Last April, we introduced the Stewart Trusted Provider™ Program to provide lender, REALTOR® and homebuyer/seller customers’ peace of mind. Through the program, all Stewart independent agencies and attorney agents are thoroughly vetted and verified, and equipped with a Trusted Provider seal.
While the seal is new, the idea behind it isn’t. It’s something we’ve been doing at Stewart for more than 100 years – building our business on trust and integrity. But in an industry that is so heavily regulated, why is that extra vetting and trust so important?
Home purchases are among the biggest investments many consumers will ever make, and during those transactions, large sums of money are handled by independent companies. Careful oversight is imperative to ensure the documents and information used at the closing table are accurate, money is properly funded and the investment is safeguarded from error and fraud.
The much-anticipated Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulations will soon shine light on the entire real estate transaction and make agencies more accountable for mistakes or discrepancies in the process. After spending the past four years developing the best network of title agencies in the industry, we view this extra attention to detail as a spotlight that will highlight the integrity of our people and processes. The stringent quality assurance practices we’ve implemented as part of our Trusted Provider program will enable our agencies not only to meet and exceed CFPB’s standards, but to truly shine.
Stewart’s Trusted Provider Program: Our Vetting Process
Our vetting process at Stewart is more than merely a background check. It’s a multi-faceted evaluation system with numerous quality checks to ensure we’re attracting and keeping the best agencies in the business.
In fact, it is extremely tough for a title agency to pass our intensive screening criteria. But we find those who most value integrity and quality are drawn to this process because they want to distinguish themselves as being a cut above the rest.
Our process varies a bit depending on what type of agency we’re evaluating. For startup companies, we look for stability. We review business plans to ensure they have a roadmap for success and income statements to verify they’re adequately capitalized. We also assess their business acumen, which certainly includes title skills, but also management and marketing skills that will enable them not only to sustain their business but thrive within the market.
Established agencies are critically evaluated as well, typically on the same points as a new company, but with a deep dive into their experience. We look at the number of closings they’ve had and their claims experience, timeliness in reconciling escrow accounts, customer service and integrity. If they don’t pass our standards, they aren’t signed as a Stewart policy issuing agency.
Additionally, our agency audits are performed by a third party, Deloitte & Touche, LLP, based upon our risk model scoring.
The benefits of these processes are numerous. As we attract top title agencies, our transactions go more smoothly, network claims go down and customer service levels go up. In fact, about 90% of our agencies actually are eligible for discounts on their errors and omissions insurance premiums because the Stewart agency network has been recognized for its attention to quality.
The integrity of our Trusted Provider agency network speaks volumes. For Stewart, it instills a sense of pride and accomplishment in the strength of the network we’ve built over the past four years and will continue to build moving forward.
For our customers, it creates a sense of confidence and a preference for our services. And that, to us, is the greatest validation our Trusted Provider program could ask for: flawless transactions and satisfied customers.