Agents National Title Purchased by Blackstone Subsidiary

October 5, 2017

In 2005, David Townsend started Missouri-based Farmer’s Title Insurance Co. dedicated to supporting title insurance agents instead of competing against them. Over the years, the company steadily grew behind the agent-only model and expanded into additional states, which led to its name change to Agents National Title Insurance Co. (ANTIC) in 2009. Now licensed to issue title insurance in 18 states, Townsend decided the time was right to sell the company.

Incenter, a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group that provides trading, advisory and fulfillment services for lenders and specialty finance companies, announced it signed a purchase agreement to acquire ANTIC. The transaction amount was not disclosed. The transaction is subject to certain regulatory approvals and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018.

“This was my baby that I founded and started from scratch,” Townsend said. “I wanted to make sure we partnered with the right company and shared the same vision as far as quality service and an agent-only model.”

With plans to expand nationally over the next 18 months, Towsend sees the potential for smart growth and expanding its commercial network.

“Incenter provides us a broader access to lenders, loan origination systems and different aspects of the loan transaction, but market share is not the be-all-end-all,” he said. “I’d rather say it’s about profit. We will get the right market share and will continue our growth pattern working with quality agents and not sacrificing compliance for the sake of growth.”

ANTIC, through its subsidiaries, also brings a software system that will connect and coordinate all aspects of the real estate transaction, as well as consulting services and fee-based educational offerings for its agents. The company also is a 1031 qualified intermediary.

Townsend will serve as president alongside Brent Scheer as chief financial officer and chief operating officer, Pat Carney as chief strategy officer. Cheryl Cowherd, senior underwriting counsel, Lori Dorman, director of risk management and key staff will also remain in place at the headquarters in Columbia, Mo., with satellite offices across the United States.

“Since inception, ANTIC has focused on protecting an integral component of all real estate transactions while simultaneously building our business to drive technological change in an industry often reluctant to it,” Townsend said. “Incenter has taken a similar approach and we have found a likeminded partner in the lender services team. ANTIC is well-positioned to bring value to relationships across Incenter’s lines of business as well as to its affiliates. As we expand our operations we will be looking to partner with quality title agents in our new markets and with the Lender Services team to create a national platform of title agents and settlement service providers.”

Incenter, which acquired Boston National Title last year, is headquartered in Saint Paul, Minn., and provides its lender clients operating in the mortgage and specialty finance markets with access to capital, secondary markets solutions and fulfillment services. With additional offices in Charlotte, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Manila, Philippines, Incenter employs approximately 900 professionals worldwide.

“Our goal within lender services is to provide solutions to the growing list of pain points that originators of all sizes have in any market environment and the addition of Agents National Title Insurance Company solidifies the foundation of our offering,” said John Keratsis, senior managing director for lender services at Incenter. “Title insurance is a critical component of every real estate transaction and the ANTIC leadership team has a proven track record of building productive long-term relationships with all parties to a sale. This expertise, underpinned by a nimble technology platform, enables us to meet the needs of our clients even more effectively.”

Blackstone provides ANTIC the backing of a company that reported revenue of $5.1 billion in 2016. In comparison to 2016 revenue of other underwriters owned by publically-traded companies, Fidelity National Financial reported  $9.6 billion, Old Republic International reported $5.9 billion, First American Financial reported $5.6 billion and Stewart Information Services reported $2.0 billion.

When Townsend first launched his company, he partnered with software developer to create software that generates electronic policy jackets and closing protection letters. The digitization of the real estate transaction is a trend that he expects to capitalize on under the Blackstone umbrella.

“We will focus on the automation of the real estate transaction from start to finish,” Townsend said. “What we now have is the potential to integrate from order and policy to quality control in a continuous digital stream.”

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