Apr 28 | 2016

Where extraordinary is well, quite ordinary

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Commercial Solutions How FCT Commercial Solutions delivers superior customer service

In a previous blog, I discussed the top 10 reasons why you’d want to partner with FCT. While all 10 are critical to providing you with the service levels we’re known for, the number one reason to choose FCT is and always will be our driving force: providing a superior customer experience.

Our promise to you is that with each and every touch point you will Experience Excellence®.

What does this mean? It means friendly, fast service from experienced professionals that recognize your distinct needs. In fact, for 25 years now we’ve been building our commercial solutions division with highly experienced underwriters that work on a case-by-case basis to understand and facilitate the unique needs of each transaction. This practice allows us to provide customized coverage, ensuring a smooth and timely closing, no matter how big or complex the project.

By offering a consistent, yet personalized experience, we hope to make you feel valued. Your satisfaction is the key to our success and we strive to exceed your expectations across your entire journey with us. It’s how we help you build and protect your business while shaping ours.

And it seems to be working! Our current customer rating sits at an impressive 90%. But don’t think we’re resting at that — we’re already looking ahead at ways to win that additional 10%.

With our 25th anniversary upon us, it’s the perfect time to reflect on past successes. Can you think of time when FCT came through to help you close a challenging deal? Let us know by commenting below.

Mar 21 | 2016

Need a reason to choose FCT for commercial title insurance? Forget about one — we’ll give you 10!

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The top 10 reasons to partner with FCTAs Vice-President, Commercial Solutions, I am responsible for leading and growing the Commercial Solutions Division here at FCT. To accomplish this, my team listens to what our commercial customers are saying they need in order to succeed. We then provide them with the products and services to help them reach their goals and protect their investments.

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: commercial title insurance offers essential protection and helps make a commercial transaction far more efficient. Plus, it has been providing Canadian lenders, lawyers and their clients with critical peace of mind since 1991, when FCT introduced the concept to the Canadian marketplace.

Today the title insurance market is a little more crowded than it was back then. Commercial customers have a choice to make and although we think that the choice is crystal clear, people still sometimes ask:

“Why would I choose to partner with FCT for commercial title insurance needs?”

I love this question, because not only do we have a good reason for you to choose FCT, we can actually give you 10 . . . and in video form, no less!

So if you’re looking for:

  • Products that meet your needs;
  • Service that makes you feel valued; and
  • Solutions that will help build your business and protect your investments

there is no need to look any further than FCT. We’ve been here since the very beginning and we will continue to innovate, well into the future.

Are you a customer of FCT? If so, tell us why you chose to partner with FCT by commenting below.

Feb 19 | 2016

Your voice matters

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Your voice mattersHow FCT is using your feedback to improve the MMS experience

For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Colleen Reitzel and I’m the Chief Customer Officer at FCT. My role is to listen to the collective voice of FCT’s customers and ensure that it is heard. As a company, we solicit your feedback (aka “voice”) in many ways; the most common being through surveys.

Why your voice matters

Surveys are a very important tool to allow us to identify both strengths and areas for improvement. For customers, they allow you to openly express your opinion and impact the tools and services you use daily. We then use this feedback to strengthen our partnerships with you by providing real and long-lasting value through effective action-planning.

We’ve heard you, loud and clear

Your answers to our recent survey questions regarding the Managed Mortgage Solution (MMS) experience have made us take another look at how we think about our business, right across Canada.

Thank you so much — your input has been invaluable to us.

We’re taking action

Using your input, we have been able to fine-tune MMS and provide clear tactics to make it better. This has been a collaborative process with our lenders to ensure we stand by our brand promise of Experience Excellence®. Here are a few things we’ll be doing differently in Q1 2016 to improve your experience with MMS:

Enhancing our expertise for more effective interactions
  • We are investing in our Customer Service Representatives to serve you better and more efficiently at every touch point.
Eliminating redundancy to reduce paperwork
  • We have engaged a third-party law firm to review our mortgage instructions in an effort to minimize redundancy in the existing mortgage instructions.
Integrating technologies to streamline processes
  • We are focusing on the MMS and Lender Lawyer Connect® (LLC®) integration throughout 2016 to ensure an improved experience for you going forward. To do so, we will be implementing the following targeted changes:
    • The Request for Funds (RFF) and Final Report will be standardized across all MMS lenders and will be submitted electronically through LLC
    • Three new milestone updates will be introduced to keep you informed throughout the process, including when:
      • Broker conditions are satisfied;
      • Solicitor conditions are satisfied; and when
      • The deal has been funded.
    • Automated online “Confirm Closing” process will be available for completion online via LLC
    • The RFF form will automatically populate with the closing date and mortgage amount, eliminating manual paper-based updates

I’m here to hear you

As you can see, your voice makes a difference and we always want to hear from you. If you have questions, comments or concerns, feel free to contact me directly. I’m here and ready to listen.

