While the commercial real estate industry continues to evolve, the title insurance component remains a key part of any transaction. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Fidelity National Title Group’s Melissa Hall, senior vice president, who provided industry insights and perspectives worth sharing.
Hall acknowledged that industry changes such as consolidation have produced fewer players, but larger players and fewer transactions, and larger or mega transactions. She noted that the transformation of retail and its impact on industrial have been a significant change that is impacting the industry. With the larger deals—billion dollar transactions—coordination of all players and attention to detail is crucial. Fidelity is vigilant about safeguards and security. Getting all the parties managed through the closing process is critical on the mega deals.
Fidelity National Title Group's booth at the 2017 CREW Network Marketplace.
When we discussed blockchain and its potential impact on the title insurance industry, Hall noted that while it is interesting and exciting, the technology has not yet matured to be ready for the marketplace. She stated that the challenges will be external to the technology. As an example, she noted that each U.S. county handles land records uniquely with different laws and rules about access to the information. For blockchain to work, there would need to be legal changes to create a consistency and standard across all counties for land records, as well as other related documentation, to be accessible.
Additionally, with fraud and forgery at the forefront of concerns related to online transactions, the human element does not go away, she stated, referring to the need for individual verification of some aspects of the process.
“Can it be done? Yes, of course,” Hall noted. “But for blockchain to work, the outside elements of getting all county governments on the same page, the adaptability of records for changing circumstances and the security aspects must all be addressed. I believe that this technology will be tested first in targeted, stand-alone transactions and if successful could be the basis for further adoption.”
Fidelity made a strategic play years ago when it began buying up other companies. Each company works independently in their market to sell their brand, yet they remain part of the Fidelity family of companies. To date, Fidelity now has 21,300 employees. Launched in 1984 in Arizona, the company today is the largest title company in the U.S. and Canada. The company is very diversified which gives business partners a variety of services.
“We wear different hats and provide different services depending on our clients’ needs,” commented Hall. “This is our unique selling proposition.”
With regard to diversity and inclusion, Hall notes that while there is not an educational path to the title industry, any individual willing to learn the business, work hard and build relationships can be successful.
“At the end of the day, this is a relationship business,” she stated. “If you work hard, you can run your own operation and achieve success.” Fidelity works to identify talent within the company but will branch out more to other industries to find more diverse talent. She noted that as clients have become more diverse, so must commercial real estate companies.
“It brings different perspectives and new ideas to the company and to our clients,” she said. “That’s good business for everyone.”
Fidelity National Title Group is a long-time sponsor and supporter of CREW Network. The company is committed at both the global and local levels to support CREW Network’s mission to transform the industry by advancing women. (NYSE:FNF)
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Wendy Mann is the chief executive officer of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network and president of the CREW Network Foundation.