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Time Is Money

NATIC's One-Hour Underwriting Response Guarantee
Nurtures Strong Agent-Underwriter Partnership

By Amy Tankersley

Time is a valuable resource to title insurance agents, and with mortgage rates remaining at historic lows, North American Title Insurance Company (NATIC) is on a mission to help independent title agents optimize their operations in the boom market.

NATIC offers its title agent partners a one-hour response time guarantee for all underwriting questions, an unparalleled service level among the nation’s top title insurance underwriters. The guarantee gives agents prompt, direct access to experienced underwriting counsel who collectively have hundreds of years of experience in residential, commercial, real estate development and financing, and bring a creative approach to underwriting both simple and complex transactions.

Giving agents quick, straightforward access to underwriting decision-makers is part of a customer service-centric philosophy that has enabled NATIC to support its agent partners with sound underwriting decisions. The response guarantee makes agents’ operations more efficient and contributes to a competitively low claims ratio for their customers.

“Our mission is to assist our agents in growing their business, and one way we do this is by valuing their time,” said Valerie-Jahn Grandin, NATIC’s Executive Vice President and Chief Underwriting Counsel.

NATIC’s quick response times directly impact our agents’ success, making them particularly effective and nimble, and foster a strong agent-underwriter partnership. In 2019, NATIC experienced nearly 14 percent year-over-year growth in agency premiums. In addition, NATIC boasts the lowest claims ratios in the title insurance industry – just 2.84 percent, compared to the industry’s approximate average of 4 percent.

This is how we do it

To provide agents with the best, most efficient and accurate service in the market, NATIC uses industry-leading customer management technology to facilitate communication between the agent and underwriting counsel. Agents contact their local underwriting counsel using a dedicated email address for their state. For example, agents with underwriting inquiries specific to Florida email [email protected]. This distributes the email to multiple counsel, and agents never receive an out-of-office response.

Each underwriting inquiry is associated with a specific file number, making it easy to search and access communications between counsel and agent, as well as any files or attachments related to the transaction.

“NATIC is unique in that we have back-end technology to support our underwriting team,” said Kelly Love, Vice President and Regional Underwriting Counsel for NATIC agents in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. “Without it, there would be a lot of back-and-forth emails, and it would be difficult to keep track of all of the information and documents associated with a file. Our system organizes all of this information in one place, enabling us to issue prompt responses to all inquiries.”

Agents are guaranteed a response from their respective counsel in under an hour. However, the average response time is under 20 minutes.

“NATIC has always been so far ahead of the curve in this regard. No other underwriter even comes close to us,” said Kent Pelt, Vice President and Western Region Underwriting Counsel.

“New agents report positive results upon receiving prompt responses,” said Danielle Kaiser, Vice President and Eastern Region Underwriting Counsel. “Many agents who have worked with other underwriters share that it takes days or weeks to get a response from underwriting counsel. Our agents see that we usually respond in 15 to 20 minutes and say, ‘Wow, this really does happen.’”

Swift response to tricky title situations

Because underwriting questions can be complex and file-specific, in some cases, additional information, documentation and communication may be necessary, Kelly noted.

“Underwriting isn’t like math, where there is one specific answer to any question,” he said. “Our guaranteed one-hour response time acknowledges an agent’s inquiry has been received, and that work on a complex title question has begun.”

For example, a Midwest NATIC agent recently discovered that a judgment lien had been recorded against the property a half an hour prior to closing.

“The real estate agent said the lien was filed against the property owner’s son, who was a ‘junior’ with the same name,” Danielle explained. “This is obviously not a situation that will be resolved in under an hour, but we were able to give the agent the proper direction and guidance so we could begin working to resolve the lien.”

The response guarantee is especially beneficial in certain markets like Texas with challenging legal and regulatory environments, Kelly added.

“Texas is a great jurisdiction to be in because historically, the agents here have always had close relationships with their underwriters,” he said. “We are very highly regulated and have some state-specific anomalies in our laws, and agents often look to underwriting counsel for guidance in navigating those challenges.”

This is how we do it

The response guarantee benefits both agents and underwriting.

“The NATIC team answers my team’s questions quickly, in an easy-to-understand way,” said Raymond Manuel, Vice President of Operations at National Title Solutions Inc., a NATIC agent based in Chicago. “This gives my staff the confidence to issue a NATIC title policy.”

For Kent, a nearly 40-year title insurance veteran whose career has spanned several aspects of the industry – NATIC’s focus on accountability and customer service is personal.

“I started my career in 1983 as a customer service rep,” Kent said. “I approach every transaction with the mission of providing excellent service to the customer. It’s very important to be responsive to not just our agents, but the customers behind our agents – people who are trying to move into their homes and refinance their mortgages. We take this responsibility seriously.”

Amy Tankersley is NATIC’s Industry and Vendor Relations Manager. She can be reached at [email protected].