The latest annual American Land Title Association (ALTA) One Conference was going to be held in New York, but, due to COVID-19, was held virtually. This year’s theme was “Tell Our Story.” ALTA President, Mary O’Donnell, encouraged all title professionals to tell our industry’s story to consumers: that we are bodyguards, private detectives and problem solvers, but our #1 job is protection. We protect property rights. We give peace of mind. We lead, we deliver, we protect. That is our story. What is yours?
1. COVID closing trends are here to stay
Like it or not, “electronic closings” are here to stay. Whether it be RON, RIN, PRON, IPEN, or any other various acronyms that you hear relative to digital signings and notarizations, the fact remains that today’s consumer has had a taste of technology and convenience and even when the pandemic is over, more consumers are going to want to keep that option for their closings. There are currently 69 eNote originators that allow for complete RON or IPEN execution and notarization of documentation. More Registrars are accepting e-recordings instead of or in addition to paper recordings. There is a multitude of platforms that offer digital signings and notarizations or a hybrid of such. After attending the sessions, it became clear that CSS is ahead of the game in this aspect, having done its research years ago and having performed RON closings for several years now.
2. Commercial Real Estate decline
Unfortunately, it has been and will continue to be difficult on the commercial front. In one commercial session, the speaker stated that everyone needed to reacquaint themselves with foreclosures and bankruptcy, because 2021 may be the year of these due to the forbearance of mortgage payments for some borrowers precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The trend being predicted by economists is for revenue to decrease in the 2nd-4th quarters of 2021, with the estimate of negative 16% in commercial premiums to the title industry. As you probably realize, COVID-19 has made it clear that many employees can now work remotely from anywhere they want, therefore reducing the need for office space. Retail has also been highly and negatively affected by the pandemic. However, on the positive side, there is a trend of these vacant commercial spaces being repurposed for other uses, almost like a recycling of sorts.
3. Diversify Perspectives
Carla Harris, Vice Chair of Morgan Stanley and motivational speaker gave a very uplifting presentation with a multitude of short quotes and thoughts to get everyone thinking and looking at things differently. Her primary message was that ideas are born from perspective and in order to get great ideas, you need to get diverse perspectives. It is important for everyone to take a risk to innovate and to not only be a leader, but to create new leaders. As a leader, respond positively when someone takes a risk and shares a new idea, especially if that idea ultimately does not work. Everyone enjoys being heard, being involved and having a stake in the outcome.
4. Encourage Entrepreneurship
“Mr. Wonderful”, Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank was also an Omni speaker. Despite his short, tough demeanor on the show, he was very down to earth and told his story of becoming a self-made multi-millionaire. He makes no excuses or apologies for his success. He said it was his hard work that got him where he is in life. He encouraged everyone to be an entrepreneur and to help others to be entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurism creates jobs, helps stimulate the economy, and has the ability to touch many lives (through a trickle-down factor). His words of wisdom to us: “The pursuit of entrepreneurship isn’t about money, It’s about pursuing personal freedom”.
5. Do Good Deeds
Now is the time to do good deeds and be involved in charitable contributions—not necessarily just monetary, but be charitable with your time, labor, etc. Charity is all about liberating the receiver. ALTA has established the Good Deeds foundation. This charitable organization was founded by ALTA to help causes locally and nationally. In the spotlight for ALTA is a foundation for wounded veterans. For more information, you can go to www.altagooddeeds.org . Jose Andres, a world renown chef, was a speaker at one of the Omni sessions, talking about charity and helping others. He leads a group of chefs under the name of “World Central Kitchen”. It is a non-profit made of “pop up” field kitchens to feed thousands of people fresh, nourishing, often hot meals as soon as possible at the scene of a hurricane, earthquake, tornado or flood. One of his quotable messages: “Without empathy, nothing works”.