to work with a great team and our extensive network of hardworking independent agents,” said Elgin. “It’s truly a pleasure to go to work each day at Alliant National and collaborate with some of the best and brightest professionals in the business. I’m excited to continue growing in my role, to take on new challenges and initiatives, and to help further solidify Alliant National as the industry’s leading title insurance underwriter.”

“Kara is an integral part of our legal team and has been instrumental in helping our agents succeed in their business,” said Jeff Stein, Chief Underwriting Counsel and Senior Vice President at Alliant National. “She has more than earned this promotion, and I have high expectations for her continued growth within our company.”

Elgin received her Juris Doctor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. Prior to that, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Central Missouri. Elgin is also highly active in the title insurance and legal communities. She is a member of the Missouri and Kansas Bar Associations, as well as the land title associations of Mo., Kan., and Neb. In addition, Elgin serves on the education and legislative committees of the Nebraska Land Title Association (NLTA) and the legislative committee of the Missouri Land Title Association (MLTA).

She lives in the Kansas City metropolitan area with her family.

Alliant National supports its independent agents by combining expert residential and
commercial underwriting with a passionate heart for service. The company delivers
uncommon help that promotes the wellbeing of agents and the communities they serve.

Visit alliantnational.com for additional information.

MEDIA INQUIRIES

Cathie Beck
Capital City Public Relations
e: cathie@capitalcitypr.com
p: 303-241-0805

ABOUT ALLIANT NATIONAL TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY

Alliant National is on a mission to empower independent agents while protecting property owners with secure title insurance. The company partners with its agents and never competes against them with direct or affiliate operations. Alliant National serves thousands of title professionals as a licensed underwriter in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

Chatbots for Small- to Medium-sized Businesses

Customer service has never been more important to your business’s competitive advantage. Use every tool in your toolbox.

High-quality customer service is essential to a successful business. No matter where you go, 96 percent of consumers say customer service is important to whether they will be loyal to a brand.[i] 52 percent of consumers have made an additional purchase from a brand after being satisfied with the quality of customer service they received.[ii] Best of all, even a 5 percent uplift in customer retention has been shown to produce a 25 percent increase in profits.[iii]

It can sometimes be difficult, however, for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) or agencies to improve service delivery. But chatbots can help. Chatbots are programs within websites and apps that can simulate real conversation and carry out functions like answering customer questions or helping visitors navigate websites. They can help you stretch finite resources to improve customer experience (CX). Here’s everything you need to know about deploying this technology.

Chatbots to the Rescue

If your business operates online, then you can likely employ a chatbot. Whether you have a website or social media presence, it isn’t exceptionally challenging to install one of these programs and begin offering your customers 24/7 support.

Start with Your Strategy

Don’t put the cart before the horse. Start with your strategy; ask yourself why you need a chatbot in the first place. There is certainly no shortage of use cases for chatbots within the insurance industry, such as:

  • Educate customers on the process
  • Cultivate and organize leads
  • Improve CX
  • Reduce employee workload

Next, determine your priorities for your future chatbot. Think about previous experiences. Chances are, you’ve interacted with chatbots in the past. What worked? What didn’t? What did you like? Dislike? Write these down to help inform your search.    

Plan Your Approach and Execute

You must decide how you will develop your bot. Should you build from scratch? Use a plugin? Deploy a software service? Let’s look closer at each option:

  • Building from scratch is time-intensive and requires significant in-house knowledge. However, it gives you total control and flexibility.
  • You can use a chatbot plugin with your content management system (CMS). Each of the leading CMS platforms have respective plugins and installation instructions, including WordPress, Drupal or Wix. Widgets are functional blocks that, upon installation, provide your website with additional functionality. These blocks are also often customizable, free and easy to install.
  • Finally, there are now low-code and no-code applications capable of creating chatbots; but you’ll want to be sure to read independent reviews before purchasing!

Following installation, you cannot just assume your bot will operate seamlessly. Don’t forget to do a trial run and test its basic functions before it goes live.

The Rise of the Robots  

We’ve long heard how artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually make human labor obsolete. While that has not come to pass, AI is increasingly working alongside humans to drive greater efficiencies, productivity and profitability. Chatbots are one of the latest examples of this trend. And when approached strategically, they can help small agencies deliver world-class customer experiences.


[i] Daniela Puzzo, Fonolo, 4 January 2022, 150+ Customer Service Statistics for 2022 | Fonolo

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

The top of an email being composed with the subject line empty

Optimize Your Subject Lines 

Before you can wow with your email copy, you must first hook your audience. 

Email marketing can be hit or miss. While you can labor over your copy and toil over accompanying graphics, ultimately your message may still go unread. We’re all inundated with email these days. How can you best position your campaigns to break through the noise? Although sometimes treated as an afterthought, your email’s subject line is actually one of the most important tools you have for boosting open percentages and increasing your CTRs (click through rates). Let’s look at some of the ways you can optimize your subject lines to make your email campaigns more widely read and impactful. 

