Profile: ALTA President Steve Day

March 1, 2018

By Jeremy Yohe

Many children, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, say they’d like to become a doctor, a teacher, or a pro athlete.

Not Steve Day. From the age of 8, he wanted to be an attorney.

That’s when Day received an old law book from his 26-year-old cousin. Day didn’t know what the book was about, but he was proud to have it.

“I brought it to school for show-and-tell at a career day, so I always dreamed of being a lawyer,” Day said.

When it came to college, however, Day changed course and enrolled as a business management major. During his junior year at the University of Bridgeport, one of Day’s good friends was studying for the LSAT. That rekindled the desire to be an attorney. He studied for the exam, scored well, and, after earning his Bachelor of Science in Business Management, he was admitted to Suffolk University, where he earned his law degree.

From there, he coupled his love for law with his business acumen to propel him into a successful 36-year career in the title insurance industry. In October, Day was installed as ALTA’s 109th president.

“Professionally, I started in this industry as an attorney agent in a small town in the very small state of Rhode Island,” Day said. “I am humbled by the thought that I now have the opportunity to lead this trade association as its president. Serving our more than 6,200 members and the broader land title insurance industry this year as president is a privilege.”

The Early Years

Born in the northeast corner of Philadelphia, Day views his childhood through two distinct lenses. First, his mother was part of a large Italian family who all lived within five blocks of each other in Philadelphia. Day lived in the city until the age of 10—surrounded by his mother’s family, travelling to camp by bus, and enjoying access to sports teams, museums and downtown shopping. His father, however, was from rural Sulphur Springs, Ark.

“My Dad would pile us into the car each summer for a two-week trip across the country to visit his childhood home,” Day said. “It was a great contrast for this ‘city’ kid.”

His parents met when his father—a career serviceman—was serving in the U.S. Army stationed in Philadelphia. During these years, his father was deployed to Korea, Germany, and then back stateside, but to a base 200 miles away in Massachusetts.

A few months later, his father’s final deployment landed him in Coventry, R.I. This time, the family followed. “So, we went from this large family around us, to just the four of us in Rhode Island,” he remembered.

Day described his father—the Midwestern first sergeant—as the disciplinarian. However, he was always there for everything Day participated in, from Little League baseball and Pop Warner football, to school events and graduations.

“He was certainly my model as to how to be a great father,” Day said.

While his father instilled the discipline, Day’s mother showed him how to get involved and make a difference. Describing her as “the outgoing one” and “involved in everything,” Day said his mother headed up the school Parent Teacher Association, the annual church fundraiser and the historical society for the town. In addition, she often housed exchange students for the high school.

“I marveled at how she juggled this involvement with part-time employment and still had all the time that my sister and I needed,” Day said.

As an empty-nester, Day said his mother “upped her game” and ran for town council at the age of 56 and state senator at 62. She served six years on council and eight as a senator.

“I’ve always strived to have half of the drive and initiative of my Mom,” Day said.

Career in Title

After law school, Day practiced as an in-house counsel for a company in Boston. He then moved to Rhode Island and joined a small law practice. As a general practitioner, Day said he pursued all opportunities to drive revenue, but his practice moved toward a concentration in real estate.

Five years later, in 1986, he joined Chicago Title as underwriting counsel in Providence, R.I. He’s been with Chicago Title—now part of Fidelity National Title Group (FNTG) following the 2000 merger ever since. Over the years, Day has held a variety of positions including Rhode Island state manager for Chicago Title, as well as New Jersey state manager for both Chicago Title and Ticor Title’s direct and agency operations. He’s currently executive vice president and division manager for FNTG. In his role, Day has management responsibility for the direct, agency and commercial title operations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions. In February, Day was named president of FNTG’s national agency operations.

At different times in his career, Day pondered going back into private practice, however his focus would have still been on real estate. Over the years several things occurred to keep his passion for the industry alive. During his time closing deals in Rhode Island, Day garnered satisfaction helping people get the keys to their home or refinance to pay for a new addition or a college education.

“As I joined Chicago Title, the transactions were larger. I worked on the title review and eventual series of transactions that formed the redevelopment of downtown Providence, construction of their Civic Center and the first major mall in the city,” Day said. “With my move to New York City, the deals became even larger, but I had the same sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that I felt those many years past as in Smithfield, R.I.”

Mentors and Friends

In addition to his parents, who helped instill their work ethic, leadership and faith in family, Day pointed to several industry peers as those he respects and turns to for advice.

Day met Chris Abbinante, ALTA’s 2011-12 president, in 1995. At the time, Abbinante was part of a program offered by Chicago Title to help smaller operations become more efficient. The two successfully worked on the program together, which led Abbinante to offer Day an opportunity to work with him in New York City. They worked together for the next 15 years, until Abbinante’s retirement.

“Steve knows the business—all aspects of the business,” Abbinante said. “He has worked on the agency side of the title industry as well as on the direct side. He has worked as an underwriter as well as a manager, and excelled at both. Steve is a person of integrity. He is compassionate, thoughtful and caring. He has a great analytical mind as well as a great sense for business and he knows when to be practical and use common sense.”

Throughout the years, Abbinante has been impressed by Steve’s dedication to his family. “When you see him with his wife, Pat, or his children or grandchildren, you know he is a person of outstanding values. He knows what’s important in life. He brings together his life values and business skills in a way that allows him to make thoughtful, tough decisions. He is well respected by those who have ever worked with him.”

