Blue binary code background with isometric padlocks in foreground.

Protecting Customer Data

The world is awash in data. And business owners must protect their customers.

Anyone who has been paying attention over the last couple of decades knows that data is all around us. We can’t see it. We can’t touch it. But it is everywhere, informing how we work, shop, explore and entertain ourselves. Data is also extremely valuable. Advertisers covet our data. And bad actors often weaponize it for identity theft and illicit financial schemes. 

It is imperative that business leaders protect their customers’ data. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, but it is also pragmatic. The way businesses use and protect customer data is rightly coming under increasing scrutiny. Additionally, businesses that mismanage customer data can experience significant consequences to their brand and reputation. With such high stakes, it’s important to be knowledgeable on best practices for data protection. Here are some tips to get you started. 

Conduct an Audit 

The first step toward a comprehensive and proactive approach to protecting your customer base’s data is to gain a full understanding of the various types of data your business holds. Is it social security numbers? Credit card information? Online account passwords? Real estate and title insurance professionals often deal with large amounts of sensitive data. Conduct an audit to ensure that you have a full accounting for everything you and your employees hold. 

Understand the Legal Basics 

Data protection laws vary depending on where your business is and the industry in which you work. It is wise to invest the time and resources to gain a full understanding of the basics as required by law and as they apply to your specific enterprise. For instance, most people know about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the 1996 federal law that stipulates that healthcare insurance industries must protect customer health information from fraud and theft. However, other state-level laws apply to all industries. Become apprised of what is required of you by law when designing data protection policies for your business. There are ample resources online that can serve as an effective primer. 

Gain Buy-In

It’s all well and good if you want to take a proactive and fastidious approach to your customers’ data, but if you have employees, you are going to need their buy-in and compliance as well. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then a business can only take a comprehensive approach to data security if it treats it as an organizational priority rather than a siloed effort. 

If Possible, Throw it Out 

Only keep data you need. Schedule routine reviews of the customer data you are holding and have a process in place to decide when you can safely dispose of it. Considering that you have an ethical and often legal obligation to safeguard customer data, this can be a great strategy for limiting your company’s exposure. 

Do What You Can

Protecting customer data can be an expensive and time-consuming effort. In fact, major corporations often spend millions of dollars to secure this information. You may not have access to such resources. However, there are still practical steps you can take to operate a more data-secure shop.

Consider, for instance, limiting employee access to data, only giving them as much information as they need to effectively do their jobs. Be sure to also have a process in place for properly destroying and disposing of both physical and cyber versions of customer data. Lastly, you could even consider looking into a designated server for your most sensitive data. While using a shared server might be more economical, it carries a security risk. 

Go the Extra Mile

We know that running a title agency is no easy matter. Time is always tight, resources thin, and sometimes it can feel as if taking on a new initiative will be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. Still, it’s important to remember that customers are worth the effort. As title professionals, our customers entrust us with some of their most sensitive data, and we must do our best to protect it.

Cork board with 6 post-it notes. The 1st is orange and says “Set smart Goals”. The remaining are blank and colored red, pink, neon green, neon yellow and blue.

Building SMART Marketing Goals

Any marketing campaign must begin with setting goals. Here’s how to make them SMART.

Any successful marketing effort begins by setting goals. You should never put the cart before the horse, and neither should you begin a campaign without knowing what you want to accomplish. But simply discussing your goals ahead of time is not sufficient. You need to also make them SMART. What does that mean exactly? Let’s find out.

The SMART Goal Model

The SMART acronym is a model for creating effective goals. The different letters stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-sensitive. In the next sections, we will break these down in greater detail.

Specific (S)

The “S” in SMART stands for Specific, perhaps the most important tenant of any marketing campaign. To communicate well, you need to avoid creating goals that are too broad or vague.

One way to avoid doing this is to understand that there are generally three types of goals for marketing campaigns: awareness, acceptance, and action; then determine the appropriate category for your goal. After that, though, you should still add additional detail.

For example, let’s say you decide that you want to raise awareness for your agency. This is a decent starting point, but a more effective approach would be to say that you want to raise awareness amongst real estate agents between the ages of 35 and 60 and who live in Texas or Oklahoma. Not only does this provide more direction for creating strategies and tactics, but it can also help create other parts of the SMART model.

Measurable (M)

All goals must have a measurement metric attached to them. There is no other way to determine if your campaign has been successful. And you will have little data to review or use in improving future campaigns.

