A Look Back on 2012: ALTA Turns Challenges Into Opportunities

December 27, 2012

Michelle L. Korsmo, ALTA’s chief executive officer

Many challenges arrived at our doorstep over the past year, providing us several opportunities to explain the importance of our industry and highlight the professionalism of our members. (See a list of Year in Review articles below.)

With the help of Chris Abbinante, ALTA immediate past president, and Frank Pellegrini, ALTA’s new president, the association launched an effort called the “Future of the Title Industry.” The original effort attempted to identify challenges facing our industry and develop opportunities for agents and underwriters. Little did we know how much more relevant the work would become as the regulatory parameters established by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) began to grow.

Regulators’ increasing demands for consumer protections has forced lenders to reassess relationships with service providers. Because of this, lenders need to know more about the companies with whom they do business. To help our members understand how to communicate with lenders on the professionalism in the title and settlement industry, ALTA created the Title Insurance and Settlement Company Best Practices, which highlight industry policies and procedures that protect lenders and consumers. While this serves as a guide, we have only started providing resources and education to help our members navigate the new regulatory challenges.

In addition, the CFPB issued 1,099 pages of proposed regulations as it attempts to simplify mortgage disclosures. ALTA’s RESPA Task Force has been busy reviewing the proposal to identify issues and also work toward possible solutions that serve to protect the consumer as well as help the hundreds of small businesses that make up a large part of our industry. Part of the proposal is to combine the HUD-1 and the TIL into a single Closing Disclosure. Who completes this new Closing Disclosure and provides it to the consumer remains an open question. ALTA and its RESPA Task Force are developing comments that are due to the CFPB by Nov. 6.

Even with all these changes on the horizon, the association had many successes in 2012 and anticipates more accomplishments in 2013. Despite the sluggish economy, professionals in the title insurance industry continue to understand the value of association membership. For the third year in a row, ALTA has set record membership, which now stands at more than 4,100 member companies. Not only are we gaining new members, but we are retaining membership at an excellent rate of nearly 85 percent. It’s clear our members value the benefits of belonging to ALTA. It is with this increased support from our members that we strengthen the advocacy of the land title insurance industry that legislators, regulators and other policymakers have come to know and respect.

While membership is up, we aren’t resting on our laurels. We are taking steps to increase the professionalism of our membership. At this year’s Annual Convention, ALTA unveiled a National Title Professional program. We’ve discussed developing a program like this for some time. Now is the right time to recognize the professionalism and ethical standards in the industry.

During the first half of 2012, ALTA worked with the Lifetime TV series Designing Spaces to produce a five-minute TV segment explaining the closing process and the importance of purchasing an owner’s title insurance policy. Designing Spaces reaches 1.5 million potential and current homebuyers, making it one of the biggest opportunities we’ve ever had to explain the value of title insurance.

As you can see, we’ve accomplished a lot but have much to do. With your help and participation as an ALTA member, we will push the industry forward to renewed prosperity. With record membership and financial stability, ALTA is well positioned to represent the land title insurance industry in a time when the real estate market remains fragile and new regulatory pressures are impacting the mortgage market. We look forward to building upon our strong foundation and continuing to improve our deliverables to members in the industry.

2012 Year in Review Articles

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.