Posts Tagged ‘underwriting’

Alliant National welcomes Julie George as Underwriting Counsel graphic

Alliant National Welcomes Julie George as Underwriting Counsel

George will help support Alliant National’s underwriting operations throughout the Midwest.

Longmont, Colo. – (May 16, 2023) – Alliant National Title Insurance Company, the title insurer that is uniquely responsive to the needs of independent agents, is pleased to announce the hiring of Julie George as Underwriting Counsel.

A seasoned title insurance veteran, George has been a fixture of the industry since 2005. She is highly experienced working within large title insurance companies. She is skilled at navigating complex organizations and building productive, cross-departmental collaborations between production and escrow teams to ensure sound underwriting decisions and seamless closings. During her career, she has also taught classes for real estate agents, lenders and title insurance professionals.

As Underwriting Counsel for Alliant National, George will have ample opportunities to apply her skills and expertise. Her responsibilities will include working directly with the underwriter’s policy-issuing agents in the Midwest to provide support, risk analysis and management, claim resolution and making insurability determinations. She will also play a role in developing underwriting resources and continuing education materials.

“Alliant National’s strong, nation-wide operations were a huge draw for me,” said George, talking about her new position. “However, Alliant National’s laser-like focus on meeting the needs of the independent agent is what truly sets it apart. I can’t wait to dig in and work with this team of incredible title professionals to deliver more value for our agents.”

“Julie is one of the best in the business,” said Jeff Stein, Chief Underwriting Counsel for Alliant National. “Given her years of experience, keen legal mind and clear passion for the industry, our agents, employees, lenders and communities all stand to gain from her being part of the Alliant National team.”

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, George graduated Cum Laude from St. Louis University with a degree in American Studies in 1999. She obtained her Juris Doctor from St. Louis University School of Law four years later. She is a winner of the Dowd Award for Excellence in Appellate Advocacy.

Today, George lives in St. Louis 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 32 states and the District of Columbia.

Composition of a young businessman sitting on top of a modern conference building. The businessman is larger than the building.

Title Underwriters: Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Ever have a client who was sure their transaction had to be written on a large underwriter? Hey, I get it. Clients are sometimes drawn to the big title insurers, assuming that there are benefits to partnering with a large organization. They may feel a smaller underwriter won’t be able to meet their needs, and the deal is just too large or important to leave anything to chance.

As an independent title agent, you know the importance of selecting a trustworthy, reliable, and responsive partner to provide title insurance for your clients. In this blog, we’ll dive into the features that matter most when selecting an underwriter, debunk some common myths, and show why bigger isn’t necessarily better when selecting a title insurer. First, let’s consider some of the reasons a client might ask you to ensure a transaction with one of the big guys to see if that request aligns with their interests or if they are simply following a common myth.

If I go with a big underwriter, won’t I get better coverage?

There’s a common misconception that the product of the title insurer – the title policy and endorsements – often varies meaningfully in the terms and coverage between underwriters. It’s just not so.

The truth is that generally the product is the same regardless of who underwrites the policy. In states where the forms are promulgated by law, the insurance regulator determines for the entire industry what language is acceptable, and what terms and conditions will be incorporated into their contracts. In states where the forms are not promulgated, most insurers use either the American Land Title Association forms, or the California Land Title Association forms, with little variation.

Basically, the policy will be the same or similar regardless of the underwriter.

If I go with a big underwriter, won’t I get a better rate?

At first glance, this seems like a very reasonable question. In some industries, larger companies have a natural pricing advantage. But in title insurance, it’s hard for an underwriter, no matter how large, to distinguish itself on rates. In states where the rates are promulgated, the insurance regulator decides what to charge and all insurers must follow the regulator’s set rates. Even in those states where regulators do not mandate rates, there may be a ratings bureau that files rates on behalf of its member insurers – which means that most, if not all insurers, will be offering the same rates. And, in those states where insurers file their own rates, they are typically competitive and therefore very similar.