For instance, if you have a goal to drive traffic to your website, you need to know first what your current traffic is and then by how much you want to increase it. Otherwise, when you look at your analytics at the end of your campaign, the numbers you see will be meaningless. They will remain decontextualized, and you will not have insight as to whether the traffic funnels you created to drive people to your website (including emails, social media, digital ads, etc.) were successful in helping you meet or exceed your goal.

Achievable (A)

There is no point in setting goals that you will never meet, which is why the “A” within SMART is so important, as it stands for “achievable.” Creating achievable goals requires you to take an honest assessment of your company’s strengths and weaknesses, resources, and roadblocks.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you are trying to build your agency’s presence on social media. Unless you have a seasoned social media expert on staff or a massive advertising budget, you should not create a goal of building a follower base of 10,000 Facebook users. Instead, a much more realistic goal would be to grow your followers by something like 10 percent – a far more modest and achievable endeavor.

Relevant (R)

It might seem like common sense, but any goal needs to be relevant to the purview of your organization. To put it another way: Your marketing goals should always be connected to specific business goals. And be sure you can see the connections. Otherwise, reconsider your approach and adjust as needed.

Time-Sensitive (T)

Finally, your goals need to be placed on a clearly defined timetable. A pre-established timeline is enormously beneficial in structuring a campaign and allocating resources and staff time. Of course, it’s important to set a timetable that is achievable. Establishing reasonable timelines can limit frustration down the road.  

SMART Equals Success

Building out a marketing plan can be challenging but establishing SMART goals can help you avoid frustration by orienting your plan to create tangible results you can see and measure. SMART goals can take some getting used to, but by creating great goals, you will be positioned to build out a fantastic marketing plan and knock its execution out of the park.

a businessman point at an email with the word "now" in the foreground in red.

Beware CEO Fraud

You just received an unusual email from your boss. Better answer it, right? Not so fast.

As an internet user, you likely have some awareness of cyberattacks, and chances are, you may have already been impacted by a cyberattack in one form or another. This is particularly likely considering some of the massive data breaches that have affected large companies over the past few years.

One cyberattack you may be less familiar with, however, is called CEO fraud. CEO fraud is a targeted type of email attack where the scammer poses as the boss and tricks an employee into taking a detrimental action. CEO fraud can affect any type of business, from a large corporation to a small agency. Essentially, if you have a job or work for a company that is larger than just yourself, you are vulnerable to this type of malicious behavior. Here’s how you can be prepared to stop CEO fraud and avoid jeopardizing your company.

The Internet Weaponized

Let’s say you work for a small title agency. There are only a few employees in addition to you and the CEO. A cyber attacker will use the internet to research who your boss is and then create an email pretending to be them. What makes these types of emails especially dangerous is that they don’t contain any malicious links or infected attachments that your average email filtering software will catch. Instead, they appear like your average, ordinary email. 

A Fraudulent Sense of Urgency

One of the most defining features of a fraudulent email is urgency. They will urge you to take a specific action right away. These requests are often fiduciary, like handling an invoice, changing payment information, or instructing you to send documents that contain sensitive information.

Two Different Scams

It’s important to take a more granular look into how these scams often work. The first way is wire fraud, a particularly pertinent subject for anyone working in the field of real estate or title insurance. When a cybercriminal is attempting to pull off a scam like this, they will usually spend time identifying those who handle accounts payable and then send them an email pretending to be their boss. The email will direct them to change something about an upcoming money transfer, typically the account where the money will eventually go.

The second way this scam occurs is in the form of tax fraud. In this instance, a similar process will play out, where the criminal will again send someone within your business or organization a fraudulent email pretending to be a superior. The difference this time, however, is that the email will urgently instruct its recipient to send employee tax documents, sensitive information that could be extremely damaging if it fell into the wrong hands.

Stay Vigilant and Stay Safe

Faced with the possibility of such threats, what can an average worker do to practice due diligence and protect themselves or their company from becoming victimized? Most of the time, exercising common sense will be sufficient. But there are also some common signs that can alert you to an email not being on the up-and-up.

Fraudulent emails will almost always be short, with the message consisting of only a few lines of text. They will also mention that the email was sent from a mobile device. They will include instructions that run contrary to your business’s policies, basically conveying that you should ignore standard procedure for the sake of urgency. The actual email address that the message was sent from will also be a dead giveaway. Be on the lookout for any email ending with a common domain name like “@gmail.com” or “@yahoo.com” instead of your company’s email domain name. If you’re in charge at your organization, encourage your employees to give you a call to double check any emailed request from you that may seem out of the ordinary. Practicing these easy steps will go a long way toward helping avoid any potentially dicey situations. Even better, they will alleviate unnecessary stress and let you focus on far more important professional priorities.