®Registered Trademark of First American Financial Corporation.

Nov 23 | 2015

Understanding your title insurance coverage doesn’t have to be taxing

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Teresa Occhiuto Let me begin this post by introducing myself . . . my name is Teresa Occhiuto and I’ve been with FCT for over 16 years (wow, time flies!). In my current role as Senior Business Development Specialist, I focus on providing support to legal professionals in the Greater Toronto Area. I educate my customers on the value of residential title insurance and its role in building more successful businesses. I also try to ensure that lawyers understand the ways in which title insurance can help safeguard their reputation as well.

Say what you mean and mean what you say

Having spent many years in a law-office environment, I know how complicated the due diligence process can be. In my current role I enjoy taking the time to work one-on-one with lawyers to create efficiencies, specifically for purchase transactions. In doing so, I hope to help build a better, transparent experience for both my customer and their clients. I’ve always felt that it’s the quality and integrity of the service that separates the good from the great. Customers need to know that their business is valued and that you “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

A taxing discovery

Recently I discovered that one of my customers was ordering a tax verification service from a third party. He was doing this to satisfy his own due diligence, mandating that each transaction had the accompanying tax certificate. However, in the particulars of his third-party policy, there were a few red flags that actually jeopardized the exact protection he was trying to secure for his clients. In the fine print, his policy stated that if the deal had time constraints, this service would not be completed on time and would result in an exception being placed on the policy for property taxes.

The supposed “value-added” service he was paying extra for was ultimately putting both his clients and his reputation at risk by undermining coverage!

You can imagine how stressed he was, realizing the potential impact to his reputation had there been a claim. All along he had been paying extra for inferior coverage and support from the third party he thought had his best interest at heart.

In the end FCT’s title insurance provided a solution that saved him money and provided him with coverage he knew that he could rely on — transparent, comprehensive coverage he fully understood.

Because, after all, that’s my job. (A job I love, by the way!)

To learn more about how your FCT dedicated business development manager can help you make the most of your business while protecting your reputation, email us at info@fct.ca or add a comment below.

Nov 9 | 2015

Here come the hackers: Airbnb’s pricing algorithm

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AirbnbLadies and gentlemen, they’re in the financial services room, hackers are—and the real estate marketplace is about to undergo a sea-change.

Here’s but one example: the online short-term rental giant Airbnb had a big, big customer service problem: its clients were all too often stumped when assigning a price for their accommodation rental listing.

When Airbnb’s hacker/engineers began to design a solution, the Price Tips feature, to their clients’ price-matching issues, they realized they’d tackled something far more complex than they thought. Clients either “guesstimated” a fee, ignoring real market values—or just surrendered and left the site. (eBay had similar problems like this early on, too.)

What the engineers were designing was an algorithm, a complex set of rules governing calculations in computer code, to automate what human beings can’t do: model an entire pricing system, in real time.

The process when the engineers began to design in dynamic pricing—pricing models sensitive to daily market conditions—they realized that something very interesting applied: the more reviews in a given listing, the more valuable the property was on that day, the opposite of Amazon or eBay review behaviours.

Other variables incorporated include seasonal demand (FIFA World Cup, say) or the one-time demand spike (a Lady Gaga concert), but, like mortgage properties, the Airbnb model accounts for similarity (properties roughly equivalent to yours), recency (short-term market changes) and, of course, location, location, location. The complex model had to reflect that if a client was the first to list their property in Nairobi, that listing isn’t going to be vetted by a potential renter the same way a similar property in, say, Prague.

But the pricing considerations were even more subject to distortion than the engineers realized at first. Prices in London south of the River Thames are significantly more than north of the river, for a given summer weekend. (Why? Far more greenspace and smaller, cleaner townscapes than in inner London.)