So, the rates will be the same or similar, regardless of the underwriter.

If I have a claim, won’t a big underwriter be in a better position to pay?

Again, this question seems reasonable. Title claims can run into the millions of dollars on commercial properties, so a client might think a big underwriter naturally has more resources to pay claims compared to a smaller underwriter. However, two broad factors level the playing field when it comes to paying claims: state regulation and reinsurance.  

State regulators take great pains to protect the public by ensuring that title underwriters of all sizes have the resources to pay claims. Statutorily required reserves must be set aside to pay claims. Regulators carefully monitor the financial soundness of the insurers authorized to do business in their states, and title insurers submit both annual and quarterly financial statements. Title insurers have annual independent CPA audits and are subject to financial examination by the regulator, typically at least once every five years. This means that no matter the size of the insurer, there is a financial threshold that each insurer must meet to ensure its financial stability and continued operation. Moreover, many states have single risk limit formulas that cap the amount a title insurer may insure for a particular transaction risk without having to provide reinsurance.

When reinsurance is provided, there are essentially two insurers – the primary title insurer, and the reinsurer who stands behind the reinsured policy amount. So, while it’s true that a large title insurer may retain a larger dollar amount by itself as a single risk, a smaller title insurer utilizing reinsurance for that single risk is giving the insured two layers of financial security at no additional expense to the insured. A title insurer should be happy to provide you with information regarding its reinsurance, and as a customer or agent, you are entitled to ask for it.

At Alliant National, we reinsure high liability transactions up to $20 million with the Lloyd’s of London markets, and that’s one of the reasons we can confidently say: No title insurance underwriter can offer you better protection for your title risk than Alliant National.

So, if the policy and the price are similar, and the capability to pay claims is sound, what are the real differences between those big underwriters and a smaller underwriter like Alliant National? Moreover, what are the reasons a client might want to select Alliant National over a larger underwriter?

We Don’t Compete Against You For Customers

Alliant National does not compete against you for the customers in your market. Our sole focus is to support the independent title agent. Alliant National will never take a transaction or a customer from you. We strive to help you build better relationships with your customers, and to help you succeed.

Fast And Innovative Answers To Underwriting Questions

Underwriting delays put deals at risk. That’s bad for you and your clients. Sometimes big underwriters back-burner underwriting requests to service their company-owned title offices, and they sometimes provide “canned” or “by-the-book” responses when an underwriting challenge arises. Alliant National does not compete with its independent agents, so it’s able to put all of its underwriting resources to work for independent title agents and their clients. As a smaller underwriter, Alliant National also has the flexibility to find innovative solutions for you and your clients when underwriting challenges arise.

Less Friction

At larger underwriters, the agency and underwriting units can often be at odds with each other. There can also be communications breakdowns between corporate, regional, and state-based teams. At Alliant National, however, the absence of a multi-tier management structure gives our agency, underwriting and other teams the ability to work together closely and seamlessly. Everyone pulls in the same direction to deliver the best outcomes for our agents and their clients.

Real Service When Claims Emerge

We already discussed why the big underwriters generally are not “better” when it comes to the ability to pay claims. However, some big underwriters fall short when it comes to the claims process by making it seem like their goal is to pay no claims at all. At Alliant National, we have flipped the script when it comes to claims. We recognize that the claims department is where our title insurance product goes to work. We strive for timely and clear communication with insureds and agents, seeking first to understand the situation from all points of view. It’s a unique and collaborative approach to claims that agents and insureds value.

The Courage To Care When it comes to choosing an underwriter, it’s important to consider what really matters: finding a partner who prioritizes your needs and the needs of your clients. Unfortunately, larger underwriters may lack the flexibility and personal touch that independent agents and their clients require. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great people working at large underwriters, but size can lead to conflicts, friction, and a lack of flexibility. At Alliant National, we pride ourselves on being able to deliver customized solutions that meet the goals of the real people behind each transaction. Whether it’s a multi-million-dollar commercial deal or a starter home for a young family, partnering with Alliant National means choosing a team that truly cares about you and your clients.

