Dear ILTA Members,
The Holidays are upon us and the end of the year draws near. I look forward to the fa-miliar sights and sounds like Christmas lights and Christmas music. I’m sure you’re also familiar with humming of moving trucks sitting outside closing rooms and the crying of escrow officers and buyers when their closing is delayed. Ah, these are precious sights and sounds of the season!
The ALTAOne convention was a great event that provided many tools to keep our indus-try thriving and successful. Idaho was well represented with John Holt, Jay Williams, Cindy Guanell, Phil De Angeli, Quinn Stufflebeam, Heather Wichman and I all attending. Many materials are available ranging in topic from building your culture to NextGen clos-ings. I encourage all members to look at the session materials available on the ALTA web-site. (https://www.alta.org/events/past-one.cfm) The programs and messaging were ex-tremely well organized.
I enjoyed the messaging. It’s hard to pick the most important or inspiring portion. I heard several likable mantras that ring true in our industry. “The only constant is change.” “We lead, we deliver, we protect.” My personal favorite, “get comfortable being uncomforta-ble.”
Which brings me to the topic of technology. My favorite speaker on the topic was Byron Reese, author of, The Fourth Age, Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity. Although I am uncomfortable with and don’t have much understanding of artificial intelligence, I’ve concluded, it takes real intelligence to understand artificial intelli-gence. There are a variety of theories on the impacts artificial intelligence will have. Is it conceivable that in a real estate transaction a consumer would deal with smart computers and not people in the future? Mr. Reese answered that question with a resounding, “NO.” His point was that no rational person is ever going to make one of the largest fi-nancial decisions of their lives without talking with a human being. Things like that don’t change that dramatically.
Mr. Reese discussed how he viewed Block Chain as a tool of our trade, not a replacement. He discussed how it might work in examining a chain of title. Block Chain will help se-cure the records that make up the chain of title. However, one of our functions is to “clear” the chain of title or insure clear title. All the things people do like take on debt, die, divorce and deal making. That will not change. Those matters all must be dealt with properly through a real estate transaction so people can live comfortably in their homes.
Without a doubt change is coming and some parts of it will be more challenging than oth-ers, but it will take us to a better place as an industry. We are the investigators, analysts, counselors, and protectors of property rights. That will not change.
Finally, I want to send a public congratulation to Cindy Guanell, First American Title In-surance Company, for being recognized for receiving her National Title Professional (NTP) designation!
Happy Holidays Everyone!!
Cameron McFaddan, ILTA President
Why Attend ALTA ONE, the Pacific NW Convention, the ILTA Ed Seminar? What is the value or benefit in attending? These are questions I have heard through the years about attending functions regarding our industry. This is not just a question raised in Idaho but one that comes up regionally and nationally. As I pondered this question I wondered how many in our industry have never attended a concert, a pro sports game, a Broadway musical, a college football game, gone to the movies, traveled to another country, taken a vacation, etc. All these events are available or can be experienced in some form via you tube, TV, the internet, or some other means other than personal attendance or leaving home. I am guessing most have experienced one or more of these events and I believe attending a convention can be added to this list.
I believe you go to these events to experience firsthand the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and interactions. You go for the experi-ence which is much different in person It is more memorable, motivational, inspiring, and entertaining with longer lasting im-pressions. The experience includes response, interaction, communication, camaraderie. And while the list of events identifies matters largely outside of “work”, conventions can be arranged to include “nonwork” activities and extensions. But the “work” extras at conventions include invaluable networking and relationship building with peers, vendors, underwriters and others from across the country that can provide invaluable insight and different perspectives and education to help your business succeed and be the best it can be. Attending is also participation and involvement. Are you committed to the title industry or just interested? Participation shows dedication, commitment, and leadership. Participation and being an active advocate and leader for your in-dustry makes it more meaningful. This is important to share with our clients and customers. You see this concept play out every day whether it is coaching little league, being a PTA member, or being an active member of your state association or ALTA. Many choose to watch or ride the coattails or maybe wonder or complain why something different didn’t get done. Maybe, part of the change that Cameron refers to that is coming should include being more involved in our industry versus being a bystander.
This year’s ALTA ONE in Los Angeles was filled with thought provoking presentations and discussions, education on cutting edge issues, networking with peers across the nation, and interaction with underwriters and vendors with the latest tools to help us succeed. The theme was Defying Convention. ALTA president Steve Day styled it as defying norms via innovation and tech-nology tools and networking. It is necessary to engage to be successful and sustaining and meeting the challenges into the future.