Graphic celebrating Allliant National Great Place to Work certification includeing a blue confetti background, 4 of our people spelling the word "cool" and GPTW badge.

Our Company Culture is amazing…

…and our Great Place to Work CertificationTM proves it!

Longmont, Colo. — (June 8, 2021) — Alliant National Title Insurance Company, a unique title insurance underwriter that partners with independent agents to improve their competitive position, is proud to be Certified™ by Great Place to Work® for the fifth year in a row. The prestigious designation is based entirely on what current Alliant National employees say about their experience working at the company. This year, 95 percent of employees said Alliant National is a great place to work – 36 points higher than the rating achieved by the average U.S. company.

Great Place to Work® is the global authority on workplace culture, employee experience and the leadership behaviors proven to deliver market-leading revenue, employee retention and increased innovation.

“Great Place to Work Certification™ isn’t something that comes easily – it takes ongoing dedication to the employee experience,” said Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president of global recognition at Great Place to Work. “It’s the only official recognition determined by employees’ real-time reports of their company culture. Earning this designation means that Alliant National is one of the best companies to work for in the country.”

“At Alliant National, we’re more than simply a team; we’re a passionate group of professionals committed to our communities and to each other,” said David Sinclair, president and CEO of Alliant National. “We work incredibly hard on our culture and strive for Alliant National to be a place where our employees enjoy coming to work each day. We want to empower them to deliver exceptional service to our agents.”

According to Great Place to Work research, job seekers are 4.5 times more likely to find a great boss at a Certified great workplace. Additionally, employees at Certified workplaces are 93 percent more likely to look forward to coming to work, and are twice as likely to be paid fairly, earn a fair share of the company’s profits, and have a fair chance at promotion.

Alliant National distinguishes itself from competitors by combining strong underwriting capability with independent agents’ in-depth knowledge of local markets. The result is a nationwide network with deep roots in local communities, and a wealth of expertise that is flexible, nuanced, and continuously growing.

Visit alliantnational.com for additional information.

ABOUT ALLIANT NATIONAL TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY

The Independent Underwriter for The Independent AgentSM – Alliant National believes in empowering people to thrive.

The company protects the dreams of property owners with secure title insurance and partners with 500+ trusted independent title agents as a licensed underwriter in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

ABOUT GREAT PLACE TO WORK CERTIFICATION™

Great Place to Work® Certification™ is the most definitive “employer-of-choice” recognition that companies aspire to achieve. It is the only recognition based entirely on what employees report about their workplace experience – specifically, how consistently they experience a high-trust workplace. Great Place to Work Certification is recognized worldwide by employees and employers alike and is the global benchmark for identifying and recognizing outstanding employee experience. Every year, more than 10,000 companies across 60 countries apply to get Great Place to Work-Certified.

ABOUT GREAT PLACES TO WORK®

Great Place to Work® is the global authority on workplace culture. Since 1992, they have surveyed more than 100 million employees worldwide and used those deep insights to define what makes a great workplace: trust. Their employee survey platform empowers leaders with the feedback, real-time reporting, and insights they need to make data-driven people decisions. Everything they do is driven by the mission to build a better world by helping every organization become a great place to work For All™.

Learn more at greatplacetowork.com and on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Graphic with Melissa Trubatisky's picture welcoming her as the Underwriting and Escrow Training Coordinator for the Southwest Region

Celebrating Missy Joining our Southwest Team

Please welcome Melissa Trubatisky, who has joined our team as the Underwriting and Escrow Training Coordinator for the Southwest Region!

A talented and versatile title insurance professional, Melissa Trubatisky brings over 30 years of experience to Alliant National. She is well-versed in compliance matters, audits and running training initiatives on a national level. In addition, she has managerial experience, having overseen agency operations and marketing efforts in a previous position.

We are so excited to have her accept this position at Alliant National, where some of her responsibilities will include supporting our agents, working closely with underwriting counsel, and being heavily involved with planning and executing agent training and continuing education programs. We can’t think of someone who is a better fit for this position than Melissa!

Melissa is also an active, passionate member of our title insurance community. Currently, she is a member of ALTA and TLTA, and she is also a past member of FLTA. She is Texas native and loves to stay busy outside of work by cooking, traveling, singing, and working on her home with her husband.

If you have questions for Melissa or would simply like to send her a personal welcome, she can be contacted at: mtrubatisky@alliantnational.com.
 

Please join us in warmly welcoming Melissa to our Southwest Regional Team!

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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The Independent Underwriter for
the Independent AgentSM