The relationship with Abbinante led to Day getting involved with ALTA. Active in local land title associations for years, Day had not been exposed to the national efforts provided by ALTA. Day first attended the Annual Convention in 2000 and approached Abbinante about joining a committee. Day became the company representative on the Public Relations Committee. He became more involved and joined other committees, which led to his election to the Underwriters Section and ultimately to the Board of Governors.

Regarding Abbinante, Day said, “His strong work ethic was always evident, and I learned much from his management style. I also appreciated Chris’ involvement with ALTA, and his focus on the needs of the Industry. His example was certainly a factor in my ALTA involvement.”

Erika Meinhardt, president of national agency operations for Fidelity National Title Group, has worked with Day since the early 1990s, following Chicago Title’s acquisition of Ticor Title. From those early days in their careers to their current roles as executives in Jacksonville—where they have adjoining offices—the two professionals developed a close working relationship built on respect, trust and collaboration.

“Steve has risen steadily through the ranks of the Fidelity Family of Companies because of those characteristics and more,” Meinhardt said. “He has an innate ability to get to the root of an issue quickly, to be able to explain it to others in layman’s terms and then to help develop solutions.”

Day’s experience in all facets of the title business—from underwriting to agency, and direct and commercial operations—not only serve as Meinhardt’s sounding board but also make him uniquely suited to lead ALTA.

“In addition to all of those characteristics that have made him so successful in our business, there’s the personal side of Steve—kind, compassionate and totally committed to his wife, children and grandchildren,” Meinhardt added. “His passion for family carries over to business endeavors as Steve is uniformly respected throughout our company and the industry. I’m proud to call him both co-worker and friend.”

Strategic Priorities

As ALTA grows and evolves to best suit its members’ needs, Day’s leadership and deep, practical knowledge of the land title industry will serve as a tremendous asset over the next year.

“Across many industries, we’re seeing innovation improve processes and enhance the consumer experience” Day said. “Just like the cell phone made us mobile with our communications, and the tablet and iPhone brought computer power to wherever we go, the land title and settlement industry is innovating through new technologies and with improved processes that provide better service to the home buyers and sellers”

Day said ALTA remains a forum to help our members improve the real estate transaction for consumers and businesses. To help guide the industry, ALTA’s Board of Governors established six strategic priorities for the next year.

ALTA’s 2018 strategic priorities include:

  • Promoting the Our Values initiative, which serves as the industry’s cultural compass and highlights the universal core ideals ALTA members embrace.
  • Serving as the hub for information on innovation in the title insurance and settlement space.
  • Educating our members about threats to the security of personal information and funds entrusted to their businesses in a cyber and physical environment.
  • Encouraging simple and concise communication with homebuyers to explain the benefits of title insurance.
  • Increasing the skills of the industry’s workforce and attracting future leaders to the industry.
  • Focusing on continued promotion of ALTA’s “Title Insurance and Settlement Company Best Practices” as the industry standard for compliance management programs.

“Cybersecurity and fraud is a major concern,” Day said. “The thieves are becoming very sophisticated, and just one incident of misdirected funds could destroy an agency. We are also dealing with rapidly evolving technology that is impacting our industry. We must work to embrace these new technologies, and look to utilize them to provide even better customer service. I’ll work to support our efforts toward our strategic priorities for the next year—all are focused on key issues impacting our members. But I certainly have a personal interest in the rollout of the Our Values initiative.”

We Lead. We Deliver. We Protect.

In October, ALTA unveiled the Our Values initiative to serve as the industry’s cultural compass and highlight the universal core ideals ALTA members embrace. To develop these values, ALTA spent more than a year listening to members to understand the pride they take in their work helping consumers close real estate transactions and protecting property rights. These conversations served as the foundation of Our Values and reflect the enduring, memorable and aspirational values of ALTA members.

The values are:

  • We Lead: We are the authority in real estate transactions. We innovate for the benefit of our customers.
  • We Deliver: Our customers trust us to do the right thing, the right way—before, during and after the transaction. We sweat the small stuff to assure that land transfer is accurate, swift and secure.
  • We Protect: We protect the property rights of those we serve. We reduce risk so our customers have peace of mind.

“In business and in life, values dictate behavior—they guide people in deciding what is right and wrong, and they help companies to achieve their missions and goals,” Day said. “Roy Disney, Walt Disney’s elder brother, once said, ‘It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.’ This is so true. When you truly understand your values, your actions come naturally. We must promote these standards and look to make them a part of our everyday discussion in our organizations, our local markets and across our industry. We will continue to promote the Homebuyer Outreach Program, and share our story at the consumer level, as well with Realtors, lenders, legislators and regulators. The Our Values initiative also gives us the opportunity to explain not only what we do, but who we are.”

The Personal Side of Steve Day

Steve says he’s fortunate that over the years, his family has stayed near to him and his wife, Pat. Two of his children and their families live in the same town; and one daughter and her family live 45 minutes away. Steve said, “As a result, we have remained close, and enjoy getting together for holidays, birthdays and kids’ sporting events. We are big Rutgers football fans, with tickets for everyone, and like to attend all of the home games together—and an away game here and there. We also get together, all 15 of us, for a family vacation at the beach each summer.”

  • Steve was president of his senior class at the University of Bridgeport and gave the introduction speech during his graduation ceremony.
  • If there was an emergency and Steve could grab only one item from his house or office, what would it be and why? Well, Steve would make sure to grab from his office the three Mickey Mouse figurines that each of his children made and gave him when they were 4, 6 and 8 years old. “The figurines remind me of them every day,” he said.
  • Steve loves playing golf and wishes he had more time to enjoy and improve his game.

Jeremy Yohe is ALTA’s vice president of communications. He can be reached at jyohe@alta.org.

 


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

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