Wells Fargo Supports ALTA’s Best Practices

March 20, 2014

With regulators requiring increased compliance from lenders, third-party service providers such as title and settlement companies are being expected to provide additional information about the policies and procedures they follow to help ensure a positive and compliant real estate settlement experience. In a newsletter to its network of settlement agents,

Wells Fargo said that it values local title and settlement providers that deliver a high level of professionalism, customer service and quality to the lender’s customers. Wells Fargo said its supports the consumers’ choice for title and settlement services, as long as “that choice is one able to consistently meet all applicable requirements.”

Wells Fargo indicated it will continue to enhance its third-party oversight capabilities for title and settlement companies in order to monitor and measure performance. To help highlight the policies and procedures that are being followed, Wells Fargo encourages settlement agents to implement ALTA’s “Title Insurance and Settlement Company Best Practices.”

This can help companies prepare and be recognized as a top performer, according to Wells Fargo. “Wells Fargo supports ALTA's Best Practices, and considers them to be guidelines for sound business practices that should ideally already be in place for businesses providing title and closing services for our customers,” Wells Fargo said in its newsletter.

Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s chief executive officer, said the association appreciates Wells Fargo's leadership and recognition of the valuable partnership between settlement agents and mortgage lenders throughout the real estate closing process.

“Their endorsement of ALTA's "Title Insurance and Settlement Company Best Practices" gives clear guidance to help ensure the protection of consumers during their real estate transaction," Korsmo said. "These industry standards are being implemented by title insurance and settlement companies around the country to help manage possible risk for consumers and mortgage lenders."

In its newsletter, Wells Fargo indicated it understands there may be a time of transition to fully implement all of the Best Practices. The lender encouraged settlement agents to develop a plan for adoption and to create written policies and procedures that can validate the processes that are followed.

“Wells Fargo will continue work already in progress to communicate requirements and provide support to address your questions to align on expectations,” the lender added in its communication to settlement agents.

Diane Evans, ALTA’s president-elect, said Wells Fargo’s support is a testament to the amount of time and effort the association’s leadership devoted to developing a Best Practices framework that was robust enough to satisfy lenders’ needs yet enable a wide array of title and settlement providers to implement the policies and procedures.

“We are pleased that Wells Fargo endorses the Best Practices,” Evans said. “This proves that they are a viable option to reducing risk and protecting the integrity of the real estate transaction. Providing tools to help as many title and settlement companies compete in the market is good for consumers and industry.”

In addition to the Best Practices, ALTA has developed several items to aid implementation. Here’s a look at some of the tools available:

  • Assessment Procedures
    The standard assessment procedures can be used by third parties to evaluate settlement services providers.
  • Assessment Preparation Workbook
    Exclusive to ALTA members, the Assessment Preparation Workbook is a tool to help companies prepare for a Best Practice Assessment. After it's completed, the Workbook generates a report identifying any areas that need addressed. Click here to watch a tutorial on how to complete the Workbook.
  • Certification Package
    The certification package can be used by title professionals to demonstrate to lenders that they have implemented Best Practices. The certification package includes a cover page, an agency letter, a Best Practices certificate and a declarations page.
  • Policy and Procedure Creation Guidance
    This guide provides members step-by-step directions on how to draft formal policies and procedures for the Best Practices. In addition, a sample policy and procedure as well as a template to help provide a standard format are provided.
  • Template for Best Practices Policy and Procedure
    Download the template to begin building your Best Practices Policy and Procedure for each of the Best Practices.
  • Sample Outline/Table of Contents for Best Practices Policy and Procedure
    This outline provides an example of items a final policy and procedure should include.

ALTA also provides an Elite Provider Program that connects title companies with vendors that can help meet requirements of the Best Practices.

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