Things are busy in the title insurance underwriting world right now, and together with our Chief Underwriting Counsel Jim Gosdin, I am pleased to lead the outstanding underwriting team here at Stewart. Our structure and expertise, coupled with the leadership of a deep bench of talented senior underwriters, really sets us apart.
Our team is designed to provide the utmost service and expertise to our customers. Underwriters are stacked geographically and based on an approval authority limit basis. Stewart Legal Services is home to approximately 50 underwriters, each of whom has both primary and backup responsibilities for a particular state. They all report to one of the regional underwriting counsels under our Chief Underwriting Counsel Jim Gosdin. These Underwriters do not include our National Title Services Underwriters or Direct Operations Underwriters who report up through their respective business units but adhere to the guidelines set by Stewart Legal Services. We have a seamless high-liability approval process with calibrated authority levels, from underwriter, to associate senior underwriter, to senior underwriter. Senior underwriters have the experience to underwrite the most complex risk and have no geographic limitations.
In order to meet varied customer needs, it’s important that all of our underwriters have a varied knowledge base. While some of our senior underwriters have specific areas of expertise, they’re typically generalists and can handle legal issues that come up in any type of real estate transaction. Our senior underwriters handle transactions involving Native American rights, water rights, energy rights, renewable energy, shopping centers, multi-family, resorts, industrial, liquid natural gas, construction loans, wetlands and multi-site/multi-state deals.
As the economy improves, we’re seeing growth in these types of commercial deals along with more building contracts. Our breadth of experience in handling major, complex commercial transactions positions us well to handle this growth.
Right now we’re seeing a few hot-button issues like mechanic’s liens and mineral rights. We’ve seen the most issues with mechanic’s liens on the west coast particularly in California. The lien laws of the various states protect the mechanics and materialmen differently, so it’s important we have the local knowledge supported by our experienced Senior Underwriters to protect our customers and review the facts of each transaction carefully. Our state underwriters also monitor the legislative and regulatory measures affecting our work.
Additionally, mineral rights claims have increased with the growth of shale fracking across the country. In places like the Dakotas, to upstate New York, Ohio and Texas, we’ve had to pay close attention to these transactions to ensure our customers have the appropriate coverage.
As the economy improves and commercial transactions normalize, we expect to see more of these issues arise—and more commercial business at Stewart. With our depth of expertise in the commercial arena, Stewart’s superior team of underwriters will be fully prepared to help our customers navigate even their most complex deals.