ALTA ONE had a great lineup of speakers in the Omni Sessions to underscore this theme. Sekou Andrews, national poetry slam champion and national speaker with an emphasis in disruption, led off asking “why be afraid to make waves?”. Don’t just wade in the calm shallow waters. Make some waves – don’t be afraid to push out of the comfort zone. Be a disrupter. You need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. You have to continue testing the waters to proactively prepare for the future. Don’t be “kodaked” because you don’t see the big picture. Sharing your story and being bold enough to really tell and share your story are key. It makes it real and is the way to make your story intersect with clients and customers. The middle is just ripples of the same sea. It is not the size of the boat but the motion in the ocean. You don’t want to be a ripple or necessarily a tsunami but you do want to strive being a “title” wave. Be ready to share/disrupt. This doesn’t need to be all in but can start with baby steps to build the ground swell. You want to be a disrupter before you are disrupted.
Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae economist, shared his rather pessimistic outlook. While he acknowledged unemployment is at 50-year lows and that nominal wage growth is trending modestly higher he sees a flatter 2019. He expects economic growth of 3 percent in 2018 and 2.3 percent growth in 2019. He sees home sales and mortgages continuing to soften with rising interest rates. Affordability remains a top challenge. The focus should be on helping people buy houses because refinancing is gravy. Three to five years out Duncan sees inflation/recession with weaker growth.
David Robertson was another speaker. Robertson is a podcast host and senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and an innovation expert. Robertson talked about the power of little ideas and innovation around the box. Focusing on making small innovations around current processes can be the key. Robertson expressed it by thinking of innovation as da-ting your customer and getting to know them and finding out details of the relationship to evolve their hopes and dreams. This is key versus fighting your competitor. Define the product or service to innovate around; decide what is your business promise; and then design innovations that will deliver the promise. Something far less than “inventing the wheel” may make a huge impact.
Incoming ALTA President, Cynthia Blair was installed and outlined her priorities at the helm of ALTA – 1) Plan for change though innovation and quality operations. The focus is on innovation, technology and operational efficiencies; promoting the ALTA Registry; talent focus; and best practices. 2) Stay relevant in the secondary market; 3) Communicate the benefits of what you do – providing tools to communicate why your customers benefit from title insurance; 4) Protect data and mon-ey – continue education about security threats and collaborate with partners to raise consumer awareness; and, 5) Harness the power of values and culture – keep promoting We lead, We Deliver, We protect.
Phill Nosworthy, a noted futurist, speaker, and advisor, was the finale Omni Session speaker on meaning and mastery. Nos-worthy queried about dropping your keys in the dark but only looking for them in places with light. Sometimes you have to look in the place you are least prepared to look (in the dark) and what you may be afraid of. Nosworthy emphasized the im-portance of meaning. Meaning matters more than money as he cited a study that indicated 70% want to work in a place that is meaningful and 15% would take a pay cut to do it. Meaning makes a measurable difference as meaning makers like their job twice as much and are three times more likely to stay. Meaning is massively missing as 55% of workers lack any real sense of purpose at work. Nosworthy talked of the 4 pillars. 1) connection – make sure people feel connected; 2) contribu-tion – make sure there is a line of sight to what you’re doing and that it’s important; 3) challenges – it’s what makes life and work meaningful, purposeful. If it comes easy it’s not very meaningful. The best challenges are far enough to stretch but close enough to reach; 4) control – mastery and purpose – getting good at something. There are principles that compete against each other with the goal to balance and close the gap between them. If you just have skill you can only go so far. It needs to be balanced with character. Nosworthy noted that someone with great skill but who is a “d*ck” can only go so far. Character needs to be enhanced for balance and success. Knowledge needs to be balanced with application. Do you know things but don’t apply it? We’re not defined by what we know but what we apply. Intention needs to be balanced against action. What you mean and intend and plan to do needs to be put into action to be a meaning maker. Intending to be a good partner, live a healthy life, etc. needs to be balanced with action or it is just “good intentions”. Identity needs to be balanced against reputation. Who you think you are and what others think of you. Nosworthy analogized it to “some leaders who think they are awesome but are ‘a**h*les’”. Feedback on a constant basis is needed for balance. Self-reflection on a daily basis is essential for a meaning maker. Reflecting on what went well today; what didn’t go well today; and, what will I do tomorrow. This self-reflection will multiply your growth. Lastly, Nosworthy shared that confidence needs to be balanced with courage. You can’t be the fair-weather friend that is there when you don’t need it and not there when you need it. You can’t be confident in just the things you’ve done before. It needs to be balanced with courage to be confident in things you haven’t done before.