Keep it Simple 

It’s easy to overthink subject lines. Although it’s good to take a strategic approach, always remember simplicity. Generally, subject lines should be short and should not mislead or overpromise anything about your email’s contents. The consequences of not doing this can be dire, as you can annoy your audience or even alienate them from future campaigns. 

Research and Wordsmithing  

Because subject lines should be short, each word you select matters a great deal. You don’t want to leave anything to chance here, which means you’re going to need to do some keyword research. Whenever you write a subject line, use words that are relevant and align with your audience’s needs and intent. There are many different tools out there — both free and paid — to help marketers choose the right words. Find the one that will work for your organization and use it to look closely at several metrics, specifically search volume and search intent. 

Personalization

As the world has gone digital-first over the past couple of decades, it has become ever easier to create and disseminate marketing campaigns. Yet while these changes have brought about an unprecedented level of convenience and productivity, personalization and human connection in marketing has become increasingly difficult. Still, there are ways you can add personalization and warmth to your subject lines:

  • You can insert your recipients’ names into the subject line. 
  • You can refer to other types of personal information – such as the cities in which your recipients live.
  • Flip the focus of your personalization efforts back on yourself by personalizing your sender address. 

Emojis and Numbers 

Sometimes words, however pretty they may be, are simply not enough. To command your readers’ finite attention, you may also want to consider using emojis or numbers to break up text. This does carry a bit of a risk, however, as emojis may be considered inappropriate with certain audiences. That said, if you are writing a fun or celebratory-type email, leveraging emojis can enhance the impact of your email and encourage more people to open it. 

Numbers function differently. If you can naturally weave figures like percentages into your subject lines, you may attract more people to open your emails. Numbers simply stand out more than additional text, and for many audience members, they may help them more quickly understand your email’s contents. Beware, however, of overloading your subject lines with numbers – as this can come off as “spammy.” And never include a misleading figure. Your audience will not appreciate the deceit, and you will appear untrustworthy and unprofessional as a result. 

Follow the Tried-and-True 

There are several tried-and-true marketing methods that you can build your email subject lines around, which, when paired with some of the other tactics here, can be especially powerful. 

  • Scarcity: Few things motivate human beings more than the fear of missing out. By framing your email as containing something like a limited-time offer, you speak directly to that primal fear and can give your recipients the push they need to open your email and engage with your content. 
  • Curiosity: Similarly, you can treat your subject line as a sort of teaser for the email’s contents. Give just enough information to spark interest with your target audience but allude that the truly valuable information lies within the message’s body copy. 
  • Timeliness: Finally, there is always timeliness. By conveying that your email contents are time-sensitive, recipients are less likely to ignore it or tell themselves that they will circle back around later. 

Toward More Effective Email Marketing 

Raising brand awareness and forming valuable customer connections isn’t easy. In a competitive environment, businesses need to ensure they are maximizing the value of all their marketing methods and strategies. As we’ve written before, email marketing is still a viable, low-cost way to promote your products and services. But to gain positive ROI, its essential to optimize every aspect of your messaging. And that includes taking a hard look at your subject lines and doing everything you can to make them memorable.   

Tabletop with a pair of glasses next to a newspaper headline reading: cyber attack in all capital letters

Fraud Surge: Understanding the threat. Protecting your business

Cyber fraud, social engineering and wire fraud attempts are on the rise again. We’re sharing in-depth information to help you protect your business.

Escrow_Fraud_2022-cover


Today, we are releasing the 2022 version of our
Escrow Fraud/Social Engineering White Paper.

First published in 2017 and fully updated by Alliant National’s Compliance, Risk and Education teams, the paper provides information, tips and suggestions to help you better understand the current threat environment and create a comprehensive plan that addresses the realities we face in our industry.

Time to assess cyberattack risk in light of Ukraine invasion

The paper’s release comes at a critical time as U.S. businesses brace for potential cyber warfare corresponding with recent violence in Europe. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a bulletin in January warning of the increased risk of cyberattacks in the U.S. as Russia was poised to invade Ukraine.

“We assess that Russia would consider initiating a cyberattack against the Homeland if it perceived a U.S. or NATO response to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine threatened its long-term national security,” the agency said in the bulletin released to law enforcement partners and obtained by The Hill.

In response, the American Land Title Association warned in a recent blog that the risk of spillover cyberattacks against non-primary targets could become much more widespread.

2022: Growth of BEC/EAC

Against this backdrop of international tension, Alliant National agents continue to report an increase in attempted wire fraud schemes. These attacks are part of a growing fraud threat targeting businesses of all sizes and the general public.

The FBI refers to this threat as Business Email Compromise/Email Account Compromise (BEC/EAC). BEC/EAC fraudsters focus on organizations that perform wire transfers, making real estate especially vulnerable.

According to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) most recent report, the center received a record number of complaints from the American public in 2020: 791,790, with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion. This represents a 69% increase in total complaints from 2019. Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes continued to be the costliest: 19,369 complaints with an adjusted loss of approximately $1.8 billion. Phishing scams were also prominent: 241,342 complaints, with adjusted losses of over $54 million.

