Greetings from your new president. Let me say thank you for this honor and the trust you have bestowed in me. I realize that this office is one of service to one's industry. Three years ago, I set out to visit every state and, God willing, I hope to have been in all but three or four by October, 1998. In each state, I have asked for your input and guidance.
From listening to you, it is evident that, first and foremost, you rely on ALTA® for federal lobbying of Congress and federal regulatory bodies on issues affecting our industry. These duties are made easier by our members who participate in ALTA® through your calls, letters, and visits when Ann vom Eigen sends out urgent requests. Currently, the greatest concern seems to be that banks, with their point-of-sale contact with consumers, will use any new insurance powers to gain unfair competitive advantage over independent title agents. The bank would foreclose any opportunity by such agents to compete for the consumer's business and would not be bound by the same rules as face our membership. So far, ALTA® has effectively carried your views to the Hill.
The second area where you rely on ALTA® for support is state law issues that are either common from state to state, or which could have ramifications beyond the border of one state. ALTA®'s most recent success has been in assisting the California Land Title Association and others in the effort to fight the assumable title policy concept proposed in California. This proposal stands as a veritable nightmare for both the consumer and the title industry and reflects an incredibly uninformed view of our industry and its important role in the real estate transfer process. In addition, ALTA® has assisted many state associations in their battle with Norwest Mortgage over TOP.
The third area where you have relied on ALTA® is education. Today, that education extends to technology and ancillary products. The question is what our members must do to stay in business. The answer is, of course, to serve the customer. Our industry has nothing to fear except the inability to change to meet the changing needs of our customers. We are in a changing environment and, if our industry embraces technology and expands to meet the needs of our customers, we have an opportunity to be the "White Knight"--the answer to the future of the real estate transaction. No entities are so uniquely suited to meet the needs of our customers as are our members. But we must be easy to deal with and deliver a timely and less costly title product accompanied by a myriad of other services. This is what ALTA®'s Technology Forum & Exposition in Orlando, FL, February 1-3, is designed to teach you. If you plan on being in this business in the year 2000, you should plan now to attend.
The Forum & Expo is what you have been asking for, and your presence will make this a successful event. We will share what works and what has not worked, and learn what our customers expect from us in the near future. You also will explore how your office can become the answer to your customer's needs. When you are through changing, you are really through. Well, we certainly are not through. Education is important as an agent of change. Let's all take advantage of this unique opportunity offered by ALTA®.
One more giant role for ALTA®--public relations. Our industry suffers from a lack of understanding by the public of what we do. Consumers have been known to look on our industry as the people who "hold up" their purchase or loan, give you a whole lot of paperwork to sign which you can't understand, and then ask them for a large check for the "service." Some do not realize that, out of the check they write to us, only a wee bit is for the title insurance. Government types have been heard to ask why title insurance is needed any more. "Haven't all the titles already been insured?" they inquire.
The second law of thermodynamics says that matters left to themselves devolve. That goes for titles as well. Of the titles that our members do, 70 percent are just perfect--it's discovering the 30 percent where corrective action must be taken that makes our job important. Absent the careful role played by our industry, our whole system would soon devolve into chaos.
I have reactivated our Public Relations Committee with a goal to get our story out. It is time we take the initiative in educating the home buyer and the title customer on the importance of their title insurance. The Public Relations Committee has started by engaging in public opinion research that will guide us on where our resources should be concentrated before going to work on improving the understanding of title insurance among these important audiences. We can no longer hide our light under a bushel--it's time we let it shine.
However, we must also enlist and enable you to explain our industry. You are the persons who can best tell the story in your own communities.
If you've got something that you feel is a priority for ALTA® to examine, I am here to listen to your concerns and implement needed action.
As I've been touring these United States, I've met a lot of great folks. Not ones ready to give up, but people looking forward to the future and preparing to meet it. As an industry that studies the past, we are constantly reminded of the considerable changes that already have taken place. With our study of history and careful attention to detail, we are a uniquely qualified group to guide and protect the real estate transaction of tomorrow.
God bless you all!
Signed Malcolm S. Morris