In addition to the Omni Sessions I attended a couple of education classes that need to be on every title agent’s radar. One was “WTF – Wire Transfer Fraud – Rapid Response Plan”. Real estate is the #1 target for fraud. Between December 2016 and May 2018 saw a 136% increase in fraud with the #1 cause being spoofed email address. 91% start with a phishing email designed to compromise your email account. It is important to examine emails for authenticity. Common pitfalls are a zero being used as an “O”; an i for an l; double v for w. Everyone needs to be diligent and vigilant. ALTA has developed a Rapid Response Plan that can be viewed at alta.org. When wire fraud happens, it is a matter of minutes and hours that can make a difference – you don’t have days to respond. The Rapid Response Plan includes 1) alerting company manage-ment via a plan and protocols that are in place before things happen; 2) reporting to sending and receiving banks; 3) report-ing to law enforcement which means local police, the FBI field office, and secret service field office; 4) confirming with the sending bank – be a squeaky wheel; 5) informing clients and parties involved; 6) reviewing incident response plan – reset user email and network passwords, review email and access logs, confirm integrity of systems, etc.; 7) contacting insurance carrier and legal; 8) hiring an attorney in country of the wire fraud; 9) documenting your response and preserving and securing all original email communications including header information; and, 10) filing a complaint with the FBI.
The second course I attended that needs to be on every title agent’s radar was “Make Insurance Work for You”. This presentation was a primer on insurance coverage each office should be diligent in reviewing to ensure they are covered re-garding cyber security and fraud. Know what type of policy you have – claims occurrence or claims made. Review ALTA’s platform at alta.org to ensure you are protected. Tips from the presentation were that you need to select the right broker to help you with the suite of coverages to include errors and omissions, fidelity, crime, cyber, social engineering, and ex-cess/umbrella coverage. E&O needs to be reviewed to see if cyber-crime issues have been stripped out or available by en-dorsement. Social engineering policy needs to be reviewed to determine if it includes computer systems fraud and to deter-mine what maximums it provides. Fidelity bond covers against fraud and crimes by an employee against you but not against third parties. A crime policy covers against employees’ dishonest theft against third parties. Cyber coverage needs to be re-viewed to ensure it covers telephonic hacking and fax hacking (cloning a phone number is a new wrinkle becoming preva-lent). You need to ensure that coverage is not aggregate but for each and every occurrence. Excess/umbrella coverage needs to be reviewed to ensure you are covered for catastrophic scenarios. Social media riders (i.e. facebook hacking) are a new wrinkle that you need to ask for.
Other sessions I attended dealt with advocacy, TAN and grass roots. A huge benefit of association membership, together with participation and involvement, is advocacy. Developing relationships can start at the bottom. That local councilman may be moving up the ladder. Elizabeth Blosser of ALTA put the “Are you committed or just interested” mantra another way stating “the world belongs to those that are involved”. Involvement can be attained in many forms and just like devel-oping relationships from the bottom it can start with being a TAN member – a title action network member. It is simply being on a national email list to be alerted of national issues to respond to. Your email in box will not be inundated but you will be kept informed and abreast of timely issues. Your response and participation is valuable and easy. Participation and involvement from greater numbers is a goal of ALTA and ILTA. ALTA has made it easier to participate on committees as involvement can be achieved via conference call versus solely in person. Likewise, ILTA has made participation in our Liai-son meetings available via conference call. ALTA also offers participation at ALTA ONE by day and other broken out packages. ILTA similarly has offered packages for our ed seminars and regional conventions. Participation and involvement and first hand experience is increasingly much more affordable and available. Invest in your industry and get more involved. You, your company, and our industry will all benefit.
