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“Brand value” In The Title Industry

When one thinks of “brands” the firms one normally thinks of are Coke, P&G or perhaps Apple. And that’s borne out in Interbrand’s ranking of the top 100 global brand names.

I was a tad surprised that Wells Fargo and Quicken, probably the biggest brands in the mortgage industry didn’t make it to the Interbrand top 100.  However, I’m not surprised that the Interbrand list doesn’t include any title companies.

Title insurance is a relatively small industry, somewhat arcane, and perhaps most importantly, it’s all B2B.

And that got me wondering: does brand value exist in the title industry?

I’m defining brand value as the power to charge a higher price than your competitors for an identical or almost identical product or service.

1) What is my split?

How much of the title premium does the agent get to keep? The bigger the split, the more business the agent will funnel to a title underwriter, ceteris paribus.

 2) What is the depth and longevity of my relationship with the title agency rep at the underwriter?

 No explanation needed here.

 3) What value-added services does the underwriter provide that make life easier for me as a title agent?

Data/ title plant products: First American’s Data Trace and Fidelity’s Property Insight’s offerings, for instance

Software platforms: examples here include Softpro (FNF), Ramquest (ORTC), FAST and TSS (First Am), and AIM (Stewart).

Workshare arrangements in states where the title agent isn’t licensed.

 4) Does the title underwriter compete with me?

Some title agents are circumspect about co-opetition with their much larger title underwriters, who over the years have become competitors as well — by acquiring or setting up direct operations that compete directly with their agents.

Westcor’s entire positioning strategy is built around this lack of conflict.

 5) What is the financial stability of the title underwriter?

Title agents who were shaken by the overnight demise of LandAmerica are circumspect of any title underwriter whose financials look shaky.  The good news is that title underwriters’ financials look much stronger today than they did back in 2009.

 6) Is there a risk of the title underwriter cutting me off suddenly?

Many title agents found their title underwriters cutting them off, often overnight during the Great Recession. That’s why many have sought to keep a Plan B in place.

In my opinion, by the time a title agency answers questions #1 through #6, the decision regarding which title underwriter to partner with has already been made.

And hence, brand value is a non-factor in the title underwriter world.

What do you think?  We’d love to hear your comments/ reactions. Please email us at prashant@stringinfo.com

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