Liam Shay Welcome Graphic

Alliant National Announces the Hiring of Liam Shay as Underwriting Counsel   

Longmont, Colo. – (August 23, 2022) – Alliant National Title Insurance Company, the title insurer that is uniquely responsive to the needs of independent agents, announces the hiring of Liam Shay as Underwriting Counsel.

Shay is a 20-year veteran of the title insurance industry and has routinely been involved in nearly every aspect of the business. He has focused on title examinations, and he has spent the last five years as an in-house underwriter focusing on claim resolution, risk analysis and staff management. 

As underwriting counsel, Shay will apply his extensive experience to working directly with agents who write for Alliant National and are located primarily in Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas. He will provide guidance, support, risk analysis and continuing education, with his central goal being to improve their business and grow their revenues.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this new opportunity,” said Shay. “I can’t wait to work alongside this already stellar team to improve agent operations and deliver great results for the independent agent. I already feel like I am a part of the Alliant National family!”

“Bringing Liam on board represents an incredible win for Alliant National and is essential to maintaining our position as the premier independent underwriter for the independent agent,” said Jeff Stein, Chief Underwriting Counsel and Senior Vice President for Alliant National. “With his two decades of experience, I know Liam is going to be an incredible asset to our agents as they work to issue the best possible policies and ultimately close more business.”

Shay is a member of the Minnesota State Bar and is also a member of the Minnesota Bar Association Real Property Section. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School.

He lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.

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 30 states and the District of Columbia.

person icon leaping onto a city scape

Taking the Leap: Tapping Alliant National Expertise to Support Your Diversification into Commercial Transactions

We’ve learned from the refinance boom and bust years that being a one trick pony in the title insurance profession is not the pathway to longevity. Diversifying your transactions with purchase, refinance, builder, REO and mobile home transactions is a good way to hedge your bets in the cyclical reality of the real estate market.

Commercial transactions can also be a great way to solidify your competitive position in the local market. However, many agents are a bit leery of taking the plunge due to the more complex nature of these deals.

Donna More, VP and Senior Underwriting Counsel for Alliant National Title Insurance Company, says that while she can understand an agent’s initial trepidation, there is a logical pathway for agents to move into the commercial end of the business, and Alliant National underwriting counsel can be a great resource as you are learning the ropes.

“I think an experienced underwriting attorney is key in these transactions,” More says. “We know right off the top what is going to come up. We can get the agent prepared, alert them on what they are going to need, and tell them what questions to ask – even before they get the search report – so they can avoid some surprises later on in the transaction.”

She notes that agents are hesitant to get into commercial because they don’t want to appear ignorant when questions and issues come up. But most of the tough issues will be resolved by underwriting counsel.

“We are going to be the ones who come up with methods of resolution, based on our professional experience,” she explains. “That is one of the big advantages we offer our agents. With our experience and knowledge, we are often able to predict what is going to happen, or what is going to be needed. We can already be thinking ahead to the best way to resolve potential issues.”

But let’s not put the cart before the horse.

There are some key steps you can take before venturing into commercial transactions. It’s also helpful to understand how the players’ roles are different and explore some of the elements that are unique to commercial transactions.

Learning about commercial transactions

The best way to learn the nuances of commercial deals, according to More, is first, to take on small deals in order to learn by doing; second, to work closely with underwriting counsel to get questions answered; and finally, to seek out educational opportunities.

“I recommend that agents who want to get into commercial and want to feel competent and prepared should take classes,” she advises. “There are always good takeaways from the commercial real estate seminars. Also, ask local attorneys what they recommend would be helpful to gain a higher degree of sophistication in commercial real estate.”

More says it shouldn’t be too hard to find educational opportunities, since bar associations and land title associations offer commercial real estate classes. Even if the class is geared towards lawyers, it can still give an agent insight into commercial deals, affording them a greater level of comfort, she adds.