With the permission of our friends at October Research the following is an article recently published in The Title Report. The article is not only significant for its content on cutting edge marketing thoughts but is a summary of the presentation made by Wayne Stanley of Bowe Digital at our Pacific NW Convention in Coeur d’ Alene in August. The ILTA Board works hard to bring quality speakers and ones that speak nationally and that are reported about for their relevant and timely subject mat-ter as reported in The Title Report. Thank you to October Research and The Title Report. Please check them out for the latest cutting edge news and developments regarding the title industry.
Stanley encourages industry to think bigger about marketing
Title insurance companies looking to expand their business are facing a different world than they were a dec-ade or two ago. The digital age has brought new opportunities and challenges to the industry when it is mar-keting to real estate brokers, lenders and even consumers.
In a presentation earlier this year before the Pacific Northwest Land Title Convention, featuring members of the Idaho, Oregon and Washington land title associations, Wayne Stanley of Bowe Digital – a marketing firm specializing in title – led attendees through some lessons to change and improve their marketing efforts in today’s landscape.
To start with, Stanley said that although companies and individuals in the title industry were unique, some broad themes in their marketing approaches could apply.
“I don’t do a lot of prescriptions in this presentation. I’m not going to tell you explicitly how to do something but I’m going to give you a lot of ideas that hopefully you can take back to your team, even if you’re a team of one, that you can think about how to do things differently marketing as a company,” he said.
Stanley said that the traditional marketing methods have been in place for the title industry for years.
“As an industry, most of our marketing is built on the waiting-for-a-favor moment,” Stanley said. “We pro-vide doughnuts and pins and giveaways. We give them all these things and hope real estate agents have warm fuzzy thoughts about us and one day, when they needed that favor … finally they’d call you.”
Times have changed, though, and the marketing of the future is not going to be the kind of efforts which title companies have done before.
“We don’t have to wait for the favor now,” he said. “Stop checklist marketing. Marketing for most compa-nies is the one thing that consistently pushed to the next Post-It note, it gets erased at the top of your next dry erase board and moves to the next one you create.”
By taking actions on marketing, Stanley said companies need to understand their story. He said many exer-cises he conducts begin with asking a company why they exist. Don’t think of what you do day in and day out, he said, but ask what your intrinsic value to the company is.
“That’s a really big piece for success,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said, many responses come back that they are a full-service title company – a characteriza-tion which “makes my skin crawl.”
“I don’t know what full-service title company means,” he explained. “Full-service to me would mean at a closing I’ve got some bourbon, somebody’s done my dry-cleaning, or perhaps you would like to take over my email for a few hours … full-service in 2018 means different things to everybody.”
Stanley said you also should know what your customers think, and that starts by simply asking them and not settling for a one-word answer or response.
“Once you know your story, you can use that to inform all the content you push out, all the marketing you do,” he said. “It is so important to consistently touch back and do research to make sure your story hasn’t changed. Your story will likely not be your story for the existence of your company. You have to continually check back in.”
For companies who are looking into digital advertising, Stanley suggested that companies start with Face-book, because it has the most users, and also to trust Facebook. On the advertising side Facebook will give companies a lot of tools telling them when to be spending money.
Continually test your ads to determine whether you are reaching the right audience, he said, and use Google AdWords, or Google Ads, as it’s known now.
“There are brokers and lenders that are looking for a better option for their title, closing and escrow opera-tions, that don’t necessarily want to be seen with you at lunch,” Stanley said. “They’re so busy they don’t want to be bothered that way, but they’re Googling these companies. So figuring out how to use those ads to be a resource to them, show them your worth and not just saying full-service title company – what’s your story, how do you turn that into an ad that makes sense.”
Ads are only one piece of the marketing, however. Stanley said that content is king online, particularly to drive people to a website. Companies that are seeing the most traffic to their websites today are blogging more than 11 times a month, he said.
“Google is now rewarding refreshed contents on websites,” he said. “Whether you want to call it a blog or newsletter or news and events, the more that you can push out fresh information, (the better).”
Getting into a schedule with your marketing plan, and being willing to take chances in the kinds of things your company can do, are two of the highlights Stanley pointed out in closing.
“Don’t be afraid to mix it up,” he said. “The best way to think about your marketing differently is to dedi-cate time to it each week. That’s the only way you’re going to stop checklist marketing all the time, that’s the only way you’re going to stop waiting for the favor.”
Meet your audience where they’re at, he suggested, by asking customers where they get their information and determine a marketing plan which can reach them there.