Protect Your Agency

Given the increased incidence of BEC/EAC scams and ransomware attacks over the past several years, it is imperative that prevention be addressed at every level. State and federal entities, as well as most of the top tech companies are creating alliances and workgroups to stem the tide.

Title insurance companies and agents also have a role to play. Given the current nationwide threat, we encourage all agents and their staff to remain on high alert for attempted fraud, particularly when it comes to seller proceeds. We also urge agencies to remain vigilant regarding possible attempts to obtain consumer or employee PII.

Here are some immediate steps to consider:

  • Identify the risks your agency faces and make sure your systems are protected
  • Maintain strict policies and procedures for verification of wire instructions
  • Educate your staff and consumers about what to do when they suspect fraud
  • Establish protocols to quickly detect fraud and recover diverted funds
  • Obtain appropriate insurance, including Cyber Liability coverage

Cyber Security is Mission Critical

There is nothing more important than protecting our clients’ funds and personal information. It is mission critical for a title company to make security its highest priority in 2022. You can begin today to assess your systems and educate your staff to make sure every possible precaution has been put into place. We hope our Escrow Fraud/Social Engineering White Paper will be helpful in this work.

In addition to the release of the White Paper, Alliant National will provide updated materials throughout the year to help agents understand and respond to the threat environment we face. Of course, we’re always ready to discuss the threats we are seeing, and steps you might consider for your business. Feel free to reach out to your agency representative, or any member of the Alliant National team.

illustration of 2 hands exchanging a 5 dollar bill

Effective Invoicing

You can’t keep the lights on without revenue, and you can’t bring in revenue without effective invoicing

Every business needs to charge for their goods or services, but effectively invoicing or billing is not as easy as you might think. Let’s face it, nobody really wants another pricey software subscription, but routinely creating something manually can eat up time that is already in short supply. So, what to do? Here are a few critical things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about optimizing your invoicing process.

The Value of the Invoice

First things first: Did you know that businesses lacking an effective invoicing system can experience a real blow to their bottom line? According to 2016 data, the value of small business unpaid invoices was $825 billion – roughly equivalent to 5% of U.S. GDP at the time.[i] Additionally, the average small business has $84,000 in unpaid invoices.[ii]

DIY Route

Of course, collection problems can result in unpaid invoices, but there is no way to begin trying to collect on your invoices if you can’t create and process them efficiently.

There are basically two different options for how to approach your invoices: going DIY or finding an affordable software subscription. If you go the DIY route, the best approach is to create a template that can be easily updated for each client. This may sound intimidating; but don’t worry, it’s easier than you think. And the good news is that you likely already have a program that can largely take care of this for you.

Creating a template is easy with Microsoft Word, and the software includes a variety of templates that you can download. To do this, simply go through the following steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Word;
  2. Hit “File,” and then “New,” and then on the right-hand side of the window you can search for templates or optionally select a category;
  3. Type “invoice” into the search bar;
  4. Once you’ve settled on a template, download it and prepare to customize it for your business.

Before you can begin customizing, you’ll need to gather some business information. Be as comprehensive as possible here; you want your invoice to look as professional as possible. Some elements you’ll want to include are:

  1. Your agency logo (if you have one)
  2. Company contact details: name, address, phone number, website and email
  3. An invoice number – for referencing purposes
  4. An itemized list of products or services that you have provided for your clients
  5. The invoice date
  6. The date the invoice needs to be paid
  7. A subtotal for all charges
  8. Details for how your clients can remit payment
  9. A total amount owed, including all applicable taxes
  10. Your payment terms and conditions
  11. A small message thanking your client for choosing to work with you

Once you have added all the above elements, save your invoice in a handy location for future reference.

Software Subscription

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of creating your own invoice in a program like Microsoft Word, there are many options for anyone looking for a more automated approach to invoices – both free and low-cost.

When considering between a DIY approach and a software subscription, there are a number of factors to weigh. Invoicing software can offer benefits such as:

  1. Tracking invoice delivery and payment status
  2. Reducing missed payments
  3. Simplifying the accounting process
  4. Protecting key customer information from cyberattacks

Think through your business needs ahead of purchasing a subscription. If your agency could benefit from some of this added functionality, that may create enough positive ROI to justify the monthly expense.

Additionally, keep in mind that today’s modern solutions can frequently be integrated with other services – which can save you additional time. For instance, many invoicing software subscriptions integrate with payment gateways – meaning that customers can make their payments digitally rather than bothering with paper checks.

Boost Your Profitability Invoicing is the bread and butter of your business, meaning that you need a process in place that is clear, easy and standardized. Whether you pursue a DIY template or make a small investment in invoicing software, streamlining your billing process is never a bad idea and will — no pun intended — almost invariability pay off.


[i] [Infographic] The Economic Impact of Unpaid Invoices | Fundbox Blog

[ii] Ibid

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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