Alliant National agents can check out a free webinar, Commercial Closings? No Problem! at alliantnationalacademy.com.

Securing commercial transaction title orders

More acknowledges that the most complicated commercial transactions are usually handled by attorney title agents but notes that there are plenty of non-attorney title agents who have been successful at developing a clientele with their existing real estate agent and broker customers who handle both residential and commercial transactions.

She also advises mining existing customer relationships for potential opportunities.

“Someone who bought a $3 million home and closed with you is probably a fairly successful businessperson and may be involved in buying and selling commercial properties,” she says. “Nurture those relationships.”

She also suggests getting immersed in the local business community and commercial industry organizations, especially the real estate associations like Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) or NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association (fka the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks).

“Being involved in the local commercial industry organizations is a very good source of knowledge and business,” More says. “Go to the local meetings and take advantage of the educational opportunities to build your confidence.”

How commercial title work differs from residential

Commercial transactions can be complicated, with more lawyers involved and often more parties to the transaction. In addition, the principals are often not individuals, but legal entities.

“The title agent needs to be very familiar with the types of legal entities in their state and what the requirements are for proof of good standing and proof of authority,” More explains.

She says an agent is also more likely to have to deal with ancillary issues, such as easements for access. Generally speaking, in a residential sale, the home is on a platted lot and there are no issues with access. But with commercial property, it could involve a landlocked parcel and you have to be concerned about access or the adequacy of access.

“The other important difference is how you deal with the lenders,” she says. “The lenders are going to expect more. In the more sophisticated transactions, there are going to be more requirements and different documentation needed. Even though you as the title agent would not be preparing the documents, you will have to familiarize yourself with all the documents in the transaction as well as get them signed as part of the package and recorded.”

More notes that construction loans are also more complicated for commercial properties and lenders will have a lot more requirements. The agent could also run into construction lien issues.

“Florida has a construction lien law that is very detailed and very complicated. That’s another reason why it’s so important to go to your underwriting attorney to get the guidance you need,” she advises.

Same basics, different pacing

The basics of the title and closing work in a commercial transaction is not very different from residential transaction.

“The agent needs to go through the commitment, see what the requirements are, and get familiar with the exceptions,” she explains. “It is especially important for a title agent to be able to distinguish what the parties are responsible for vs. what they are responsible for. And of course, they should come to underwriting as soon as they see something that makes them say, ‘I don’t know what this is.’”  

However, More clarifies, the title agent must account for everything even if it is the sellers’ or buyers’ responsibility to actually perform the task or provide the documentation.

Sometimes commercial deals can be turned around quickly, but usually they take longer because the inspections and due diligence are more complicated, often involving permitting, approvals, DOT issues and access.

“In my seminars for Florida agents, I have always suggested checklists for any transaction, but it is most imperative in commercial deals,” More says.  “Go through the contract. Check the timelines. Also, as the title agent, you need to share your title work with all parties – seller, buyer and lender. Sellers and their lawyers will have a much bigger role in a commercial transaction. The seller will have to come up with all kinds of documentation. On the buyer side, the lender will need to see the organization of the entity and will want to look at their books and balance sheets.”

And of course, the title agent will be involved in the curative work, even if it is only to give the seller guidance as to what will be required.

“In addition to keeping up with the timing, probably the most crucial part of what they do is keeping track of what needs to be fixed and how it needs to be fixed,” More notes. “That’s where we come in. They need underwriting to determine how to cure a problem or explore the alternatives available to fix an issue. We rate those alternatives – this is the best course of action or this is the option we don’t want to do.”

Final word

Commercial real estate transactions do require some expertise, but it is knowledge that can be acquired over time through educational opportunities and on-the-job experience with smaller transactions. But the most important resource you have at your disposal will always be the experienced and knowledgeable underwriting attorneys at Alliant National. We are always here to help you learn how to navigate this fascinating and challenging aspect of the title insurance business in order to take your agency to the next level.

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.

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