“If you’ve got a blog going out every month and nobody’s reading it, stop doing the blog. Otherwise it’s just a vanity project,” he said.
If this is all new, Stanley said, one suggestion is to avoid automating your digital advertising. Don’t connect your posts from Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn because it can be overwhelming for the audience.
“Do one and do it really well versus doing 100 not so well,” he explained.
Finally, Stanley reminded the audience that digital advertising should not replace networking efforts for the company and individuals, and not to get discouraged by a new marketing process.
“There may be a lot of things all at once that don’t work for you. If you constantly think about how to turn it on its side and look at it a little differently, that’s going to serve your entire company much better,” he said.
2018 Idaho General Election Report
Tuesday, November 6 was the 2018 Idaho General Election. Election results were mostly expected, but election night did include a few surprises. You can find a complete list of election results at Idahovotes.gov.
The energy election night was electric. With a few hotly-contested races for legislative seats, two state-wide propositions on the ballot and the inevitability of a new gubernatorial administration, onlookers were glued to screens — television, smartphone and computer alike — eagerly awaiting precincts to report election results.
An unusually high number of Idaho residents voted early. High profile ballot initiatives –Medicaid expansion and historical horse racing — may have driven some of the turnout. According to the Secretary of State’s Office early voting increased by 57 percent from the 2014 general election.
Only one of the aforementioned ballot initiatives passed with a simple majority. Idahoans overwhelmingly supported a proposition to expand Medicaid coverage in the state with 60.6 percent in favor. Proposition 2 extends Medicaid to 62,000 adults in poverty and bring $400 million in federal match funding to the state. Another 29,000 residents just above the poverty line will also be made eligible for Medicaid under the newly passed measure. It will now be up to the Idaho legisla-ture to fund and implement a plan for expansion.
Proposition 1, a measure to restore historical horse racing in Idaho failed. Prop 1 failed with 46.2 percent of the vote.
The Gubernatorial race was one of the most talked about and anticipated races. Lt. Governor Brad Little and former dem-ocratic State Representative Paulette Jordan sparred in three public state-wide debates over the course of the general elec-tion cycle. Little outraised Jordan by almost double during the last reporting period. According to campaign finance re-ports released in late October, Jordan raised $598, 205.35 to Little’s $974,432.78. Little bested Jordan to become Idaho’s 33rd Governor with 361,105 votes. Jordan finished Election Night with 230,861 votes in her favor.
Idaho will have its first female Lt. Governor in Janice McGeachin. Republican McGeachin received 59.7 percent of the votes to beat Democrat Kristin Collum.
The College of Western Idaho’s $39 million levy for a new health sciences building failed by just 144 votes. The proposal got 54.94 percent support, with just 45.06 percent voting no. But it needed 55 percent to pass. The proposal had been scaled back from an earlier unsuccessful $180 million bond proposal for multiple buildings for the fast-growing community college. Ada County voters backed the levy more strongly than their Canyon County counterparts, voting 56.7 percent in favor and 43.3 percent opposed. In Canyon County, the tally was 49.62 percent in favor, 50.38 percent opposed.
One of the biggest shakeups of Election Night happened in District 15, West Boise. Two Republican incumbents, Repre-sentative Lynn Luker and Representative Patrick McDonald, lost their seats to Democratic challengers, Steve Berch and Jake Ellis, respectively. Election Night results show District 15 Republican Senator Fred Martin beat his opponent Jim Bratnober by just six votes. That race will likely result in a recount.
North Idaho’s District 5 also saw some upsets. Incumbent republican Senator Dan Foreman lost his race, earning only 42.5 percent of the vote. Democrat David Nelson will replace Forman at the legislature this year. District 5 Seat A Representa-tive Margaret Gannon, who replaced Paulette Jordan when she resigned her seat to run for governor, lost her race to re-publican Bill Goesling in a 51/49 split. The District’s B Seat will continue to be held by incumbent republican Representa-tive Caroline Nilsson Troy. Troy beat her opponent with 53.7 percent of the vote.
In total democrats picked up one seat in the Idaho State Senate where there will now be a 28 Republican to 7 Democrat split. Democrats picked up three seats in the Idaho House of Representatives where there will now be a 56 Republican to 14 Democrat split.
Come early December, the Idaho Legislature will meet for its organizational session. This is when majority and minority leadership positions will be decided, committee chairs picked and committee assignments are given.