The Title Company I’m Excited to Call Home
Today I’m excited to announce the acquisition of North American Title by States Title. This is a monumental moment for our company, and the industry as a whole, and I’m excited to share our combined vision for the future of title insurance. Before I do that, though, I want to tell you a little more about how we got to this point and what we’ve learned along the way.
Buying my first home
When I went through the process of buying a home in 2011 I found it to be impossibly complicated. I had to find a real estate agent, gather years of employment, income, debt, and asset data, get “pre-approved”, go on tours, make an offer, and then, finally, close the transaction.
When it came time for closing, I sat in the office of an unnamed Title company ready to sign the documents that would ultimately make me a new homeowner, and, upon reviewing my (paper) closing statement, I noticed an error (to my detriment). When I pointed this out, I watched in disbelief as the closer scribbled out the amount and wrote in the correct amount by hand, passing it to me afterwards to initial. With a clean and correct statement in hand I spent the next hour-plus being walked through what seemed like hundreds of pages and dozens of signatures and initials on items that I couldn’t possibly understand.
Title, for me, exemplified both everything that was broken about the closing process and also the best opportunity to change the experience dramatically. It was poorly understood (by me), inefficiently administered, and palpably frustrating (for both me and the closer sitting across from me). It struck me that it could have been clearly communicated, effortlessly structured, and, perhaps most importantly, utilized as a critical and necessary step in delighting the customer at the end of an experience that should be memorable not for its complexity, but instead for its salience as one of life’s most important moments. I sat there at my closing, and then in the months after, thinking about how title companies were missing a massive opportunity to transform the experience of one of life’s most important and memorable decisions – not only for their end customers, but for their own hard-working associates who were having to go above and beyond to work with outdated technology and suboptimal processes to serve their clients.
States Title founding
My personal home buying experience and my prior history using data to transform decades-old processes, made me believe there had to be a better way. Prior to founding States Title, I was the founder and CEO of an HR analytics software company called Evolv, which I ran for 8 years (before it was ultimately acquired). In that time I learned that predictive analytics has changed the nature of what’s possible using data. At Evolv, we convinced an army of skeptics to start listening to their data and allowing it to inform the critical decisions. Predictive Analytics allowed them to transform their industry by predicting who the best hires would be, leading to more productive companies and happier employees.
Title has access to probably 100x the data that we had at Evolv, and predictive analytics technology is now 100x as powerful as it was just 10 years ago. And thus, States Title was founded on the idea we could make a better experience for all parties involved in a mortgage process through data and predictive analytics. We have spent the last 2 years harnessing available data, validating our predictive models, and continuously innovating in partnership with our customers.
A newfound respect and finding the right partner
While I’ve mostly talked about my frustrations, over the last two years I’ve been educated in the industry and started to understand how we got here. Title is an evolving industry, heavily shaped by regulation, with roots that go all the way back to before the great depression. It was built to bridge the complexity of the non-digital world, where trust was processed over time and between people who got to know one another. Title companies were built brick-by-brick and town-by-town by people with genuine passion for helping individuals realize their dream to own a home. The challenge is that all of this happened before our current age of smartphones and big data.
As I was just getting the incorporation docs filed for States Title in 2016, I was connected to Tom Fisher, CEO of North American Title. Our mutual contact shared with me that Tom and his team at North American were unusually forward-thinking and interested in finding new ways to partner with upstart companies in the industry. I admired what Tom and the team had built and the vision they had for the future. What I saw in NATG was an iconic brand that had relationships with lenders and agents to millions of home buyers across all of the USA. It became clear States Title could bring NATG new technology to meet changing customer expectations for speed, transparency, and accuracy. All the things I wanted when I went to buy my first home in 2011 were now possible.
States Title + North American Title: The Title Company I’m Excited to Call Home
As we got to know one another, it became clear that our businesses were better together than apart. Combining our companies would allow us to be at the forefront of innovation and to realize our shared vision of ensuring our customers enjoy a best-in-class experience while maintaining the integrity of the title insurance people have trusted us with for decades.
Our combined company will be one of the largest Title Insurance companies in the United States. Bringing together almost 1,000 people across two companies won’t be easy but we are committed to the journey.
For our customers and employees, we promise to bring you a new company that respects the heritage of where it has come from, while also pushing the industry forward in the ways you have asked. In the coming months and years, our new combined company will deliver the transformation the industry needs through:
- Predictive analytics and cutting-edge technology that will make it easier to perform the most complex elements of the title and escrow process. Underwriting, settlement, closing, and recording will all be instantly decisioned and administered using the best technology that can be built. There will be many people who hear this and say that it cannot be done, and those people will ultimately be proven wrong.
- A transformed closing experience that delights customers. It sounds hokey and it’s a really hard thing to deliver. It requires passion and dedication from everyone at the company to make this happen in every customer interaction, every day. It requires carefully coordinated interaction between people and technology to showcase the best elements of what we, and only we, will be able to do: Instantly underwrite a file, allow a customer to decide when, where, and how they want to close their transaction with the click of a button, process complex payment processes while ensuring that the right amount of money gets to the right place every time.
- A commitment to building relationships: Our associates will get to spend more time with our customers, with each other, and with their families. They will see that the ultimate goal of technology is not to replace people, but to enable them to focus on more rewarding work and experiences. We will know we have succeeded as a team if our customers, partners, and families say they see more of us than they used to and that they feel that their interactions with us are more enriching.
We will eventually expand our focus to removing all of the friction from other parts of the mortgage experience either through our own technology or through partnerships with the best providers in the world. In the end we will win not by being the best title company in the country, but by transforming the entire mortgage process: Eliminating the complexity and headache that every person experiences when they go through it. It won’t be easy and can’t happen tomorrow, but we are confident we can succeed.
Finally, as the CEO of this new company I want to give a heartfelt thanks to you, our customers, and to the entire team at NAT and States Title that are helping to unite this new company in pursuit of our audacious mission.