Call in the cartographers: the cartographers modelled highly accurate, hyperlocal (street-by-street) maps of Airbnb market cities, down to spatial, geographic and structural features like bus lines, canals and rivers, and surface roads, because access influences price. Everything in the immediate environment that affected value was mapped, weighed and then factored in or not.

And all these variables had to be open to calculations based on seasonal demand, not static, the same way online airline and hotel prices have been set by near-real-time data for decades. Last—and perhaps most importantly of all—the whole beast had to appeal to human beings as a user experience.

Once the pricing algorithms (layers of them, actually) underwent testing so that the system could begin to loop back on itself and “learn” from the eventual fate of a listing and then adjust the calculations appropriately, using a Big Data Platform. The entire system “learns” from all past behaviours it’s computed.

End result? Airbnb says that when a host selects a price that’s within 5% of the company’s suggestion, they’re nearly four times more likely to successfully book their property.  If that’s not a clear model powerful enough to transform the residential real estate market, Airbnb has released the machine-learning platform on which it’s based, as an open-source tool. The open-source tool will give people in industries that have yet to embrace machine—like real estate—an easy entry point.

For the tech minded, the IEEE (that’s the pointy-headed engineers organization) has a great piece on Airbnb’s pricing algorithm development process. 

Sep 23 | 2015

Ask a title officer: how to complete the RSA form

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Andrea Tait has been with FCT since January 2015 as a title officer.

Andrea Tait has been with FCT since January 2015 as a title officer.

No one likes completing paperwork, we get that. But no one likes a delayed refinance deal either —especially your clients. By completing all the forms required for your Platinum Refinance Deal correctly the first time, you will minimize delays, but more importantly, you’ll improve the customer experience and stand apart from your competition.

Our latest edition of Broker’s Edge examines just how to put this advice into practice when completing the Request for Statement and Authorization (RSA) form. Andrea Tait, title officer at FCT, offers some helpful tips to avoid time-consuming errors and unnecessary back-and-forth that can annoy your clients and can potentially put your deal at risk.

Andrea explains:

“I like to think of the RSA form as the combination to a lock — get everything right and the vault will open.”

Andrea offers the following checklist for seamless processing:

  • Always use the FCT form, if available. If not, use the form provided to you by your lender.
  • Choose only one purpose for the form by identifying it as a discharge, transfer or information only.
  • Identify the financial institution and include all pertinent contact information.
  • Include the mortgage number.
  • Make sure all necessary parties sign the form.
  • Include contact information for the lawyer handling the mortgage.
  • Ensure all information is legible.
  • Give your lender enough time to process the refinance by submitting as soon as possible.

 

Additional resources

If you’re looking for more tips on completing the RSA, check out the RSA Tip Sheet. And if you still have questions, get in touch! You are invited to contact us by phone at 1.855.500.3565 or by email at brokersedge@fct.ca. Remember, your questions and comments are the key to helping us deliver a better experience for you and your peers and we’d love to hear from you.

Check back again soon for more of the inside scoop or subscribe to the FCT blog today.

Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited

Aug 26 | 2015

Ask a title officer: volume 2

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Robyn_asktitleofficer

Robyn Downie has been with FCT for 3 years as a title officer

As a followup to our recent post: ; we offer you volume 2, which will examine additional questions asked of an FCT Title Officer via our online newsletter, Broker’s Edge. Here is the dialogue that took place between an FCT customer and FCT Title Officer of three years, Robyn Downie.

My client has a short maturity date on their existing mortgage. How does FCT’s process ensure that my deal closes on time?

Occasionally we do get a refinance/transfer deal through the Platinum program where the borrower’s current mortgage will mature before we can actually close the deal. This can result in unnecessary penalties to the borrower, but moreover, can put your entire deal at risk. And as you know, you don’t make money off deals that don’t close, despite all the work that goes into them.

The first thing we do is remind our broker partners to be well aware of maturity dates before they submit deals to the lenders. In the case of a known short maturity, it is always best practice to advise your client to renew their current mortgage into an open term so that there is ample time for you, the lender and FCT to process the new refinance/transfer.

Secondly, if FCT receives a file and it cannot be completed by the maturity date (i.e. the short maturity date was not made known up front), we will contact you and your client to ensure all parties are aware of the issue. By doing so, the customer will then be able to arrange for an open term with the existing lender.

But isn’t there a risk that my borrower may be lured back to their current lender when they apply for the open term?

