The 2013 ALTA Annual Convention attendance in West Palm Beach was the largest in about 25 years. This is a sign of resurgence in business volume and prosperity, as well as a large interest in the evolving regulatory environment. ALTA is always a time to reconnect with industry members, customers and friends. The Stewart organization attended ALTA in force, and with the leadership of Group President – Agency Services George Houghton, we were organized to disburse and connect with our attending independent agencies and potential agents, who are so important to us. One important quote: “68 percent of customers leave due to attitude of indifference.” We reached out to our agents at ALTA and expressed their value to us!
“The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act [has] created the most far-reaching financial regulatory legislation since the Great Depression.” Our industry association is paying close attention and moved quickly to craft the benchmark industry compliance framework, comprised of the seven pillars of Best Practices, policies, procedures, assessments, workbooks and a Best Practices compliance certification form. Many of the title agencies attending ALTA came for education and compliance solutions. We can be proud that Stewart moved ahead with our framework for enhanced compliance support of our agency network with the ever-growing and improving Trusted Provider Program. All Stewart agents and direct offices are Trusted Providers! We are a strong source of help in compliance, and our agents tell us that.
Dr. Stan Humphries, Chief Economist for Zillow, spoke to the Stewart agent breakfast on Friday morning. Zillow is an innovative enterprise focused on serving the consumer in the real estate transaction process. Dr. Humphries presented a description of their business model, and a multi-dimensional view of the U.S. residential real estate economy. His economic research is available on Zillow.com and shows that we are generally in an improving real estate environment that may experience rising interest rates in 2014. Real estate is local, and we have probably seen the best of rising values in most markets. Residential refinance lending continues to decline, but sales continue to flow with seasonal and market fluctuation.
Saturday was the final day of ALTA, with educational sessions continuing from the beginning of the day. Jeff Noel from Disney spoke in the general session mid-morning about the training for “engagement” and continuing education that all Disney cast members undergo. What an exciting presentation on the value of attitude to serve the Disney guests. Disney recommends that we “over-manage” the details that delight our guests and be intentional about the culture to serve. Don’t be too serious, and go the extra inch to show kindness and generosity. We should plan to go beyond satisfaction, and seek to customer happiness with the finest in customer experience.
The new 2014 board was sworn in, and the incoming ALTA president, Rob Chapman, presented his vision of Best Practices deployment and a powered-up message on the essential value of title insurance and settlement services for the next year in our industry. Jeff Noel from Disney began his talk with a great statement that title insurance and closing provide “peace of mind to the homeowner and their lender.” We are in an essential business!