Millonacre’s April 6, 2020 look at “How COVID-19 Has Impacted The World of Title Insurance” features comments from Williston Financial Group Executive Chairman and Founder Patrick F. Stone and Bruce Phillips, chief information security officer with WFG tech subsidiary WEST.
In looking at how the real estate process, with its dependency on documents and in-person signings, has changed, writer Deidre Woollard focuses on how the title process, one “big component of residential real estate closings,” is adapting.
In 2011, only a year after founding WFG, the parent of WFG National Title Insurance Company, Stone had a pandemic response team in place to work on corporate responses to potential issues. When offices were closed earlier this year for all but in-person closings, appropriate measures were already in place to let 90% of WFG employees work securely from home. This helped March become an historical busy month for WFG, with over 45,000 files processed, much of it refinancing.
During the pandemic, WFG offices have only been used for transactions that absolutely require signings, and in each case, a clean closing room is made available, then immediately sanitized in preparation for subsequent use. All signers have fresh pens they can take with them or discard.
Another point Stone made regards adoption of Remote Online Notarization (RON). Though it remains “more a wish than a reality,” the pandemic has accelerated its acceptability and, should the need for social distancing remain in place for 90 to 180 days, may help speed adoption of legislation to allow it nationally.
On the security front, Phillips added that COVID-19 has brought a spike in ransomware and Trojan horse-type websites. Emails offering recipients a way to “track where COVID-19 is spreading,” only provide a link to malware.
Stone mentioned a couple of positives that have already emerged. Agents are learning technology faster than ever, including virtual tours and online document tracking and there is a level of collaboration and cooperation happening across all the different sectors involved in each transaction.
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