Yes, there is always that risk. The bottom line is that your borrower’s current financial institution will use every available touch point, including when we request a payout statement, to make an attempt to retain the borrower’s business. However, there might be a greater risk that the deal won’t close without an open term.

If you need any more information about how to handle short maturity dates, call our Broker Hotline at 1.855.500.3565 and we’d be happy to help you work through any potential obstacles.

Still have questions?

If there is something you’d like to ask an FCT Title Officer please submit your question below. You never know; we might use it in a future edition of Broker’s Edge and/or feature it in an upcoming blog post.

And as always, check back again soon for more of the inside scoop or subscribe to the FCT blog today.

Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited

Aug 13 | 2015

Ask a title officer: volume 1

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You may or may not know that FCT has recently launched a free bi-monthly e-newsletter called Broker’s Edge. Broker’s Edge provides timely content and handy tips to help brokers process refinances more efficiently through FCT’s Platinum Refinance Program and its participating lenders.

title officer

Gillian Baker has been with FCT for 9 years as a title officer

“Ask a Title Officer,” is an interactive section on Broker’s Edge where you get to ask questions of an FCT employee and benefit from their first-hand knowledge of the industry. With the help of their insight, tips and tricks, we hope to help you create smoother closings. In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is the first question that our FCT Title Officer, Gillian Baker addressed:

I love how your Platinum refi program offers convenience and cost savings for my borrower. Is there anything special I need to do to in order to close my first Platinum deal with FCT?

First off, thank you for choosing FCT for your refinance deal! And yes, there are definitely a few, simple things you can do to assist in a smooth and timely closing:

  • State that you want to use FCT for closing in your notes to the lender
  • Take time to introduce your client to FCT and our process by using the lender-specific borrower letters. To access the letters:
    • Go to the Platinum section for brokers on FCT.ca
    • Click on your participating lender
    • Select Borrower Letter in the Platinum Refinance section
  • Submit all pertinent documentation to the lender together at once
  • Ensure that the Request for Payout Statement and Authorization form is correct and completed in full and all check boxes (discharge, transfer, etc.) found at the top of the RSA form are checked, as needed
  • Use milestones as opportunities to follow up with your client and keep them involved and informed of next steps. You will receive a milestone at the following stages:
    • Deal received/started by FCT
    • Payout Statement ordered
    • Payout Statement received
    • Signing appointment date set (date will be included)
    • Funding complete
  • Ensure your borrower understands the role of the signing agent and that any and all questions should always be managed by you, not the signing agent

I hope that helps! Remember, you can always call our Broker Hotline at 1.855.500.3565 if you would like additional information or help with closing your first deal with FCT.

Need help? Want to learn more? Just ask!

Do you have a question you’d like to ask an FCT Title Officer? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Submit your question below and we might use it in an upcoming edition of Broker’s Edge.

Services by First Canadian Title Company Limited

Apr 13 | 2015

FCT is a Great Place to Work

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I am very proud to announce FCT’s inauguration into the Great Place to Work®, Top 50 Best Workplaces in Canada in the large category representing companies with between 50 and 999 employees.

As I have indicated to my wife, Karen, on numerous occasions, there are feelings of job satisfaction such as making your quarterly budget projections; getting a positive endorsement from a client; and, of course, winning awards. But nothing compares to my pride in this achievement. It is not for the award recognition itself — which is terrific—but rather for what it represents: the endorsement of our employees that we are a Great Place to Work.

One of FCT’s long-term goals has been to be a place where our employees have the opportunity to be great. And one of our success indicators for this strategy is to be amongst the Best Workplaces in Canada as a Top 50 Employer in the medium category. We hoped that we would achieve this goal in 2016 but I am proud to say that the FCT team got here a lot earlier than we thought!

Successful organizations need to touch the “hearts and minds” of their employees, through engagement, enablement and empowerment. We have many people dedicated to building internal infrastructure to make employees enthusiastic and effective team members.

So I would like to offer my thanks to our human resources advisors, facilities managers, internal communications and public relations co-ordinators, in-house trainers, IT help desk and internal client service providers who give us the “best in class” infrastructure needed to shape the culture that makes FCT a Great Place to Work.

For those of you who would like to join out team, please visit us online and follow #FCTCareers on twitter for the latest opportunities. We will also be profiling some current FCT team members where we have open positions. Stay tuned for those profiles and I welcome you to consider FCT in your career plans.

