The developing landscape over the last 10 years in the Title Insurance Industry in New York has resulted in an evolution of the agent-underwriter relationship. The many changes and challenges have brought us together and have strengthened our partnership.
Starting my career in the industry, working for an agent in Westchester County in the late 90’s, I have been fortunate to have experienced working on both sides of the business, which has given me a unique perspective. Once I transitioned to the underwriter side in 2007, I began attending the NYSLTA’s meetings and noticed what seemed to be a rift between agents and their underwriters, which sometimes resulted in an “us against them” mentality in connection with certain topics. My visits to agent offices would, at times, leave me feeling that that the relationship was viewed as one where the underwriters existed to pay claims rather than a feeling of true partnership working towards a common goal. The underwriters were by no means free of “fault” when it came to this dynamic, as agency agreements were often handed out to anyone with a “pulse and a pen” without regard to industry experience.
However, as the landscape changed, so did the mindset of both agents and underwriters. Agent licensing was the most dramatic development which our industry had faced in decades and proved to be a key catalyst in bringing the industry together. Licensing brought with it new standards which agents needed to comply with, and highlighted the need for underwriters to develop and implement educational tools to assist their agents with the new requirements. This resulted in the development of varying continuing education courses which not only served to establish a system designed to insure that all agents met certain minimum requirements, but also shifted the agent-underwriter paradigm away from one which in the past may have been more focused on socializing, to one where the underwriter partners with its agents to help build and grow their business.
Then, of course, came new regulations and a lawsuit with the DFS. This further shifted the agent-underwriter relationship and helped us bond together to present a united front in fighting for our collective livelihoods and for the future of our industry. While the fight continues, the battles waged have highlighted now more than ever that the agent-underwriter relationship is one of partnership and common purpose. It has been a pleasure to see how we have come together and worked towards a singular goal.
The year 2020 brought with it a pandemic, which came with never before seen challenges. It also served to strengthen the ever-evolving agent-underwriter relationship. This past year saw agents closing deals in parking lots, and underwriters fielding calls and answering emails from their homes; coming up with innovative ways to continue to close transactions, all while governmental offices closed their doors and restricted access to industry personnel. The bond between agent and underwriter naturally grew stronger and it became evident that only by working together would the industry survive.
The landscape continues to evolve with new legislation seemingly being introduced with each month that passes, often posing a direct threat on our industry. But through the partnering of agents and underwriters, I see hope for the future of our industry, and I am confident that together we will continue to present a united front and continue to grow our respective businesses.