Shortly before taking office during the recent ALTA® Annual Convention, the 1998-99 president in a Title News interview said it is important for members of the Association Abstracter-Agent and Underwriter sections to recognize that, while understandably diverse as constituents, they have strongly similar interests to pursue through the Association when it comes to government affairs, education, technology and the providing of information.
Leading examples of this need, the North Carolina title agency president said, are the challenges calling for vigorous title industry opposition to Congressional proposals calling for mandatory lender packaging of title services?including a projected exemption from RESPA Section 8 kickback prohibitions for lenders who comply. The possibilities for conflict of interest and anti-competitive activity, along with an apparent disregard for consumer protection, make mandatory packaging an amazing concept in the view of this real estate lawyer whose background also includes service as a supervisory underwriting counsel for a national title insurer.
Also continuing to rank high among ALTA® priorities on Capitol Hill, the new president said, is opposition to proposals that would allow national banks wide-ranging authority to sell title insurance. Before any federal legislation is enacted to extend bank sale of title insurance, it must be tempered to allow independent title companies and banks to competitively co-exist, he added.
"Nothing is more important at present than increasing our membership and having Active members help with our ALTA® positions on federal legislation in Washington," President Parker commented. "Unfortunately, I find that too many of our members simply do not appreciate the tremendous effect that a few issues in Washington can have on our entire industry."
A state regulatory issue receiving strong support from ALTA® and President Parker in previous years, during his service as Association Abstracter-Agent Section chair, was a National Association of Insurance Commissioners proposal to develop a Title Insurance Agents Model Act. Although the total Model Act has received scant approval from individual state legislatures to date, the ALTA® president considers the effort to encourage its development entirely worthwhile.
"Many states have adopted parts of the Model Act, but not its controlled business provisions," he said. "Our time was not wasted for two reasons: (1) Parts of the Model Act were considered and adopted, and the thoughts and philosophy behind it were placed in the forefront; (2) Our related appearances before the NAIC gave us needed exposure to insurance regulators, many of whom were not familiar with the various aspects and functions of the title industry."
Maintaining Survival Strategy
Viewing the title business from his nationally-focused vantage point, the president of Parker Title Insurance Agency, Inc., Winston-Salem, NC, is keenly aware of ALTA®’s role in helping independent agents maintain a survival strategy through education and awareness in the current fast-moving times.
"I think it was ( ALTA® Past President) Dan Wentzel who said a while back that he could not imagine a title insurance agent not wanting to be a member of our national Association," President Parker commented. "If we as agents do not keep up with what is going on nationally, and how we are being affected by matters outside our own immediate area, I do not think we will survive."
As title business becomes more national in scope, with increased influence from larger customers and title underwriters, President Parker is expecting technology-driven change to continue its profound impact on the shape of the industry. The effects are being felt in markets where traditional methods might be regarded as having a firm foothold, including his home state of North Carolina.
"In my state, practicing attorneys or their paralegals continue to examine titles directly from the public records," he remarked. "We have a statute here which requires a title opinion by a practicing attorney, who is not an employee of the title company, prior to the issuance of a title policy. When I tell people in other parts of the country?particularly the midwest or the west?about this, they find it hard to believe. I think technology is going to have very noticeable effects on legal practice in the areas of title examination and closing, here and elsewhere."
Among leading topics now requiring concentration from agents around the country, he said, are faster and more efficient customer service through technology and?in some locales, at least?forming strategic alliances with competitors or former customers. ALTA®’s agent seminar on strategic alliances held this past summer is an excellent example of what needs to be offered in the way of preparatory opportunity, President Parker added.
"Our ALTA® committees must work together," he remarked. "For instance, the Education Committee needs to continue teamwork with the Land Title Systems Committee in offering up to date and meaningful information concerning technology. This was aptly done at our introductory Land Title Institute Technology Forum & Expo early this year, and will be repeated at our 1999 Technology Forum next February."
The ALTA® educational mission extends to liaison with regional and state title associations, President Parker said.
"I still attend regional and state title association conventions where information seems to be lacking on what ALTA® can provide them," he remarked. "We need to emphasize for some of these associations the importance of having their members be ALTA® members as well. Because of the advancement of technology and the influence of national title customers including lenders, our business is fast becoming national in scope. It makes good sense for these regional/state members to be linked with ALTA® as well."