GPTW Group Photo

From left to right: Jackie Chetcuti, Gary Gallacher, Lidia Zekorn , David Coulthard, Anne Cesak, Ryan Lambert, Lori Sartor, Michael LeBlanc

 

Apr 9 | 2015

Service, service, service: the rise of the concierge realtors

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When iTunes disintermediated record stores, an entire industry reeled. The real estate industry faces a similar disruption, with the pragmatics of Craigslist and owner-sold homes beginning to win traction for some homebuyers and sellers.

And now, with online housing intelligence (like Zillow.com) breaking down the last vestiges of what was once a closed, opaque process into open, transparent, customer-centric relationship—and the rise of mobile banking means customer expectations for service and value are even higher—realtors are feeling the heat.

But there’s already a way out of the squeeze.Servicing the realtor

Time is more than money: it’s the stuff of life itself—and we’re all working harder, often with less free time than ever. Savvy realtors are taking a page from the hospitality industry’s concierge model—a one-stop resource person with an encyclopedic knowledge of his/her hotel’s amenities and smart choices downtown for the traveller in sore need of downtime.

For realtors, the concierge concept isn’t just a quick fix for one-time real-estate-related needs: it’s a terrific strategy to endear themselves to equally time-strapped clients…who talk up their end-to-end services to other prospects—it’s a brand-building strategy to boot. For realtors with well-heeled overseas clients, concierge thinking has been a way of life for years—it’s expected.

Closer to home, the whole idea is to connect clients with vetted service providers and vendors and to smooth the complex, stressful and detail-ridden journey of moving into or out of a house. From title insurance to post-close tasks like an expert painter, HVAC service, utility account setup and appliance installs, the hundreds of tasks required for a completed move aren’t just overwhelming: in the context of most working lives, they mean serious life stress.

In a phrase: service, service, service is rapidly becoming as key to realtor success as location, location, location. A positive move outcome means smoother transitions for kids in a new school and even doubling up on a deal, as one realtor did when helping an incoming homebuyer sever a property and spin off $150,000 in profit on a second lot—two sales on one deal and one very happy client. The boost in sales is one thing: the lift in sales word-of-mouth, seller to seller, is another. One US concierge-driven real estate firm in downstate New York sees the service offering driving over a quarter of incoming referrals. Yikes: that’s low-hanging fruit.

The service is driven by trust: the realtor presents a shortlist of strategies and service suppliers for a given neighbourhood, vetted, trusted, proven tradespeople and service providers and ‘marries’ them to the homebuyer. A vetted home inspection service—FCT’s Certified Resale Home program is one—takes a huge worry off a buyer’s sprawling to-do list. Landscaping and garden care is another high-impact, low-cost concierge touch which really adds to the “we’re here and we’re happy” sense of truly having moved in.

For folks relocating a family with a new job, it’s vital to have reliable tools to navigate school enrolments and car and appliance care—because something always goes wrong and at the worst possible time for time-crunched movers. Here’s a story detailing how realtors in the city of Boston, its tech hub growing like crazy, are expanding their services to help grow the city’s economy, one relocating new Bostonian at a time.

And there’s a compelling reason for realtors to adopt the practice as a differentiator and a word-of-mouth generator: online one-click real estate transaction services are gathering steam on the US West Coast, where half a dozen transaction services offer start-to-finish online sales transaction services for buyers—with and, perhaps worryingly, without real estate agents required. One such service, homesearch.com, focuses on the huge inventory of foreclosed homes in the US and works to provide realtors with tools to decrease *their* running-around time as much as possible—concierge services for realtors themselves? Now there’s a win.

Homesearch.com isn’t alone: mindful of the burgeoning sharing economy, Silicon Valley’s smartest minds are looking to disrupt the biggest purchase people make in their lives; venture capitalists have backed three successful online real estate pilot projects in the Bay Area alone in 2014, looking for the Über or Air B&B of real estate—what a transaction on a mobile smartphone app can never replace, however, is something else altogether.

The sale and purchase of a house is already complex and time consuming; a trusted navigator of those elements of the process long simply handed off to the fretful incoming buyer by default, are in fact a rich opportunity to demonstrate not just service, but that intangible which so inspires a relationship for the next purchase: thoughtfulness.

In a day and age where speed is perhaps overvalued against simple human interaction, thoughtfulness, the heart of the concierge experience for real estate clients, is the one service nothing can disrupt.